Baptized Into Passion: A most costly calling

Baptized Into Passion: A most costly calling
Photo by Jen Theodore / Unsplash

The origins of this season of Lent and its intended focus are a final period of preparation for people preparing for baptism. This preparation is a community effort, so even those of us who were baptized some time ago join in the process, reflecting on our own lives and sharing wisdom with newcomers. We start with stories of miraculous transfiguration and Jesus’s perseverance in the face of temptation. Hopeful, encouraging stories. But, like most human undertakings, there are some heavy truths about being a Christian that need to be shared.

Today is the beginning of a small season-in-the-season. It’s still Lent, but it’s also Passiontide. This is the time when the readings we hear and the collective mind of the Church begins to view the ministry and presence of Jesus through the eyes of the world responding to him. Lent is a season of preparation that leads us, ultimately to the empty tomb of Easter, but Passiontide is the time where we slow down our walk to contemplate the Cross, without which the resurrection does not happen.

In today’s passage from John's gospel, we hear Jesus explicitly naming his own impending death in response to strangers wanting to meet him. The new way of life that Jesus preaches is gaining in popularity and many are curious about it. Jesus knows that the work needs to continue after his death and he is trying mightily to impress these truths upon the disciples who will become the apostles. 

Jesus’s friends are understandably upset every time he tells them that he will suffer and die. The illustration of a seed is one that certainly captured the minds of many in the Early Church. A single grain which, on its own, is only a seed and can produce nothing but which gives itself up on settling into the ground suddenly produces so much life is a beautiful and powerful image. In this passage, Jesus is trying to impress upon the disciples that when he dies it will appear to be an end, but they need only wait to see the fruit that his death bears. In later generations, this image has become a reminder for Christians that death is not the end, but a point of transformation. Spending one’s life to create abundant life for others—giving of ourselves in love—is core to our calling as Christians.

These last couple of weeks before Easter are heavy ones for all of us, but especially for those readying themselves for baptism. It’s a lot of talk about joining Jesus in life and death, following him to the Cross. The positioning of these heavy truths toward the end of the Lenten preparation is not an accident. It is important that we all spend some time reckoning with the ways that baptism transforms us and how we work that new reality out in our life with God. It is also important that we spend some time reckoning how that transformation will change our relationship to the rest of the world. There are times when being a Christian in the world is a very difficult thing. Most of us will, once in a while, find ourselves in a position where the values of our faith call us one way and the expectations of the world call us in another. There are times when one's faith, even if shown in a small way, is enough to attract negative attention. Jesus acted according to his faith and calling. Many were healed, many came to know God in profound ways, many relationships and communities were restored, many who had been discarded by their society came to know life abundantly. We would all like to be part of those moments. Jesus, for his troubles, was crucified. Most of us try not to think too much about being part of that moment.

The possibility of being made a martyr—being killed for our faith—is remote for most Christians living in 21st century Canada. It’s a complicated relationship. We pray that we will not be called to be martyrs for our faith and, at the same time, we pray that if it does happen, we will have the conviction to see it through as Jesus did. It’s a tough part of the baptismal covenant. When we make those promises, we say “I will, with God’s help.” There’s no footnote that says “Unless it will cost me everything.” It’s a big promise and we reflect on its possible consequences today for the sake of those about to make those promises and to remind us of the promises we once made.

This sounds bleak, I know. Entering into an eternal relationship that includes self-sacrifice for the sake of others is already a big consideration. Wildly countercultural to most of what we hear and are taught in the rest of our lives. The reminder that it might include sacrifice up to our own deaths is an awful lot. In a world where the exploitation and greed that creates billionaires is valorized and held up as success, giving up not just money or time but your own life for others seems absolute madness.

But you and I have seen the truth. We have seen the amazing, wonderful fruit that the death of Jesus has borne in our own lives and the lives of our siblings in Christ. We know the fruits of the resurrection and the ways in which we have been made better through it. Jesus knows that this path is not easy, knows that the weight of it can be heavy, because he walked it first. And this is our comfort and hope in this Christian life. Wherever we are called, Jesus walks alongside us and is, at the same time, waiting to meet us. When we plunge into the water of baptism, Jesus meets us there. When we feed our hungry neighbour, Jesus meets us there. When we pray and seek God in the Bible, Jesus meets us there. When we are called to our own crosses, Jesus meets us there, too.

The Christian life is not an easy one, but it is not one that we must live alone. We walk with Jesus and with one another. Passiontide and Holy Week are heavy, intense, intimate times but are also beautiful, holy times full of reminders of the glory of God in our midst. On this journey to the font, the cross, and the empty tomb, we’re nearly there. Keep going and soon we will know the fullness of the fruit of those costly seeds planted for us so long ago.

Andrew Rampton

Andrew Rampton

Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant and Treaty 3 Territory