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what does baptism mean for "green" "progressive" Christians?

Some of this is in note form, provided here as an invitation to be part of answering the above question, not as a definitive and final thesis...

Welcome to the Baptism of Lisa and Melanie


Welcome to the Baptism of Lisa and Melanie .
Lisa- God’s promise, and Melanie- mystery.  Both very appropriate names for today.

I bring the greetings of the ecofaith community which meets here for communion with the God of life every Sunday, and from the north terrace community of Scots also.

We celebrate this ritual surrounded by life and the God of life, on a bend of the creek at which it is easy to imagine rituals being celebrated by humans for tends of thousands of years.

The Kaurna people call this time Wadlworngatti- time of cool mornings with fog and dew on the ground, and we recognise their ongoing relationship with this land.

Opening prayer

God of 70,000, million million million stars and countless planets.
We give thanks for your interest in ours. 
God of all the millions of species here around us,
We give thanks for your interest in ours. 

Spirit of Life.  Living Water. 
You are welcome here.  We pray for a sense of your presence here amongst us, and an openness to what you have to say to us this morning. 


You are standing in a vacuum.  All is dark. Suddenly, on the horizon, you can see something.  Something tumultuous, tumbling, flowing, pulsing, expanding and contracting.  It is flowing straight towards you. 
A twisting, three dimensional stream, a network of trillions of channels, flowing through history towards you.  It takes three billion years to reach you, yet it seems to happen in an instant.  Sometimes it nearly dries out, then it bursts forth in new patterns.  It starts as a rumbling at the horizon, rushing forwards until it is about to bowl you over, carving out millions of billions of trillions of channels as it comes.

It hits you, flowing and tumbling all around you.
It is the river of life.  You are immersed in it, part of it, baptised in it.
Far grander than any single species which floats in it, it is the best image of God we have.

Thanks to Lisa and Melanie-

Have made me think.  Sped up some slowly bubbling thoughts, though I’m not finished yet.
Fair to say that a progressive theology of baptism hasn’t been thoroughly nutted out.  Much less one which pays adequate attention to the stories in which the Christian story must now be told- the stories of evolution and ecology, the story of the God who is seen in all life, not just humans.

So today they have become part of that conversation.  They will be unequivocally baptised in a way which the wider church will recognise, but the thoughts I’m about to share with you wouldn’t be.  Hopefully they will helpful to Lisa and Melanie on their pilgrimage through life.

We are gathered here at their request to baptise Lisa and Melanie .  But as with most sacraments, there are layers of meaning into which they are being baptised, bathed or washed.

Firstly there is the baptism into life.  Life on earth emerged from the ocean, the waters over which the Spirit of God was said to brood.  The oceans continue to baptise our cells, which are basically sea water and a bit of DNA. 

Every one of us here was first baptised, or bathed, in the waters of our mother.  For nine months or so her waters sustained us and protected us, but also allowed us to grow and flourish, to develop.  Eventually, in one way or another, the waters broke and it was time to continue the journey.

Since that day water has never been far from us.  We bathe in it, drink it, eat the crops which get rained on by it.  A few days without water and we are dead.

Little wonder that such a powerful part of our physical lives should be used as a metaphor for the spiritual life.  Jesus spoke of living water, which would be available not just to those who attended a temple, but to all- because God sought people who would worship in Spirit and truth, not just those who attended a particular building.

Jesus spoke of the rivers of living water which would flow out of the hearts of people of faith- the Spirit of God.

Every Sunday morning the ecofaith community gathers here for worship, and we have discovered that this Spirit of God is in all things, all creatures, all people- human and otherwise, whether they know it or not. 

So today Lisa and Melanie come to be baptised in water, and we trust that it also has something to do with being baptised in the Spirit.

