The reading from Acts today is the famous story about Philip encountering the Ethiopian eunuch on the wilderness road. After Philip, a deacon, explains to him a difficult passage from Isaiah about the lamb that is led to its shearers but remains mute, the eunuch expresses a profound desire to be baptized.
“Look! Here is water, what is to prevent me from being baptized?” Well, nothing really. So Philip and the eunuch hop out of the chariot and proceed to perform one of the most ancient rituals of the Christian faith.
From this reading, I can discern three necessary ingredients for baptism.
1. Water: not only the most essential of resources on the planet earth, but the very thing which makes us clean. This cleanliness is not only physical, but manifest itself spiritually. There has been controversy about how much water is needed. Come on, that’s a silly argument. That’s like saying “How loud do I have to sing for God to hear?”
2. Someone to baptize you: That’s right, you can’t baptize yourself. There have to be at least two. Two makes a community, a fellowship of believers. This is the model for the entire Christian life. There’s no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian.
3. The Holy Spirit: From the passage, we can discern that the Holy Spirit is present at the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch. That means that we are not baptizing people into a community solely composed of humans. Rather, they are being baptized into a community of people who are led and inspired by God.
One final note: baptism is the sacrament which any person in the faith can perform. The Book of Common Prayer has a rubric for emergency baptisms. So if you were ever to come across somebody who is on the verge of death, and desperately desires to be baptized, go ahead and do it. “Look! Here is water, what is to prevent me from being baptized?”
Well, nothing really.