The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



A gift from God not something we do to earn our way into God's good graces

In the strange timelessness and timeliness of the church’s calendar, this year the Baptism of Our Lord is celebrated one day after the Epiphany of Our Lord. The church year rapidly moves us from Jesus’ early childhood to the beginning of his public ministry at his baptism.

It’s a good time to reflect on this primal sacrament—baptism—and on what we use as we make Christians: font, water, oil, word.

Is the font central to your place of worship? Is it filled with water most of the time? Is it a reminder of your baptism?

Oil, a part of the baptismal rite in the Lutheran Book of Worship, is still not used in some places—perhaps because we’re not aware of its multilayered meanings. But it’s those meanings that make it so rich. Oil seals the skin against its enemies—sun and water, wind and cold. It gives the fighter a fighting chance to slide and squirm, evading capture. Oil applied medicinally repairs the wounds of war and work—chapped, cracked, broken skin is soothed. Oil poured is liniment of the spirit—healing balm. The oil of baptism is beauty oil, a sign of goodness, health, vitality and youth. It marks the cross with the fresh fragrance of the Lord’s love.

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