This week, we welcomed with great joy a new member into the Body of Christ, through the sacrament of baptism. As I think most of us would agree, baptism is a celebration for the whole community as much as it is for the individual. I could talk about it from a theological standpoint all day long, but as anyone who has been present for a baptism knows, there is a mystery and joy abundantly present in this holy sacrament, far beyond words or explanation.
Ironically, only a little over an hour after the baptism that same day, I encountered a young man on the street who demanded to know if I was a Christian and (seeing my collar), proceeded to declare that not only was I not a priest, but that by his list of criteria, I was probably not even validly baptized.
My experience of the abundance and generosity of God in the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion earlier seemed to be in stark contrast with the list of checkboxes this man was using to determine whether or not God might be present in a human life. It had me marvelling at the ways we humans try to contain the work of the Holy Spirit, and how by doing so, we can – sadly! – limit our ability to experience God’s presence and love and joy.
Of course human experience is subjective, and of course reason and order are important… and, sometimes God shows up in unexpected ways. Sometimes in ways which challenge us or make us uncomfortable – perhaps to remind us how impossible it is to place the Divine in a nice neat little box. In baptism, we are marked as Christ’s own forever. I’d like to think this gift of grace (if we are willing) enables us to learn to recognize God in ALL the ways God shows up, not just in the ways we expect.