But we shouldn’t think that they are somehow going to be fundamentally new people.  At Steve and Rhonda’s wedding, what I met Lisa and saw Angas again, I pointed out that in a wedding we do not pretend that the couple’s relationship is somehow now magically different.  We are celebrating something which already exists.  Yet, in having the celebration, we do in some intangible way actually help it continue to exist.  As we affirm their intention we add weight to their endeavour.

So it is the same with baptism.
The God of life, the living water, is already at work in each one of us.
Our intellectual assent to the fact is, frankly, irrelevant.  Which is why you can all go off next week and baptise Hamish without his permission or knowledge, and do it in good conscience.

Yet God’s action in our lives is a thing worth celebrating, worth pondering, worth committing to cooperate with.  Which is why, although it isn’t necessary to be baptised to have a relationship with God, it’s a good thing to do.
You could get married in a registry office, you could baptise yourself under the shower.  But it is good to do such things publicly, amongst friends and family.

You could get baptised in a building, with a little sprinkle of water, but its good to do it out here, immersed in life, reminded of our common baptism in life.  Next to a stream which reminds us of the stream of life. 

It reminds us, amongst other things, that nobody owns your baptism- no congregation, no denomination, not even any religion.  It is between you and God, the God whom Christians confess was revealed by Jesus, the God who was in Jesus, the God who some of us believe Jesus somehow actually was.

I hope you will take the opportunity in the future to revisit this spot and reflect on the meaning of what happened here today.  I hope it might drive you to want to protect this place should it come under threat in the future. (giving of stones?)

Anyway, we are here to baptise Lisa and Melanie.
To celebrate their life with the Spirit, the living water of God,
To encourage them to continue to cooperate with this Spirit
In their pilgrimage toward the reconciliation and renewal which is God’s desire for all creation.

Let’s pause before we do, to hear some words of Jesus which the worshipping communities associated with Scots heard this week.  It’s a monologue which many of us might want to say, “but… but” to, but here it is:

(Walk to the creek during the reading )

Jesus said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions."

 Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly.  And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?'  Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'  But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'  So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."

He said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.  Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!  And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?  If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you -- you of little faith!  And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying.  

Instead, allow God’s living waters to flow in your lives, and these things will be given to you as well.

Now I have some questions for Melanie and Lisa, questions which challenge all of us:

Lisa & Melanie, the temptation to do the easy thing rather than the right thing is often with us.  
So I ask you today, do you commit yourselves to pursuing good over evil?
I do

Will you remain open to the God of Life,
taking Jesus as an example
of how we may live
freely, fully and in harmony with others?
And will you allow the Spirit of living water to which he referred
flow freely through your lives?
I will.


Melanie and Lisa,
Though he knew what it was to be afraid, desperately afraid,
Jesus still allowed the living waters of God for flow freely through him.
For us, even before we were born, he proclaimed the love of God,
The mercy of God, the faithfulness of God.
In baptism, we see the truth of the statement
That we love because God first loved us.

So I bear witness to your membership in the family of God:
The God who is beyond us, who became one of us, who remains within and amongst us.

Lisa / Melanie :
I baptise you in the name of the Father- Mother, Creator, God beyond our imagining
And of the Son- Messiah, Child, Friend, Sibling, God who became one of us
And of the Holy Spirit- comforter, encourager, empowerer- the stream of living water, God who remains within and amongst us.


Lisa and Melanie, having always been members of God’s family of life, and the family of humanity, are now received into that part of the family which calls itself church, both those who gather in buildings or parks of a Sunday, and those who worship in spirit and truth dispersed through the community.
Lisa, and Melanie, when you remember today, may you draw vitality from this stream, strength from these trees, joy from these birds, and life from the God who is within and amongst them all.  May you remember the lilies of the fields and the ravens.


We say together: (Jason says the line, everyone repeats it)

Melanie and Lisa,
May the feet of God walk with you
And his hand hold you tight
May the eye of God rest on you
And her ear hear your cry
May the smile of God be for you
And his breath give you life
May the child of God grow in you
And her love bring you home

And the same for all of us. Amen