(This is being posted under the duress of some really dodgy wifi, keeps cutting out in the middle of formatting. I shall have to tonsure me a scribal monk to do this sort of work.)I have a baptism with which to be baptized,
and what stress I am under until it is completed.
On August 14 of this week, the church remembered two Christians who lived and died under the shadow of such a baptism.
During World War II, Bonhoeffer played a key leadership role in the Confessing Church, which opposed the anti-semitic policies of Adolf Hitler. He was among those who called for wider church resistance to Hitler's treatment of the Jews. While the Confessing Church was not large, it represented a major source of Christian opposition to the Nazi government in Germany.
He was both a pastor and a theologian. He is most famous for his book “The Cost of Discipleship”, and in distinguishing between what he called “cheap grace” and “costly grace”.
"cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ."
In contrast to this is costly grace: "costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."Such discipleship was costly for Bonhoeffer: he was executed by hanging at dawn on 9 April 1945. August 14 is also the commemoration of Maximillian Kolbe.
August 14, 1941. a
modest Franciscan friar,
Maximilian Kolbe, was executed at Auschwitz.
earlier, a prisoner had escaped from Auschwitz. The camp's rule was that if one
prisoner escaped, ten died in his place. All day the weak and underfed men from
the escaped prisoner's block were made to stand in the sun without food and
water. When the man was not found, a prison guard called out the names of ten
men who were to die in his place.
gap stepped Maximilian Kolbe. He moved forward silently. Asked what he wanted,
he replied, "I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his
place, because he has a wife and children." Hesitating a moment in face of
this noble gesture, Commandant Fritsch accepted the replacement. Maximilian and
nine others were sent to starve to death.
During those two
weeks, Maximilian led the victims in hymns and prayer.
When he became too weak
to speak aloud, he whispered his prayers. After two weeks, only four of the ten
were still alive. Maximilian alone was completely conscious. The guards needed
the space for more prisoners and decided to hasten the deaths with lethal doses
of carbolic acid. Maximilian was last. Weak though he was, he raised his arm to
receive the injection, triumphantly embracing martyrdom."
[source: Christian History Timeline]
 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!
We have two images of Jesus’ baptism in the Gospels. The first is his baptism in the river Jordan. We stand as observers and hear the voice of God declare that Jesus is the chosen one, the Beloved. It is often this first image which we think of when we hear the word baptism – the reassurance of God’s love. It is the image we most often turn to when we have baptisms in our church. We think of baptisms as benign at worse or joyful at best.
speaks of baptism, his baptism, it is a powerful, even frightening and
dangerous event. In Mark 10, Jesus
also spoke about his “baptism”: James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came
forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we
ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And
they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your
left, in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are
asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the
baptism that I am baptized with?’
When Jesus talks about “baptism”, he does not speak about white dresses, presents from godparents and a light lunch afterward. He speaks of the cross: that “stumbling block” which somehow is at the center of his earthly mission, and the call to discipleship.
Jesus speaks to us today about the cost. It is both the cost of his own mission, and the potential cost of our own discipleship. The reading from Hebrews gives us examples of others who were “baptized” with this baptism of Christ. Though they lived before his time, they too “took up their cross” by faith. They knew the cost of faith. And they by faith looked forward to "a better resurrection" [11:35].
What is it to have a passionate faith? A faith that matters? A faith that makes a difference. And how does one get such a faith? Again, the author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us: Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.