This year’s Music and Worship Leaders Retreat is focusing on rituals – on making them alive and on making us alive through them. To expand on Jesus’ words regarding the Sabbath, rituals were created for people and not the other way around. Tonight, we reflected on baptism.

During our worship this evening, we heard a baptismal story from Sara Miles from her book “Take This Bread” (ironically, one of those six that I happen to have on the bedside table this weekend). Sara came to faith (eventually) after a receiving communion for the first time, somewhat on a whim. She went on to establish a food distribution within her congregation (Or so I understand. I haven’t made it to that part of the book yet.) She writes:

I was unloading groceries one Friday when I spotted Sasha standing out back by the baptismal font, as if she were waiting for someone. Sasha was a very small black girl, maybe six or seven years old, who usually came to the pantry with an impatient, teenage aunt. I’d never met her mother. Sasha’s hair wasn’t always combed, and this day she had a split lip. “Sweetheart!” I said. I was glad to see her again. “Want a snack? There’s some chips inside.”

Sasha looked at me, not smiling. “Is this water the water God puts on you to make you safe?” she demanded abruptly, in a strangely formal voice…

How could I tell this child that a drop of water could make her safe? I had no idea what Sasha was going through at home, but I suspected it was rough. And baptism, if it signified anything, signified the unavoidable reality of the cross at the heart of the Christian faith. It wasn’t a magic charm but a reminder of God’s presence in the midst of unresolved human pain.

Is this water the water God puts on you to make you safe? I can’t seem to shake the thought that sometimes it is just the opposite. Baptism is the flood that is trying to push me beyond safety, to push me to meet God in the midst of pain, and perhaps to be God in the midst of pain. God has not placed the Church on earth to be comfortable. Our baptism prods us and makes us uncomfortable until we are willing to enter into the pain of the world.

So there it is. Lately, I don’t seem to escape these thoughts much. I just don’t know what to do with them.