Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When "Baptism" Would Cost You

Infant baptism became the primary method of baptism by the 5th century. It's because people cared about their kids. Two factors played significant roles in this decision:
1) Disease and epidemics were taking children at very young ages.
2) The idea of original sin was widespread. The teaching was that children were born with sin. They were born separated from God.
So, in a culture where people were taught that children were born as sinful creatures and infant mortality rates were off the charts, it becomes fairly easy to see how people could come to the conclusion that infant baptism would be necessary. People wanted to make sure their kids were saved. Plus, they had the Jewish tradition of circumcision on their side where infants would enter into divine-covenants when they were 8 days old.

Infant baptism quickly became more than a spiritual covenant. It had significant political undertones. At the baptism, the infant also became a citizen of the empire. Ultimately, you became a child of God and a listed soldier at the same time.

For over a 1,000 years in the western world, people were not immersed in baptism as believing adults.

This all changed in 1525.

The Printing Press changed the cultural landscape. People now had the resources to read Scripture with their own eyes. Up until this point, your knowledge of Scripture was primary whatever you heard from the Priest's mouth at church. And a lot of times it was in a different language, so good luck with that one.

A group of people were diving into Scripture and they began to ask, “Church wasn’t intended to include everyone, but only those who really wanted to follow Christ.” They began to question how a baby could join a church if they knew nothing but to cry, eat, and poop? The conclusion was that the only true baptism comes when one is old enough to understand its meaning.

There was one "minor" problem: it was against the law to not have your child baptized as an infant. Remember, infant baptism had spiritual and political connotations.

However, Conrad Grebel and his wife were expecting a child and they decided to not baptize the newborn as an infant. Other families close to them followed their example.
The Zurich City Counsel wasn't very happy about this. Quite frankly, it ticked some people off. So, they handled this civil disobedience like they would anything else: they held a public debate. Conrad (a great name of a revolutionary) and his buddies shared their recent conviction about baptism by immersion as adults, and the other side shared their 1,000-year-heritage of infant baptism.
Then, they voted, and infant baptism won.
Conrad and his friends were commanded to discontinue their "radical" meetings full of nonsense and to baptize their infants within 8 days...OR ELSE!
Conrad and his friends met that night to discuss what they should do. They prayed and they talked. They worried and they prayed. Then, George Blaurock, one of Conrad's friends, made up his mind that not only should they not baptize their infants, but if they believed that the NT teaches that adults should be immersed as the method of baptized, then they should be baptized themselves. So, Conrad baptized George and George baptized all of the adults who were present.
The high-up leaders of the city caught wind of their actions.
They were told to quit with their meetings, but they kept meeting.
They were told to quit with their teachings about baptism, but they kept teaching it and practicing it.
They were told to stop "OR ELSE", but they kept doing it and they were arrested, persecuted and executed.
Conrad and his wife were put to death within a year of their baptisms.

One pretty cool story is about a woman named Elizabeth Dirks. She was arrested because she had become one of the "radicals" who had been baptized as an adult. They began interrogating her with some sick methods. All they wanted was to know who had taught her these radical ideas and who had baptized her, but she was silent. They proceeded with all kinds of Jack-Bauer-like techniques. They drove screws underneath her fingernails, but she remained silent. They drove larger screws into her legs crushing her bones until she fainted. Still silent. (Needless to say, Jack Bauer would have had greater success, right?) When they realized they couldn't get any info from her, they put her in a bag and tossed her into the river.

This dude named Balthasar Hubmaier baptized over 6,000 people in a time when it was illegal to baptize adults. He was burned at the stake and his wife was drowned.

Thousands of adults were baptized and thousands were killed for it. Drowning became the chosen method of execution. It was performed out of sarcasm, "You people want to be immersed as adults...we will immerse you." Then, they would tie them to chairs and toss them in rivers or lakes.

So, here's my question, what does it say about baptism that thousands of people would risk their lives because they believed in it so much?

I don't want to read too much into the actions of the anabaptists (the radicals in this story), but it doesn't seem that they engaged in acts of adult-baptisms just to get to heaven, but they actually believed that the "baptized-life" could transform their "here and now." They seemed to be eager to live in a different story. And...I like that.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Props to the Kojies

Back in 1997, Jenny decided to pledge a social club at ACU. She went with Ko Jo Kai.
Though she never became one of those club members who are sold out to their club while distancing themselves from everyone else, she did thoroughly enjoy her life as a kojie.
She was never much of a intramural player, but she lived for Sing-Song...a big event where social clubs perform on stage and compete against one another. Trust me, if they allowed alumni to join them on stage every year, Jenny would have performed until the day she died.

When Jenny got sick, the Kojies quickly got involved in every way imaginable. They prayed fervously. They recorded songs that they would sing during their devotionals and would send them so Jenny could hear. When they won Sing-Song in February, they gave their money to the family.
Even though many of the current members didn't know Jenny, they have responded to the tragedy of the last two months as if they had known her forever.

Here's where it gets even more cool:
Last night David & Malaya (along with my parents) drove to Abilene because they wanted to thank the Kojies for all of their expressions of love. David also wanted a chance to show Malaya around Abilene. He wanted her to see where Jenny spent a lot of her time.
When it was time to meet with the Kojies they were led by one of the members of the club, Stacy Bryan (a great friend of the family), but when they got to the room where they were supposed to meet, no one was there. So, they went to the "Plan B" place. No one there either.
Then, Stacy led them downstairs to the bowling alley, and there were the Kojies...all of them. They began clapping as they surrounded Malaya. It was a surprise party. They put a hat on her. They dressed her in a Kojie t-shirt. They stuffed their faces with 3 different birthday cakes. They circled around my family and read a letter thanking them for the last couple of months. They gave Malaya a birthday present and then they handed David a fat check...a FAT check. The Kojies had joined with a few others to raise money for the family.

This party went on until midnight. Needless to say, Malaya already wants to be a Kojie and she just turned 10. David is a little concerned that a social club is "rushing" a 10-yr-old. HA!

Thank you, Kojies, for loving my family. Thank you for the many sacrifices you have made...sacrifices that remind us that God is present and near.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Need for Easter

Easter is about resurrection.
There is joy because Jesus conquered the grave.
There is sorrow because Easter also carries with it the reminder that things need to be resurrected. In my case, it's a sister who died at the young age of 31.
I've never needed an Easter Sunday as bad as I need this one. A step further, I've never needed to preach an Easter sermon as much as I need to preach this one. One more step further, I've never needed to believe the Easter message as much I need to believe this one.
As Christ-followers we get to celebrate the power of the risen Jesus every day. Every facet of our lives are transformed by the death, burial and resurrection. But for me, this doesn't take away the power of the Easter experience. This weekend is a reminder of the spiritual journey which carries us through the different seasons of life.
Friday is terrible. It's full of sorrow and tragedy. All hope seems like it's gone. We experience seasons that feel like Friday.
Saturday is about waiting, anxiety, and doubts. Will Jesus rise like he said he would? We experience seasons that feel like Saturday.
Sunday is about resurrection. There's no better news than that Jesus dealt a deathly blow to the powers of darkness in the world. We lean into Sunday desperate to experience the breath that flows from the lifeless grave.
Thank you God for getting involved in our grief.