Sunday, September 1, 2013
The conversation took place a few days ago in the local farm supply store. Actually, it was last Friday which was the Friday before the Labor Day weekend. A sign on the counter announced the store closing on Saturday at 1:00 pm. I commented to the proprietor and his wife, "Looks like you have a nice long weekend planned." She turned and said, "Me and my son are getting baptized tomorrow afternoon." As we talked, they told me of their Primitive Baptist Church and its pattern of Saturday baptisms. "I wanted to be baptized at the river, but there is too much water, so we are going to be using Mill Creek Pond not far from the church." It was a special moment of listening and sharing in the sense of excitement and anticipation being felt by this woman who talked about her upcoming baptism.
Baptizing folks is one of the things the church does right. Now it may be true that there are some along the way who are baptized for the wrong reasons, but it also true that it can be a powerful spiritual moment in a believer's life. One of my first baptisms was an elderly man who became bed ridden and was baptized at home. A number of the men in his Sunday School class accompanied me and became the witnessing and celebrating church there in his room. And I remember others who on the Baptism of the Lord Sunday came to the altar for baptism on a Sunday they were expecting to be just like any other Sunday. Those Sundays always made me aware that preachers need to spend more time inviting folks to come to the baptismal waters. When invited, people come. They come because of the way God is at work in their hearts. The lack of frequent invitations only hinders the work of the Spirit.
Of course, no one needs baptismal water to seal the covenant God has initiated with us. Neither is it a stamp on the ticket to glory. It is a moment of submission. It is a moment of declaring Jesus is the Saving One who is desperately needed. In our United Methodist tradition, it is a moment of kneeling and bowing. It is a sacred moment of grace marking. It is a moment unlike any other moment in our life. The woman in the farm supply store had it right. It is a moment to anticipate and something to tell others.