I spent part of this afternoon with a young mother at a funeral home, as she spent time with her would-be six-year-old daughter, who was killed in a car accident last week.
She had questions for me about baptism: her daughter hadn't been baptized, and she was concerned.
I told her that we didn't baptize people after death, but that we believe God's grace is present even without baptism. Not being baptized is not going to keep her daughter away from being received into God's eternal love.
Then, her family showed up, and it was clear that they were much more worried about her unbaptized state. (They had not been, however, worried enough to show up much while she was alive.)
All of which made me think that our sacrament of baptism has become so enmeshed with doctrines and policies that we've missed at least part of the point of what God's Spirit and water are able to accomplish. This Sunday, as we read about John the Baptist in our Advent preparations, we're invited to be repent, and be baptized. But I don't think he was talking about the same thing that worried those family members. I think he was inviting us to something much more radical.
The child's mother, however, continued to share the kind of love that is lived out in a million, tiny details. She painted her daughter's fingernails a shade of a shiny pink that would have delighted her.
Which seemed, somehow, to convey the amazing and beautiful qualities of God's love in a richly sacramental way.