Reflections on baptism and new life: themes for this Sunday’s baptismal sacrament

For some reason, there was something painful for me about the idea of being loved completely apart from what I do or do not do. It’s perhaps all we really want in life, and yet the prospect of it, stung. I’m not even sure why. Maybe because it only highlighted how much being loved apart from what we do or don’t do is so rarely something we ever encounter. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo. ― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

The great struggle of the Christian life is to take God’s name for us, to believe we are beloved and to believe that is enough. ― Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday

Sunday’s texts for baptism:

Questions to consider:

  • What am I trying to control, all by myself, that I could give over to a love bigger than me? (We are partners in transformation, but we cannot do it alone.)
  • Of what must I let go— in order to allow love to simply hold me and cherish me— just as I am?
  • What part of my life, my self, my past needs to die away to make space and room for new growth, new identity, new connection?
  • What does it mean to be adopted into this messy-but-beloved, sometimes-healthy, trying-to-be-holistic, always-imperfect-human faith community?
  • What am I doing now that I think is obligatory in order to be worthy of love and grace? What if I chose to do these things, knowing I cannot earn love and grace? (Holy love and grace are gifts, freely given.)
  • What do I think needs to be forgiven in myself?

Blessing prior to Mikveh or Jewish ritual cleansing bath:

Barukh ata Adonai Elohenu melekh ha’olam asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al ha’tevillah.

Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us concerning the immersion.

בּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְשָׁנוּ בּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ עַל הַטְבִילָה

What was in that candle’s light
that opened and consumed me so quickly?
Come back, my Friend!
The form of our love is not a created form.

Nothing can help me but the Beauty.
There was a dawn I remember
when my soul heard something from Your soul.
I drank water from Your Spring
and felt the current take me.
— Rumi

The energies of mindfulness, concentration and insight can liberate us from our anxiety and worries. We let go of the past and the future, and come in touch with the wonders of the present. — Thich Nhat Hanh

On Baptism

Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the Church. — Book of Common Prayer

The Church does not dispense the sacrament of baptism in order to acquire for herself an increase in membership but in order to consecrate a human being to God and to communicate to that person the divine gift of birth from God.― Hans Urs von Balthasar, Unless You Become Like This Child

It is a symbol of your new life …. We bury the ‘old life’ and we rise to walk in a ‘new life’. Baptism is like a wedding ring, it is the outward symbol of the commitment you made in your heart, a commitment that has to be followed through and lived out on a daily basis. … It’s meant to show the world that that you love, trust, and have put your hope in Christ. — Hillsong International

Accept the past as the past and realize that each new day you are a new person who doesn’t need to carry old baggage into the new day with you. … For example, if ever I feel foolish or guilty about something I’ve done, I learn from it and attempt to do better the next time. Shame or guilt serves no one. Such feelings actually keep us down, often lowering the vibrations of those around us, as well. Living in the present moment is the recurring baptism of the soul, forever purifying every new day with a new you. ― Alaric Hutchinson, Living Peace

Once you have grace, you are free. — Thomas Merton

We have to learn to live our life as a human being deeply. We need to live each breath deeply so that we have peace, joy and freedom as we breathe. — Thich Nhat Hanh

In the ritual of baptism, our ancestors acted out the bizarre truth of the Christian identity: We are people who stand totally exposed before evil and death and declare them powerless against love.  ― Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday

Simple, powerful, poignant, the Sign of the Cross is a mnemonic device like the Mass, in which we sit down to table with one another and remember the Last Supper, or a baptism, where we remember John the Baptist’s brawny arm pouring some of the Jordan River over Christ. So we remember the central miracle and paradox of the faith that binds us each to each: that we believe, against all evidence and sense, in life and love and light, in the victory of those things over death and evil and darkness. ― Brian Doyle, Credo

Baptism is one of those more effective rites that come in with the new covenant … And the fact that baptism does the miraculous work of binding diverse flesh into one body means that baptism is one of the rites that effects the social salvation of humanity. ― Peter Leithart

You know the one thing I love most about the Baptism of our Lord text is not just that God the Father says “This is my son, the beloved with whom I am well pleased”, but that God says this – before Jesus had really done anything. Think about that.  God did not say “this is my son in whom I am well pleased because he has proved to me that he deserves it, he has quiet time with me each morning and always reads his Torah and because boy can he heal a leper.”  Nope. As far as we know Jesus hadn’t even done anything yet and he was called beloved …That’s God for you. … Because in your own baptisms, God proclaims that in you his beloved children, God is also well pleased. In the waters of your baptism, God claimed and named you as God’s own. Whether it was as an infant or a youth or an adult. Whether your baptism happened in a church you can’t even remember, or in a river at Summer Camp or in a church you love or one that no longer allows you to take communion, your baptism, not matter the circumstance, was most certainly an act of God upon you. Not an act of faith that you or someone else was giving to God. Baptism, is God’s act of Gospel Love. And as is my tradition whenever preaching about baptism, here’s my standard offer: if you have never been baptized, we have water…right here, plenty of it. Come find me during open space and we’ll do it right now because you already belong to God. You are already God’s beloved … That feels like the kind of love that heaven can’t contain  … A love that is yours quite apart from what you do or don’t do … Beloved. Be loved. Just sit and be loved. Even if it hurts.  Just sit and be loved and be the beloved of God. For this is what pleases him.  — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Jesus did not begin to be loved at the moment of his baptism, nor did he cease to be loved when his baptism became a memory. Baptism simply named the reality of his existing and unending belovedness. ― Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday

