The Churches of Christ use strong language when we talk about baptism. Sometimes we’re accused of being over-the-top. I wonder how they might criticize Martin Luther, who wrote these words in the middle of the 16th century:

“Your baptism is nothing less than grace clutching you by the throat, a grace-full throttling by which your sin is submerged in order that ye may remain under grace. Come, thus, to thy baptism! Give thyself up to be drowned in baptism and killed by the mercy of thy dear God, saying, ‘Drown me and throttle me, dear Lord, for henceforth I will gladly die to sin with thy Son!'”

Lots of Christians believe baptism is just an outward sign of a salvation that’s already been received. Other Christians believe baptism is a necessary command that legally divides people into two groups: those going to heaven and those going to hell. Of course, we know baptism is more than just a sign or a symbol. But we also know it should never be reduced to some line-in-the-sand technical requirement. It’s so much more. It’s a gift from God.

Baptism is not a legal requirement to meet, it’s not a technical ritual to perform, it’s not a test to pass or fail, or a strict command that has to be perfectly obeyed exactly right. It’s a gracious gift from God. Baptism is the way to accept and experience everything God longs to give us.

This Sunday is Baptism Sunday at GCR Church. I’ve never done one of these before. In Churches of Christ, we have typically emphasized the urgency of receiving forgiveness in baptism and rushed to the church building at all hours of the day or night to get a convert in the water immediately upon a statement of belief. Planning a particular Sunday to initiate new disciples is a little out of our comfort zone.

But the careful planning is what I like about it the most. As a church, we have spent the past couple of weeks focusing on baptism. Praying about it. Singing about it. Studying it. We’re praying for our friends and relatives who have never been baptized. We’re studying and praying with people who are about to be baptized. We’re counting the cost as a congregation and highlighting the beautiful sacrament as a divine gift to be received from our God.

If you or someone you know has never been baptized, this Sunday at GCR might be the perfect day to participate in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. If you live anywhere in West Texas, we’re inviting you to join us at GCR this Sunday and be baptized into Christ. You can click here to review what we believe about baptism, to contact me or another of our ministers or shepherds about baptism, and to see how to prepare for your baptism. If you know somebody in West Texas who’s never been baptized, send them the link. Pray for them. Tell me about them.

As of today, four people have signed up to be baptized into Christ at GCR this Sunday. The invitation is open to you, too.