Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Glory of Baptism

I heard a wonderful sermon on John 17:22-27 today, courtesy of Pastor Barry York of Kokomo, Indiana (the Beach Boys wrote a song about that place). The thrust of the message was that the Cross is where Christ's self-giving glory is fully revealed (it reminded me of G.B. Caird's work on doxa in the Gospel of John), so our glory -- which is given to us by Christ -- is fully actualized in our own suffering for the Kingdom and for each other. We find union with Christ by partaking of his sufferings and we find union with one another when we partake of each other's sufferings. In other words, the Eucharist continues -- even now -- to be a remembrance of his death, which we participate in (see The Reality of Worship for an attempted explanation of this) every time we take of it (I really do think that the most fitting end to today's Church would have been Eucharist -- hopefully someday we'll go to weekly celebration). To put all this in theology-speak, we undergo theosis as we share in Christ's kenosis.

How, though, do we partake of the sufferings of Christ, of his glory? The start of our glory is baptism, where we are put to death -- not physically, but in a more real way than that -- in Christ's historical and eternal act of self-giving. We participate in the Cross, fully and forever, at the moment of our baptism (this, thankfully, takes baptism out of the mode of the "magical" and places it firmly in the intersection between heaven and earth). This being "put to death" is the beginning of our glory, of our sharing in the Life of God Himself. When we are born again in baptism, we first die in Christ's death, so that we might no longer fear death, but live to God in all moments of our continuing biological existence. When Christ tells us that we have "passed from death to life" it means that our biological personhood has been transcended by our ecclesial personhood, our life in Christ and his Body, the Church. We now can go out into the world, sharers of Christ's glory, to do the work that Christ is already doing and has guaranteed success for us -- which is to bring glory to God in the realm of history and space, even as it already is in heaven.

Lord, glorify Your Son, and his Body, that Your glory -- Your self-giving nature of love -- might be seen in our lives and that the world might participate in that love which is Life. Amen.

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