I was absent from church last Sunday so I could be in Boston for a baptism. As a pastor, it’s always a great honor to conduct a baptism. This one was special. It was the baptism of my friend Marc, who I met 10 years ago outside of McDonalds while I was attending seminary in St. Louis. He was facing homelessness and needed some help. He also needed a friend (see the story here).
About four months ago, after 10 years of friendship, Marc apprehensively followed my encouragement to attend a local church. I was hoping he could gain a community of people willing to walk with him on his journey to put his life back together. After making some connections at the church (Grace Presbyterian Church: South Shore), and talking to one of their deacons, we made arrangements for Marc to get rides to church. Even though Marc was the only black man at the church, he felt warmly welcomed, and returned the next week, and the next week, and the next. They treated him like a friend and a neighbor (Mark 12:30-31).
A few weeks later, Marc gave his life to Christ, and asked to be baptized. The pastor called and asked if I would be willing to conduct the baptism. I was honored to accept.
Because Marc and I have a great deal of empathy and understanding of each other’s stories, we have long referred to each other as “B-FAM” (my brother from another mother). It is a privilege to have earned the right to be his “B-FAM.” But through his baptism on Sunday, something wonderful happened, to both of us.
Our own Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us, Q. 94. What is Baptism? Baptism is the sacrament of solemn admission into the church on earth in which the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, signifies and seals our being grafted into Christ, and having a share in the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our pledge to be the Lord’s.
Unpacking the fullness of that short answer would take more space then I have here. So, I want to concentrate on the phrase, "signifies and seals our being grafted into Christ.” Because that phrase is what brought me to tears during the service as I pondered the enormity of it.
Through his baptism, we are now bound together not only by a shared story of hardship, but a shared redemption in Christ. And this got me thinking more about the implications of our baptism.
Though his baptism, Marc became not just my brother from another mother, but my brother from the same Father.
Through his baptism into Christ, Marc became your bother from the same Father, too. (Eph. 2:18)
Through our baptism into Christ, we become brothers and sisters to the formerly homeless man, working 13 hour shifts, 6 days a week, overnights, in a refrigerated warehouse, and commuting 2 hours each way by public transportation, as he tries to stay off the streets.
Through our baptism into Christ, we become brothers and sisters to the single Hispanic mother trying to make her way through community college so that she can find a better job and raise herself and her family out poverty and move to an area with better schools.
Through our baptism into Christ, we become brothers and sisters with the finance executive in the Loop who goes to work each day trying to do their best to make investments which will help the individual and business clients they represent flourish.
Through our baptism into Christ, we become brothers and sisters to the those who believe that the best path forward for this country is through electing Democrats to office, and those who believe that the best hope for this country lies in the agenda of the GOP.
Through our baptism into Christ, we become brothers and sisters to people of every tongue, tribe, nation, education level, and economic class (Rev. 7:9) . We become brothers and sisters to those living in freedom and slavery, those struggling with sins that we do not, and those struggling with sins we do.
Through our baptism into Christ, we become brothers and sisters with those who are experiencing joy and those who are experiencing sorrow, and we are given the privilege of experiencing those emotions with them (Romans 12:15).
Through our baptism into Christ, we are knit together into Christ who is the head (Eph. 4:16).
This is the reality that was washing over me as I contemplated the gospel and how we come to participate in it through our baptism. In a way that I had not understood before, it occurred to me that baptism is an overwhelming and beautiful gift of God to his children.
Perhaps, if we thought more about how our baptism into Christ unites us, we might think less about what divides us (John 17:21-23, 1 Cor. 1:10).
Meet your new brother, everyone!