Aimee Byrd at Housewife Theologian asks a great question about what to do with ourselves after a baptism.
How do you celebrate this moment? Let me ask you readers, do you clap in your church after a baptism? Our church congregation doesn’t. There’s no policy about it in the Book of Church Order or anything. I don’t think I would be reprimanded for a celebratory outburst. But since it is so silent, I feel like I would be distracting attention toward myself more than glorifying God. My husband and I struggle in this tension. We both want to jump up and give hugs, or do something to rejoice at what just happened.
This is a great question. What we want to do is to praise God. That’s what we should all want to do. That’s the right response to the gospel. The sacraments are the gospel made visible so the question is how does God want us to respond to the Good News? He wants us to praise him with his Word. The great thing is that he has even given us the text to use when we respond to the good news: Scripture. Surely a psalm would be appropriate. Ps 78 is a great thing to sing after a baptism.
Exodus 15 is a clear example of a joyful response to a baptism. In that case God’s people came through the baptism “on dry ground.” I suppose they were sprinkled by the spray but whatever the case we know that Pharaoh and his host were immersed! Scripture says that Moses and the people praised God by singing:
I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider[a] he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a man of war;
the Lord is his name.
Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,
and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;
the floods stood up in a heap;
the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
they sank like lead in the mighty waters.
Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
You stretched out your right hand;
the earth swallowed them.
“You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
The peoples have heard; they tremble;
pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
Terror and dread fall upon them;
because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,
till your people, O Lord, pass by,
till the people pass by whom you have purchased.
You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
The Lord will reign forever and ever.
When we see a baptism we remember that our Lord Jesus has gone into the sea for us. The waters of death and judgment overwhelmed him for us. They even sealed the tomb, the earth swallowed him, but it did not keep him. The Spirit guided him to his holy resting place, to his throne, to the holy of holies. The chiefs of Edom are dismayed indeed! He has ascended on high and has taken captivity captive and we, in baptism, have been identified with victorious his death. By his unmerited favor alone he has granted us new life and faith in Christ and through that faith united us to the true Israel of God. Now, in Christ, having died to sin, we have hope through his resurrection and ascension.
If, after a baptism, we all rise to praise God together with his Word, we have a place to express the joy that is welling up within us (as it should!) and we can do it together in a way that God has clearly approved.