Our baptismal font is very simple. Four sided instead of the usual eight, made of simple wood stained rough, with a rather small stainless steel kitchen mixing bowl to hold the water. It’s not nearly as ornate as many of the gorgeous stone and marble fonts you can find if you Google ‘baptismal font’ on your computer. Not that there’s anything wrong with these elaborate fonts. It’s just that our font is very simple.
This simplicity, however, does serve one valuable purpose. It reflects the simplicity of Holy Baptism itself. Water and hands that apply it . . . God’s Word of promise . . . in the audible name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Our font is simple and the baptismal rite is as simple as well. It’s so simple that it’s temping to brighten things up a bit in order to bring more ‘honor’ to baptism. Remodel the font - or import one from Antioch (or at least have an architect copy one) . . . add more pomp to the liturgy . . . increase the volume of water . . . do something to make baptism a bit more ‘festive.’ Don’t be deceived by it’s simplicity, however. Even though something looks simple doesn’t mean it ought to be overlooked, despised or neglected. And those who reject baptism, in part, because it looks so simple, walk by sight and not by faith in what God says He is doing in baptism.
Baptism’s simplicity shouldn’t blind us to the reality that God’s own power stands behind it. It’s as if God has seen fit to veil or conceal His immense power under this water which is connected with His Word. Instead of using His power to overwhelm us with glory, He hides His glory under weakness. Like Moses, whom God placed in the cleft of a rock and covered with His hand so that Moses wouldn’t gaze on God’s glory and be destroyed, God puts His hands over our face and sets us in the cleft of His Word to keep us from being blinded by the power of His majesty. God refuses to use all the bells and whistles and stars in the sky in order to impress us by the signs of His grace. Rather than bring us up, He comes down. He reduces the scale of His presence by bringing Himself to us in such lowly things. Perhaps God packages His incredible gifts up in simple, seemingly useless things for the purpose of faith.
That a Christian bother with baptism at all is sign that God’s gifts have worked faith. If baptism were some outwardly grand and glorious affair, something not to be missed, perhaps people would want to be baptized simply because of the status. But because baptism is so simple, is it deemed useless by a world that trusts not in His promises and, thus, misses out on His gifts? Still, when God says, “Baptism now saves you,” (1 Peter 3:21) He was not kidding, no matter how insignificant baptism may appear. How can water do such great things? Certainly not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the father which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three. “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy.
The next time you make that journey down the aisle to the chancel in order to receive God’s gifts in the Lord’s Supper, pause and look at our simple baptismal font. It’s nothing, really, to write home about and yet what great power God has hidden there. There in those waters the sin washed clean off us is absorbed by the One who became sin for us, in order to save us. There in those waters God kills sin, the sting of death and Satan himself and gives the life of Christ to those who undergo its drowning and rising to new life.