Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “YOLO”, which means “you only live once”. Allow me to introduce you to the Lutheran concept, coined by two of my dear friends in seminary, “YOBO”, which means, “you’re only baptized once”.
Last month we joined together for a glorious Sunday afternoon service of baptisms at Mission Bay where we welcomed George Hughey and Isaak Lohrmann into the body of Christ. In the wake of these baptisms, I have heard the question cropping up all over the place, “Can I be baptized again?” In some cases, this idea is being impressed upon folks by other, outside Christian people who don’t accept the idea of infant baptism, who are concerned that if you didn’t decide for yourself, you have to be baptized a second time as an adult. Some of you recognize in yourselves a yearning to have an experience of baptism to which you can lay claim, since you don’t remember your own.
For better or worse, Lutherans (and most mainline protestants and Catholics) only baptize once. What makes a baptism count is the promise of God that is made manifest in the Words of Jesus and the pouring out of the water; not your age, not your ability or inability to decide for yourself, not the priest or pastor, not the denomination. Baptism is the event whereby God clothes you in God’s spirit and claims you as God’s own, not the other way around.
That said, if you are someone who was baptized young and was reluctantly confirmed, per your parent’s wishes, as a young teenager and now you have a yearning to publicly lay claim to your faith, we do this in the Lutheran Church through affirmation of baptism.
Affirmation of baptism happens sometimes casually in worship on Easter or during the season of easter. Usually we all affirm our faith during a baptism when we are collectively invited to reject sin and all that draws us away from God and to speak the words of the creed together. But other times, folks who have a desire to deepen their faith and publicly affirm their faith undergo a process of study and then they affirm their faith in special way in worship.
We believe that you can do this as many times in a lifetime as you’d like.
It’s like this…when a person gets married to their spouse, they don’t need to marry them again. Legally, if they are already married they cannot marry them again. To do so would be to disregard the power of what happened on the day you said “I do”. It is for this same reason that we only baptize once.
But, we all know folks who have renewed their vows. Sometimes in elaborate ways that felt something like a second wedding, sometimes in simple ways around the dinner table each year on one’s anniversary. Likewise, we have a variety of ways to affirm our baptisms as adults.
If last month’s baptisms stirred something in you; a desire to go deeper, a realization that you’ve never publicly laid claim to your faith, the desire to grab hold of your baptismal promises more fully, please contact me. Otherwise, please know that however you were baptized, whenever you were baptized, if it was in the name of Jesus…it counts and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!