Baptism is the foundational event that brings us into the community of faith and gives us our identity as God’s people. Martin Luther regularly reminded people that baptism was the beginning of something that takes a lifetime to complete. Remembering our baptism can be an important source of comfort and strength as we struggle with societal values that are opposed to life in Christ. Because we are baptized we are "in, not of" this world and our primary citizenship is in the kingdom of God.
There are times and occasions when the sprinkling with water of an entire assembly can provide a powerful sign and symbol for the affirmation and renewal of baptism. When we are baptized we do not become solitary Christians, but we are baptized into a community of faith that is part of a communion of saints that spans space and time. It is a good thing for communities of faith to affirm their baptism at various times throughout the year. The most important time for the affirmation of baptism is at the Easter Vigil. On this night God makes new Christians, and those of us who are already baptized renew that covenant. Sprinkling with water (called asperges) helps to emphasize and make real the affirmation and renewal taking place. The sprinkling usually happens after the assembly has responded to specific questions affirming their intention to continue to live as God’s people. As music is sung (preferably a simple refrain such as "Springs of water bless the Lord") an acolyte holding a bowl of water and the Presiding Minister move together throughout the assembly. The Presiding Minister may use a pine branch or a special sprinkler called an aspergillium. The Presiding Minister dips the branch or sprinkler in the bowl of water as necessary. It is helpful for the Presiding Minister to sprinkle the water using a large arc-type action with the arm rather than just flicking the wrist. In that way large groups of people can feel the touch of the water at the same time. Some people have found it helpful to trace the sign of the cross on themselves as they are sprinkled, thus reminding themselves that they have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.
Some congregations, especially in new or renewed buildings, gather in worship spaces that are flexible and provide for easy movement of the assembly. An alternative to sprinkling in these settings is to invite the entire assembly to come to the font and renew their baptism by placing their hand in the water and making the sign of the cross or simply touching the face.
Sprinkling with water is appropriate any time the assembly participates in the rite of Affirmation of Baptism. Some congregations have adopted the practice of sprinkling with water every Sunday during the Easter season as part of the gathering portion of the worship service. The sprinkling during the Easter season relates to rich biblical images of death and resurrection and those such as Revelation 22:1-2, where the river of life is seen "rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb" (The Sacrament of Easter, Roger Greenacre and Jeremy Haselock, Grand Rapids: W. B. Erdmans, 1995). There are a variety of logistical ways to do this. It could happen prior to the entrance procession. If there is space, the entire assembly could gather around the font for the baptismal renewal and sprinkling, and then process to their places for the Word section of the service. The sprinkling could be done as a part of the entrance procession or the sprinkling could take place during the Hymn of Praise. There are many possibilities and decisions will need to be made on the basis of the architectural space, the worship practices of the congregation, and pastoral sensitivity to the needs of the people. Other appropriate times for sprinkling are the Day of Pentecost, the Baptism of our Lord, and All Saints Sunday.
It is also a powerful sign and a comforting gesture to sprinkle the coffin at the beginning of the funeral service as these words are said - "When we were baptized into Christ Jesus we were baptized into his death. We were buried with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his" (Romans 6 as quoted in the funeral service of Evangelical Lutheran Worship).