What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
I've always wondered–who was the first person to eat a chicken's egg? Like, who was the person who saw a chicken lay an egg and think, "I wonder what would happen if we cracked it, fried it in butter, and ate it?"
Speaking of butter–who figured out that if you churned cow's milk for a really long time and added salt it would turn into a creamy, delicious, spreadable delight?
Speaking of salt–who thought to themselves, Let's take this sand-like mixture and sprinkle it on my steak.
Speaking of steak...you get the picture.
Before I was alive, there was someone else who tried something, and now we all know that that something is an okay thing to do. Strap skies on to our feet and go sliding down a mountain. Stick wings onto an engine and fly. Take a weird green vegetable, spread it on toast, put on egg on it and sell it for $10.99.
Or...put a little bit of a deactivated virus into your bloodstream and become immune to that virus. Someone had to do that a first time. What a wild, daring thing to do. And thank God for that person. Because of their pioneering work, I no longer fear the effects of so many different kinds of diseases.
I think of baptism a little bit like a vaccine. Jesus, long before me, died a kind of death that I never could. Jesus' death served a mortal blow to the powers of evil and darkness. His resurrection was the knockout punch to the power of death itself.
But the death and resurrection that Jesus experienced didn't just benefit him. I can know all of its benefits–resurrection from the dead, a new life experiencing God, a constant awareness of God's glory–starting today. The benefits of Jesus' death and resurrection are once-for-all. They don't vanish each generation. Just like we don't have to rediscover vaccines or electricity or avocado toast each day, we also don't need to undo the power of death and evil each day.
And baptism, that sacrament of water and Spirit, is how I experience those benefits. Instead of a shot in the arm, I'm splashed with water and doused with God's Spirit. Instead of immunity to polio and whopping cough (and, God willing, one day, covid), I become immune to death's permanence and to sin's corrupting grip on my soul. That doesn't mean that there's no more work to do (Look at the world. There's clearly more work to do). It means I can embark on that work in the strength of God's Spirit.
Jesus is, as the preacher of Hebrews says, the author and perfecter of our faith. It began with Jesus, it will be finished by Jesus. But by leaping into the waters of baptism, I enter into a story with a known ending. And that ending is good, joyous, and certain.
Spirit of the Living Christ,
May your resurrection power
Animate the core of my very being.
May what I say and do
Bring about a world in which death is less likely,
Sin is less gripping,
And hope more concrete.