A recent Sunday worship service at my church was special: Two people were being baptized.
We heard their stories of their growing relationship with God; we applauded and celebrated with them as they entered into this profound enactment of grace and obedience.
As the baptism began, Gene Tempelmeyer, the senior pastor, said this profound thing. “In some ways, it seems that we have been standing in this water for 2,000 years.”
With that one phrase, we were reminded that those who are baptized are entering into the same journey that has been entered into by countless people for more than 2,000 years.
In every generation, there have been people who decide to immerse their lives into the unfolding reign of God on planet Earth, by saying “yes” to Jesus and the way of life he modeled and opened up for us through his death and resurrection.
They live their lives in this reality, and then the baton is passed on to those who come after them, generation after generation, as God’s kingdom unfolds and becomes present.
After the baptism, Tempelmeyer filled a pitcher with water from the baptistery and walked throughout the congregation, splashing us with it.
It was, for some, a reminder of what they have already experienced, and for others, a promise of what might be possible.
It all comes down to this: Do we get up each morning with the intention of participating in God’s activity of redemption and new creation, or do we do what has always been done, grabbing the “fruit” for ourselves (as Adam and Eve first did) and making our own way and living our own life?
Baptism reminds us that we have joined the company of those who down through the ages have chosen to be on the side of God and his work.
This is especially encouraging, and needed, in times when we are faced with the intense and seemingly endemic brokenness of our world.
As I write this, Ebola continues to stalk West Africa, and ISIS continues to brutally assault all who disagree with them.
And those are just the “new” news stories of 2014; the old ongoing situations and conflicts continue.
It would be easy to be discouraged. And when we’re discouraged, we stop being part of the solution.
We need to be reminded that we are not going to change the world overnight. Healing a broken world is a daunting task, but it is, in fact, the very task that God has taken on himself ever since the world broke. Our decision is whether we join God in the task or not.
It’s not our job to manage the whole endeavor. It’s time to have some human-scaled humility as to our role and calling, instead of falling into fatalism on the one hand or messianic delusions on the other.
Baptism reminds us of this. It reminds us that we participate in something so grand and so large that it will outlast our lifetimes.
It reminds us that we have taken up the baton from those who stepped into the baptismal waters before us and will pass it on to those who are coming after us.
We have, indeed, been standing in these waters for 2,000 years. The promise is that the river of God’s redemption will grow (see Ezekiel 47:1-12 and John 7:37-38) and bring healing for our world.
Being splashed on Sunday was an important part of how God uses us to bring healing.
Sam Chaise is the executive director of Canadian Baptist Ministries. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Cut to the Chaise, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @SamChaise_CBM.