I don’t know of any greater baptismal challenges that you and I face than to seek, serve and love Christ in all persons; and to strive for justice and peace among all people respecting the dignity of every human being.  As Chris Keating reminds us, “Jesus’ baptism leads him straight to the world’s misery.”  If the fact that Jesus’ baptism leads him, and each of us as well, straight to the world’s misery and tragedies doesn’t cause you to rethink the meaning of your baptism, then I don’t know what will.  — Bob Burton

Bath (excerpt) — Stuart Dybek
(full text at this link)

She mops a washcloth down his spine and scrubs
until his bones glow with the inner light of porcelain
and when his Haloed hair bursts forth into foam
he holds his nose and dunks beneath the soapy gloom
ears flooding with signals …

He swipes abstractions in the sweat, finger painting night
while Busha towels his hair
as if reviving a drowned sailor
the sea has graciously returned.
Don’t worry, Busha, your grandson is clean
for Saturday night: ears, navel, nails, inspected,
teeth unstained, cleansed as baptism
leaves the soul, pure enough to sleep
—as you instruct him—
with the angels,
cleaner than he’ll ever be again.


1pm from Zealand Falls Hut Trailhead
Friends and members invited!
No RSVP required.
Meet at the trailhead for Zealand Falls / Zealand AMC Hut (Zealand Rd past campground).2.8 miles each way, 603 ft vertical gainBe prepared to hike by 1pmWear appropriate hiking gear, boots, and bring your own water and snacksAllow 45 minutes of travel time from Jackson Community Church to reach the trailhead (please arrive early to the trailhead  as we’ll head out promptly at 1pm)Hikers may choose to meet at Red Parka parking lot at NOON and carpool (Rev Gail will meet you at trailhead)Driving directions to Zealand Rd (on the left several miles beyond Joe Dodge AMC Lodge and about 5 minutes past the Mt Washington Hotel)Parking requires either a parking permit or $5Link to hike infoMostly a gentle and meandering hike with final brief, steep granite stair climb/rock scramble up to AMC hut and falls at the end (optional to climb to that point, although restrooms are in the hut at the top)Afterward, participants may opt to attend a 5pm service at the Chapel of the Transfiguration, officiated by Rev Richard Belshaw from Christ Episcopal Church (he and his wife Julia will be hiking with us)

THIS WEEK at Jackson Community Church and Around Town: June 25-30

TUE, June 25

WED, June 26

    8:30am-12:30pm• JCC
    More info and registration.
    7am – 4pm • Meet at Grants parking lot, Glen
    With north country naturalist Peter Benson, go to The Nature Conservancy’s Hurlbert Swamp in Stewartstown, NH.  Bring binoculars, boots, sturdy shoes, and a hearty lunch. Reservations requested; call 603-447-6991.
  • Community Event: JAZZ LECTURE SERIES
    5:15-6:30pm • Journey Church
    Mike Sakash explores the eventful year 1959, when some of the greatest jazz recordings were released. 8-week series. Drop-in or full summer session. $80 for all 8 weeks, or drop-in for $15/session.

THURS, June 27

    8:30am-12:30pm• JCC
    More info and registration.
  • AA
    6:30pm • Second Floor, Church

FRI, June 28

    8:30am-12:30pm• JCC
    More info and registration.
  • Community Event: DRAG QUEEN STORY HOUR
    9:30am / 10am • Conway Public Library
    9:30am for tickets. 10am for Story Hour.
    Attendance limited to parents with children. Come early as for limited same-day tickets. More info on Pride Week events.
  • Community Event: MEET the QUEENS
    2pm • Jackson Community Church
    Want to know more about Drag Queen Story Hour and why these entertainers choose to volunteer? Join us for an opportunity to meet the Queens, have your questions answered, and learn about the importance of programs that encourage diversity and acceptance in our community. Rev Gail moderates this discussion.  To submit a question, email: whitemountainspride@gmail.comMore info on Pride Week events.
  • Community Event: REV YOLANDA’S GOSPEL HOUR
    7pm • Christ Episcopal Church, North Conway
    The most fabulous Reverend Yolanda will lead us in a service of song. Reverend Yolanda is an interfaith minister whose “Old Time Gospel Hour” show has earned her numerous awards. Check out Rev Yolanda’s website here. Plus more info on Pride Week events.

