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Loneliness and isolation comprise the largest public health factor we face today. This is in large part because of the way our world has become: one of constant striving, and splicing-together small projects to make big-enough ones, constant-choice-making which define us, obligatory flexibility in all situations that can lead us to not make commitments to others and even ourselves. Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman calls this “Liquid Modernity” – we live in a time in which are lives are fragmented. There is no solid, heavy, firm foundation on which we can build our lives, but rather more of a liquid one that leans toward hyperindividualism and identity-denying flexibility. Most work these days is contractual. There is no commitment, only gain. Increasingly relationships and loyalty are situational, abandoned when no longer needed or helpful. Liquid times are defined by uncertainty. In liquid modernity, the individual must act, plan actions and calculate the likely gains and losses of acting (or failing to act) under conditions of endemic uncertainty.
Today’s scriptures talk of a different reality: rooted in a solid refuge, built upon a firm foundation, rooted in a relationship of mutual loyalty and love not upon likes and followers. That being, that being-together is in God, made by God, among God. Baptism is the expression of that invisible refuge and strength that God is and gives. It is the sign to receive when one wants to change direction, it’s the gift of God reminding us that we don’t have to have all of the answers, that we need God to find the way, that we can’t do everything, become everything, control everything as liquid modernity leads us to believe we can. Metanoia (Repentance) is that turning around, changing direction, re-centering in what God wants, what God is doing, where God is. That’s the prayer of the psalmist today. It’s the cross-cultural decision of those that change life-direction upon hearing of the person and passion of Jesus. Those in Acts 2 who choose to center themselves in the flowing center of identity and vocation in the person of Jesus: the visible image of the invisible God; choose to be baptized that day, to live lives of daily renewal & re-centering in Jesus going forward.
Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit. …It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
– Martin Luther, The Small Catechism, 1529
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation