Ceremony VS sincerity
I recently read an article about Israel and the “Holy Land”. The article was mainly about politics, religion and how the two are tied together. Is the nation of Israel still God’s people or is the church the “New Israel”, ie God’s people. The article was interesting to read, but not what really caught my attention or what stuck with me. It was the picture at the top of the article, a picture of people at the Jordan River.
Yardenit, Israel was the sight and is sometimes known at Yardenit Baptism Site. The picture showed a group of people wearing simple white baptistry garments lined up to walk into the Jordan river to be baptized. One was kicked back sitting on a rock wall. Another had their cell phone out taking pictures maybe videos or both. It appeared to be a paved path that led them into the water. Obviously a sight that has been established and well used.
Now it did give me pause as I looked at the set up. There was the paved walkway leading into the river, which was good and probably a lot less messy than walking through mud. But the pathway was lined with what reminded me of rails you would see as pigs, sheep or cattle are herded through a pen to be loaded onto a truck. The group was funneled through the guards to the point where two people immersed them into the water, then the next person was waiting and they were then ushered to the point where they were to be immersed. I am a logistics person and can appreciate the seamless organization, but it seemed so commercial.
What I thought was positive about the picture was the way the individuals were being baptized. As I mentioned they were immersed, completely put under the water. Why would they do that? Well, it is what Jesus did. These people had traveled from all around the world to be baptized in the river Jesus was baptized in, in the same way Jesus was. . . minus the cattle guards. Why not just sprinkle or pour water on their heads? Because that isn’t what the scriptures say Jesus did.
I don’t judge their commitment to Christ, or the lengths they went to in order to be immersed in this particular river. It just seems like so many things now days are more ceremony that a sincere walk with Christ. Baptism isn’t a ceremony, but a commitment to follow Christ as our sins are washed away through our death in the water. It is a death, a burial and a rising up out of the water to live the new life Christ calls us to. We can’t judge anyone’s commitment, but we can encourage each other daily live a life that is pleasing to God.
What if someone took some snapshots of our Sunday morning. Would they see us following a ritual each week, a ceremony? Maybe. What I encourage you to do is not make it that. Sing with joy in your heart. Meditate on what the grape juice is all about, what the piece of cracker represents when it comes by you this week. And most of all remember that our coming together isn’t a ceremony but a celebration of our risen Lord!
Celebrating His Resurrection,