Just two days ago, on Sunday, my daughter was baptized.  She is seven.  She’s been asking for a few years, but we didn’t think she really grasped the meaning of the sacrament.  Finally, we decided that she understood.  So, before the church, in white gown with braided blond hair, she was immersed by our pastor and ‘raised to new life in Christ.’  She has been beaming about it, both before and after the fact.  She recognizes something remarkably special about her decision.

Baptism has lessons for all of us, in our culture and especially in medicine.  Elysa’s baptism connects her to Christian believers down 2000 years of church history.  She is a part of something larger, older, more immense than herself.  She is part of the body of Christ.  She is still an individual, valued by God and her parents.  But she doesn’t have to be alone, and she doesn’t have to feel as if she is floundering, unconnected in a vast and uncaring world.  God, her Father, is with her.  She is, you might say, adopted by the King.  And the church body she has joined has been salt and light for the world for two millennia.  The connection, down ages and ages, has great worth and power in a world that constantly tries to seduce us with the dark ‘liberation,’ of our own worthlessness and the nihilistic emptiness of our own pop-culture.

But Baptism holds more.  It is more than a symbol of sins washed away.  It is a symbol of sins, and sinfulness, buried and killed while the now whole, forgiven individual rises from that watery grave.  Think of it this way:  we give chemotherapy to kill cancer cells.  In the process, patients still may die of cancer, and they may be made extremely ill by their chemotherapy drugs.  The death of the cancer almost requires the very death of the patient.

In Baptism, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ, who took sin and death upon himself, died and returned whole.  He took the cancer of sin, death and pain and wrestled it down until they both died.  But he couldn’t stay that way, and came back.  What a message for a hurting world!  We can therapy and medicate and chat and yak all the rest of our medical lives.  But here Jesus said, ‘no, give me all of it…pain, sin, wilfulness, hatred, anger, pride, lust, loneliness, the whole thing.  And I’ll kill it by dying while it infects me!’  Even if you think Jesus was just a really nice guy, he was doing something brilliant there.  He was killing the thing that killed us.

That’s what Elysa is now engaged in.  She is covered with Him.  She is on the path to God.  She is forgiven, for past, present and future sins.  I mean, it’s not like she’s been dealing crack, is it?  But she is covered, ‘washed in the blood.’  Her future mistakes are covered.  She never needs to wonder if she’s worthwhile…for someone actually died for her.

What if we could do this for our patients?  Take their pain and kill it?  What if we could include them in a group, called the church, where they always had someone to talk to when lonely, always had a place to go, to serve, to belong, to be accepted.

What if we could get them all baptized?

You don’t have to believe to see what a great thing it might be.

But then, I can look in my little girl’s eyes and know what a great thing it is.

God go with us all, and wash us of everything that keeps us from him.

Edwin

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