An immersive experience. It’s the latest in technology and trendy phrase to use. It involves being surrounded by both video and audio. The iconic experience right now is found in Las Vegas. It’s called the “Sphere.” Whatever the performance, when you enter the Sphere, you are immersed in 360-degree audio and video. The façade is as likewise impressive. Covered in micro-led lights, it can transform into any object; an eyeball, basketball, earth. Basically, anything one can imagine.
While the Sphere is the echelon of immersive experiences, it does not stand alone. In a much smaller scale, IMAX, surround sound theaters, and even some home theaters attempt to create immersive experience. Even in our home, we have surround system, giving us the feeling that we are immersed into the sporting event or movie we’re watching.
While the term immersive is the new hip phrase, the experience is not new. Stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon on a clear night, or anywhere where light pollution is extremely limited, and you will be immersed in stars. It brings a whole new understanding of “and He created the stars also.”
Go to Niagara Falls, stands at the closest viewing station and you will be immersed. The roar of the falls is deafening and the mist from its power is overwhelming. Digitally defined, immersive technology involves using sound and images to actively engage one’s senses in a way that may create an altered mental state.
The idea of an immersive experience is something that the writers of the New Testament were trying to convey to readers when they spoke of baptism. The Greek poet and physician, Nicander, gives one of the best descriptions of the Greek word used by the authors for baptism. To clarify the concept of baptism, he uses a word picture involving a cucumber.
In his illustration Nicander describes the process of how a cucumber becomes a pickle. His analogy is that for a cucumber to become a pickle it must be baptized or immersed. If it’s simply dipped in water and then vinegar, it is not changed, it will still taste like a cucumber. For it to become pickled it must be immersed, stay in its new environment for an extended time. This is what the writers were trying to communicate to people and has been lost, both in translation and many modern church environments.
Baptism is designed to be an immersive experience. I fear that when we fail to fully communicate the impact of baptism, the results may be the same. The person is simply dipped, getting wet, but not altered, transformed, or immersed. When it’s less, or worse, not taught, it cheats people out of an authentic experience and weakens the impact of the gospel.
I’m not here to diminish or deny anyone’s baptismal experience, in fact, just the opposite. I want to help bring it to another dimension, to enhance understanding. God wants us to have an immersive experiences in Him. He wants us to be overwhelmed, transformed, in awe by what we experience in Him. Baptism is not just a religious tradition, it’s not a trendy thing to do. It’s an overwhelming, indescribable, immersive experience that alters and transforms us. My prayer. God immerse us in your presence until we are saturated and transformed.