For the second Sunday in a row, congregations following the Revised Common Lectionary will hear of the profound power of the open font. Last Sunday, it was Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch from Acts 8. In that story, the Spirit compelled Deacon Philip to come alongside a foreigner who also happened to be a Eunuch, and share with him the Good News of Jesus Christ. After Philip takes him from the Suffering Servant in Isaiah all the way through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Eunuch comes to faith, sees some water along the side of the road and asks, “What is to keep me from being baptized?”
The answer, of course, is nothing. Nothing would keep him from being baptized. It would be easy to consider this an aberration: a one off event with details so out of the ordinary as to be ignored. It is as if the RCL folks knew this, and so, in this week’s lesson from Acts, we hear of a similar situation involving Peter and a group of Gentiles. Here, instead of it being the outsider who asks, we hear from Peter, the rock upon which Jesus would build the Church, asking, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people?”
The answer, again, is no. No one can withhold the waters of baptism. Nothing would prevent someone who desires it from being baptized. This is why, in proper Episcopal architecture, one passes by the font en route to the table. It serves as a weekly reminder that we walk through the waters of baptism to be nourished weekly at the Table.
As you might suspect, I am not an advocate of so-called “open communion.” I am a firm believer that our fonts should be wide open, that nothing should keep anyone from being baptized, but that it is through baptism, the outward and visible sign of “union with Christ in his death and resurrection, birth into God’s family the Church, forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Holy Spirit” that we are then brought to the Table to receive the Body and Blood of our Savior Jesus Christ (BCP, 858).
There isn’t, I don’t think, a need to preach on these theological arguments. My guess is that the average Peggy Pewsitter doesn’t much care about the battles that get waged at General Convention. There is, however, a teaching/preaching opportunity to highlight the hows/whys of our open font, architecture, and the call that all Christians share to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ. If you didn’t preach Acts 8 last week, despite my pleas that you would, maybe this week’s short passage from Acts 10 will offer you the opportunity to share with your community God’s love for everyone, no exceptions.