One of the joys of working with college students is that you get invited to A LOT of weddings. I meet students when they are immature freshman. Years later I am sitting at a wedding, seeing two of these students commit their lives to one another. At the reception I am having conversations with mature adults about careers, graduate schools and so on. It is satisfying to see how the Holy Spirit works in students, moving them from where they are as freshman into the world as mature servants of Christ.
The wedding this past Saturday was especially moving for various reasons. For one thing, Emily had the groom in her Spanish class when he was a junior in high school. Also, they really fell in love on the mission trip CSF took to Spain two years ago. The groom was not sure if he would attend the trip and I urged him to, mostly because it was all female students. At the wedding, I was proud of the part I played!
I got home and posted on Facebook: “There is not much better for a campus minister than attending the wedding of former students!” This post got lots of “likes” from my friends. Two people posted along the lines of, what about baptism?
That’s a good question. Seeing the wedding of two Christians is great but seeing someone commit their life to Christ and submit to baptism is fantastic.
Recognizing the vital importance of baptism and its role in the initiation into Christian life, one thing that sets weddings apart is the preparation and mutual commitment involved. This may sound flippant and I do not mean it to be, but baptisms really only require one person to make a move. It is not like Jesus is going to reject you! On the other hand, a wedding requires two (sinful, broken) people to commit to each other (and to Christ). Perhaps this reveals that we do not take baptism seriously enough. Or should I say, we do not take the commitment to a Christian life which baptism entails seriously enough. Thus, getting baptized in many churches is easy while weddings require pre-marital counseling and loads of preparation.
Maybe we should bring back the idea of the catechumenate for those desiring to be baptized, a time of preparation and counseling. I wonder if that is too “Catholic” for many? Or maybe all we need is some good discipleship.
As I reflect on baptism and weddings, I realize the two are not really that different. In many ways, a baptism is a wedding. The person submitting to baptism is joining the Church and the Church is the bride of Christ. This is powerful biblical imagery connecting marriage between two persons and the relationship between Christ and his church. Things like self-sacrificial love and mutual submission entail both. It could also be said of both, “you do not know what you are getting yourself into!”
So maybe baptism and weddings aren’t that different. I amend my statement from Facebook: “There is little more satisfying for a campus minister than to see students make commitments to Jesus Christ in baptism and commitments to each other in Christian marriage”.