Posted tagged ‘profession of faith’

Baptism Day

June 28, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   June 28, 2015

                                                 

Baptism in the Baptist church is a celebration that drenches the soul! It isn’t an invitation to a funeral, but rather an expression of the deep flowing grace of God, the life-giving story of the gospel visualized in a person standing in the midst of the waters.

This morning was an awesome experience in the sharing of people’s faith journeys. Four adults…some new to the faith, and others who have journeyed with Jesus for a while, entered our “church tub” and testified of their faith.

The event was punctuated by the fact that other people were involved in the baptisms. In our congregation when someone gets baptized I encourage them to ask someone who has been instrumental in their faith journey to be the one who dips them into the waters.

The first woman to be baptized was helped into the water tank by her husband. She had been serving faithfully for the past several years in our congregation. We just assumed that she had been baptized…but sometimes assumptions get the best of us! As her spouse asked her if she knew Jesus in a personal way I could hear a slight emotional crack in his voice. He looked into her eyes with love and compassion, and she back at him with the same loving gratitude. As he lowered her into the waters I was there to give physical assistance…since both of them are into their sixth decade. Wait a minute! So am I! After she came back up to her feet, husband and wife embraced…and more than a few tears were being shed by those watching!

The second woman was baptized by her in-laws…mother in-law and sister-in-law. They had walked with her through moments of loss and births of children. They didn’t turn their backs on her when she expressed doubts about faith. In the background, although not in the baptistry, was her grandmother-in-law who had been praying for this day to happen for the past several years. What a story of walking with someone in doubts and discoveries!

Finally a husband and wife came to be baptized. They asked me to be the one who took them back into that expression of the death and resurrection of Christ. The husband and I play basketball together. We trash talk each other on the court…in Christian love! But in this moment I fought back the tears of joy of seeing two lives wanting to serve the Lord. Parents of three young children they have been through some difficult times, times of searching and asking tough questions, and times of trying to figure out this thing called “walking in faith.”

Four faith journeys coming together for a few moments of mass celebration. I don’t know if anyone will remember a word I said that morning in the sermon, but there were four messages of transformation visualized that no one will forget!

Willie the Baptismal Whale (part 2)

December 27, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  December 26, 2012

 

The pastor had to do a little pushing and pulling to get the inflatable properly positioned. It was a snug fit. Inflatable whales are a little wider than Baptist church baptisteries. Finally it was in place with the tail out the backside of the one entrance tank. Perhaps it was built that way to eliminate escapees who began to doubt at the last moment…or if the water heater wasn’t working!

The pastor went home…hopeful that Sunday morning he would not be deflated by having dry baptisms.

He arrived early on Sunday to inspect, pray, and pour. It was a long walk from the kitchen to the baptistery, but that’s where he had to go to fill bucket after bucket with hot water. Willie’s “belly” slowly started to fill up. The tail flopped back and forth like a fin out of control.

It took twenty trips with the five gallon pail to get Willie to the brim. The pastor’s upper back and arms were aching and he secretly was longing to be a Methodist. Sprinkling is a lot easier than total immersion.

That was another fear that kept creeping into his mind. Would Zach fit? He had visions of “partial immersion.” What if Zach’s muscular body couldn’t go all the way under all at once? Was it okay to baptize his upper body and then his lower body immediately after? Did that qualify? He thought back to his adjunct preaching professor in seminary who was a Presbyterian pastor. Baptist seminary students usually want to know that they have all the right answers…and that others don’t. Discussion with their professor about the validity of any baptism that involved less than five hundred gallons was a point of debate.

The wise mentor from a different tradition looked at his inquiring students and asked them a question in response to their question: “Is it the amount of water that is important or the condition of the heart?”

Silence like Pharisees before Jesus.

Zach’s heart condition had been washed clean. A sense of peace fell upon the pastor’s spirit. Sometimes his faith got lost in the fret about the details.

Thirty minutes before the worship gathering was to begin the pastor checked the water level. Willie was holding. The water was still to the top of his sides. He hoped that the temperature would hold just as well. Toes turning blue were not on his bucket list!

The sanctuary began to fill with people, familiar faces and unfamiliar. Baptisms brought the body of believers, as well as others who perhaps wanted to see if it would happen. Zach’s guests included a former high school teacher who prayed for Zach frequently, worrying about his life’s direction and consequences. There was also his boss who had taken Zach under his wing, and treated him like a son. In fact, there were a number of people sitting in different pews throughout the sanctuary that has a hand in guiding him to this point.

Little Bethany also had her guests, aunts and uncles, neighbors and playmates. Her stomach was starting to turn flips in anticipation. Truth be known, she was anxious about the water temperature. She had been telling herself all night “Don’t squeal! Don’t squeal!”She didn’t want an ice-cold whale to cause her to scream.

When the pastor touched down into the pool, however, the temperature was just a little cooler than bath water. He gave the thumbs up to Bethany and her mom and dad who were standing behind her. She stepped down, and accepted the help from the pastor as her right foot stepped over Willie’s inflated head.

Her mom and dad joined her. The increase in weight on the bottom of the pool caused the air to shift to the tail end, and Willie’s back flipper came to attention. Her dad led Bethany through the affirming words of her faith. The pastor stepped to the side and Bethany’s dad, a hair over six foot three himself, dipped his daughter low. She submerged and emerged with not even a gasp, let alone a squeal. All that the congregation could see was a little girl with a big grin that circled around the gap created by her two missing front teeth.

The congregation applauded. Aunts cried. Mom embraced her daughter.

Parents and child stepped back out of Willie and carefully went back up the steps. Zach was next. He came down the steps looking bigger than he actually was. He smiled at the pastor, who moved towards Willie’s tail to give him a little more room. He wasn’t sure how this was going to work, but he was going to make it work…even if it meant to a snug fit in between Willie’s sides for Zach.

The pastor looked out and caught sight of some of Zach’s family. Several were already tearing up. They knew his journey. They knew that there had been more doubters in his life than believers. Some of the doubters, oddly enough, still hoped for failure. The need to be right was greater than the hope to see transformation.

The pastor stood on Zach’s right side.

Zach, who would have thought that you would have a Jonah moment this morning?”

A chorus of “amens” sounded in different parts of the sanctuary. Zach’s facial expression widened with raised eyebrows and a smile that stretched his cheeks as wide as they could go. The pastor led the new believer in words of profession and identification with Jesus.

Let’s see if we can all of you under!”

I’m good with that!”

The words were said, and the young dad was dipped. The pastor swished him around a little bit in Willie’s belly just to make sure; and then he was up…drenched…chuckling…triumphant.

The pastor embraced him. The congregation applauded.

As if in approval, Willie’s tail waved for a moment.