Part of my Lead Acolyte duties for this First Sunday of Epiphany called for me to participate in today’s baptismal service. Although having experienced a few baptisms now, I was for some reason especially moved by this service. And so, upon returning home, I reflected again on Craig Hovey’s, To Share in the Body: A Theology of Martyrdom for Today’s Church. In chapter called, “The Waters That Drown,” Hovey notes the following about Baptism:

Since the church is a creation of the Holy Spirit, the human acts of washing, of wetting, of lowering and raising are made more than merely human acts. The actions of John the Baptist and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus establish the joint work of human and divine agency.  This is what it means to call Christian baptism a sacrament. God acts in our acts. Human movements and significances are transformed and lifted up into the divine life, renewed, repaired, and put to use in the service of God (30).

About the significance of this mutual divine-human activity, Hovey continues:

God adds to the church in the ritual of adding to which we continue. Participating with the work of God in baptism, the church attest to the way that God’s promises invite the work of his people. Such promises are not enacted apart from human agency, God doing God’s own work in front of a passive world. Nor are such promises activated only when a corporate human will becomes decisive enough to act in the space and time inhabited by its neighbors. The former is a passive church, while the latter mistakes the nature of that agency. Each mistakenly assesses its own work. Instead, God’s promise to be present to sacramental actions like baptism welcomes the human effort to join in the divine drama. The tentative, fragile, and misunderstanding involvement of the church relative to its own continued existence is met with the power that created the universe and continually upholds it (31).

Overall, Hovey highlights what moved me today: the profound awareness of the  “joint work of human and divine agency” occurring in baptism, and the fundamental reality of participating in Christ’s body.

We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. In it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit…

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