4 We have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life
I don’t know exactly what it is about this picture of a woman being baptized in Benin that I find so compelling, but compelling it is. Perhaps it is the posture of kneeling. Perhaps it is the gentleness of the hands pouring water over her head. Perhaps it is the white robe. Perhaps it is the expression upon this woman’s face. Maybe even her simple beauty. Somehow all these elements together move me deeply.
Baptism is a remarkable thing. It declares a majestic holiness and tenderness of God that gathers us from far and wide and brings us near to him who is the center of all things. It speaks of homecoming, of welcome, of center, of peace. It speaks of limping from brokenness into wholeness. It speaks of answered longing and belonging. “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.”
Baptism also speaks to us of dying and rising, of old and new, of what is left behind and what is embraced ahead. No longer are we bound in the realm of life’s sorrows and struggles; now we have entered into the realm of grace and life. Yes, we must all get up and go home and deal with the challenges each day presents. Yes we must work the day’s labor in the sweat of our brow. But we have been embraced by the holy, our shame set aside, washed away into the sands. We have become citizens of heaven even as we dwell on earth, citizens of the age to come even as we live out this present age.
In world of violence we have become part of the realm of peace. Buried as frail, mortal creatures we rise to walk in newness of life. All this is present in that kneeling figure, in the gentle hands, in the simple splash of water, in the white robe, the bowed head and the thirsty sands.