Faith Matters

The waters of baptism remember

What was the earthy taste of river water telling me?

One afternoon during this long pandemic, several of us from church meet on the bank of a river for a baptism. A deacon begins our service with a water prayer from our hymnal. “God of grace, creator of waters, your Spirit hovered over the deep.” Her words drift across the river. The candidate and I kick off our sandals and step into the shallows. “We remember when you flooded the earth,” the deacon prays as we wade farther out. “We remember your Son, who, like all of us, arrived in the waters of childbirth.” Once we’re waist-deep, we stop and find our footing.

He leans back into my arm across his shoulders. “I baptize you with water,” I announce as I plunge his body into the current, “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, mother of us all.” After I pull him up, as he wipes the water from his eyes, I glimpse in his face something of my own face from all those years ago—at my baptism, as a teenager, when my grandfather cradled and then dunked me. In the instant before I went under, he tilted his head toward the sky and called out over the waters, “En el nobre del Padre, del Hijo, y del Espíritu Santo.”

Through baptism, we find Christ’s life in the water. “There is one body and one Spirit,” we read in Ephesians, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” In the water, the Spirit draws us into God’s life. In the water we’re reborn as members of one another, a union across geographies and eras.