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Pastor's Column

“Not Just Getting Wet”

  There’s a church in Nazareth called the Basilica of the Annunciation. The current structure was dedicated in 1969, but it’s built over the remains of a Christian house of worship that’s very old, dating back to the early 400’s.  Centuries ago, an enormous cross-shaped pit was dug into the floor. In one ��rm” of this cross, steps were chiseled so that a person could walk down to the center of the cross. Steps leading back up are in the opposite arm. If you ever visit this church and walk down to the center of the cross-shaped pit, you’ll suddenly realize what you’re standing in.

  It’s an ancient baptism pool.

  Originally, Christian baptism pools were very deep. A common practice was to make them in the shape of a cross, so that the person being baptized would enter the cross and emerge from it. They “passed through” the cross not just spiritually but literally. It wasn’t until the dark ages that baptism pools began to shrink and have lids put on them, often with locks, to protect the holy water from theft or desecration.

  Perhaps if we stood in that empty, ancient pool, we'd remember Paul’s words that we, who were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death. This means that regardless of the font’s shape when we were baptized, we did enter the Lord’s cross at that moment.

  Truth be told, entering the cross is something we do throughout our lives whenever we choose to respond to unfairness with something other than bitterness. This can be very hard. For instance, if you were in a long, slow-moving check-out line at a busy store, and bent down to tie your shoes, and discovered when you stood up that someone had cut in front of you, how would you feel?  For us to carry the cross as the Lord intends, we would have to be okay with responding to unfairness with something other than bitterness. Let’s face it, the crucifixion is the worst unfairness of them all. By comparison, the unfairnesses we usually gripe about are marshmallows.

  It’s become common to think that carrying the cross means calmly enduring misfortune. But that’s not the Lord’s understanding of carrying the cross. How do we know? Because it doesn’t require virtue to suffer from something beyond our control. If it did, everyone would be virtuous, because everyone suffers from things beyond their control. However, it does require virtue to willingly suffer from something that we could opt out of. Responding to unfairness with something other than bitterness is a spiritually healthy way to carry the cross. Doing this would ensure that when we entered the watery baptism of our rebirth, something much greater happened to us than simply getting wet.      



(c) 2006 Frankenmuth News