SAT, June 29

  • Community Event: ART in BLOOM
    10am-4pm • Jackson Village locations
    Walking tour is at six venues: Jackson Public Library, RiverWood Inn, Whitney Community Center, Jackson Historical Society, the Old Library, and The Wentworth.
    10am-4pm • North Conway Community Center
    Free family-friendly day of fun, entertainment, games, food, and vendors. Starts with ribbon cutting and interfaith blessing with spiritual community leaders (including Rev Gail) and festival performer Reverend Yolanda. Bring a chair and enjoy the festivities all day! More info on Pride Week events.
  • Community Event: FLORAL DESIGN DEMO
    11:30am Whitney Community Center
    With Carrie Scribner, owner of Dutch Bloemen Winkel.

SUN, June 30

    8am • Gazeboby Jackson Historical Society
    10:00am • Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of The Eastern Slopes/UUFES, 30 Tamworth Road, Tamworth. More info on Pride Week events.
    10:30am • Jackson Community Church
    * Organ/piano by Alan Labrie
    * Worship leadership & message by Rev Gail
  • Community Event: FAREWELL to MURPHY FAMILY
    6pm • Jackson Grammar School Pavilion
    Come wish the Matt & Amanda Murphy family (with children Finn & Abbey) best wishes in their new adventures in Ohio! Bring your own beverage and a Summer snack to share.
  • Community Event: FIREWORKS 9:00 pm • Jackson Village Park
    Independence Day week fireworks; come early to get a good spot.

Children & youth opportunities in June!

  • Community Event: TRILLIUM SUMMIT
    8:30am-12:30pm • Whitney Community Center
    Initiative  to enrich and empower the lives of girls and women in Mt Washington Valley. Keynote by Riley Parkhurst. Includes interactive games, crafts, discussions, presentations
    and demonstrations. Girls and women will explore their own strengths, learn new skills, become better communicators and learn how to form healthy relationships with others. More info or to register for this program.
    All Day • Horton Center, Pine Mountain
    11am worship @ Castle Rock followed by BBQ, tours & games! All day! All are welcome to our Open House! Please call or email to register. No charge.

Horton Center, Pine Mountain
(Off Rte 16 between Jackson and Gorham)
June 21-23
Rev Gail & Chris Doktor – Deans

  • Register for a weekend of outdoor adventures, family getaway, and faith engagement.

8:30am-12:30pm • Mon-Fri, June 24-28
Jackson Community Church

  • Open K-6 plus CIT (counselor-in-training) positions for 7th-grade-and-older students.
  • Based (in part) on peace curriculum used at from Horton Center (led by Deans Chris and Gail Doktor June 21-23)
  • Focuses on peace and community activism
  • Contemplative practices
  • Music and arts
  • Development of spiritual practices to support this goal, draws on resources from Christian, Buddhist and other traditions
  • Register via eventbrite.
  • Free; donations accepted.

Spring Youth & Family Program

FAMILY FUN NIGHTS: Fridays, May 3 & June 1

  • Pizza, games and connection for families.
  • Please RSVP to Rev Gail if you plan to attend these evenings.

During 10:30am worship • Sun, May 5

  • Attend worship in church and then go to class.
  • Please RSVP to Rev Gail if you plan to attend.

9-10:15am • April 28, May 12, May 19, May 26

  • Start at Jackson Community Church, then go outside
  • Weather dependent: indoor option for inclement weather
  • Come dressed for outdoor activities such as hikes and exploration every Sunday morning.
  • Please RSVP to Rev Gail if you plan to attend, and indicate which dates you’ll be present.

10-11:30am • June 2
Jackson Community Church

  • Intergenerational choir
  • Special music by children and families … possibly a youth band?
  • Message by young adult connected with our community
  • Recognition of scout troops
  • Recognition of youth & young adults and their volunteer work in community
  • Recognition of community educators
  • Please RSVP to Rev Gail if you plan to attend

8:30am-12:30pm • Sat, June 8
Whitney Community Center

  • Watch for updates via Jackson enews and church email.
  • Worskhop with leadership panel, keynote speaker Riley Parkhurst, and world cafe engagement.
  • Designed by and for students.
  • Peer-led by middle and high-school leaders, with adult mentors.
  • Open to older elementary school students.
  • Both genders welcome, focus on girls & women’s issues.
  • Rev Gail will facilitate this workshop.

Horton Center, Pine Mountain
(Off Rte 16 between Jackson and Gorham)
June 21-23
Rev Gail & Chris DOktor – Deans

  • Register for a weekend of outdoor adventures, family getaway, and faith engagement.

8:30am-12:30pm • Mon, June 24-Fri June 28
Jackson Community Church

  • Open K-6 plus CIT (counselor-in-training) positions for 7thgrade and rising students.
  • Based in part on peace curriculum taught by Deans Chris and Gail Doktor at from Horton Center (family camp June 21-23)
  • Focuses on peace and community activism
  • Development of spiritual practices to support this goal, draws on resources from Christian, Buddhist and other traditions