Saturday, November 1, 2014

"This is Victoria, the mother of my son..." Baptism Pt 1

“This is Victoria, the mother of my son, but not like that. You see I’ve had her son in my home in foster care for the last 4 ½ years and now I have adopted him as my son.” Those were words of introduction at a recent church baptism celebration.

He is Mike and for several years now I’ve come to expect his unfiltered heartfelt passionate approach.  But on this day it was not the raw beauty of his words that took me aback.  Nor the fact that he described the relationship with the nervous mother he was preparing to baptize as one of, “having much disdain for one another”. No, what struck me on this day is what I saw, not what I heard.  It caused me to take pause and reflect back a couple thousand years.

In Acts 2 the Bible does not describe the feeling for the 3,000 other than they were “cut to heart” right after Peter received the Holy Spirit and preached the new church’s first sermon.  In a way I’m glad it was deficient of detail because now I’m allowed to use the imagination that God blessed me with.   On this Sunday I see 21st century church mimicking 1st century church like we should be.

I have intentionally not interviewed either party, the baptized or baptizer, because there is oh so much beauty in God’s deliberate mysteries. You or I could go get all the answers but why should we?  Just for a little while let’s experience the splendor that comes with the gift of free will and in free will we are given the gift of imagination!

The closer Victoria drew to the baptistery the more hesitant she became.  She had seen 4 people go in front of her so there was no reason to wonder what to expect.  There was something else causing her tentativeness.

On the day Peter preached, 3,000 people said to him and the other 11 apostles, “What do we do now?”  They replied, “Be baptized…”  Right then and there they went to the water.  Who was the first?  Who was the last?  Who cares?  Billions have been baptized since that time but the mystery for the unbaptized still exists.  What happens when I go down in that water?  More importantly, what happens to me when I come out?
On this day I felt like I was looking into the face of one of 1st 3,000.  From my position I could see it all; the water, her face, the steps that she stopped on for what seemed like eternity.  Victoria looked intently down into the water before she turned back to blow a kiss to her son’s now adopted mother.  Good heavens God is good, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house!  If you don’t like that you need to stop reading right now and go for a walk with Tin Man in search of a heart!

I picture Peter and the other apostles having the same view looking into the faces of 250 people in each of their 12 lines stretching from dry land down to the water edge.  I image each new convert hesitating at water’s edge wondering the same thing.  “What will happen in there?”    

Victoria slowly eased ankle deep into the baptistery, hands out with a hint of tremble to them. Her face did not seem scared, but sheepish. Then shin deep and another pause.  This hesitation was long enough that I wondered, “Is she going to go?”

“What kind of tug-o-war is going in her head?” I thought to myself, “Is she thinking?”…

“I’m nervous in front of all these people.”

 “Do I really need to do this?” 

“This water is colder than I thought.”

“I’ve waited for this day all my life.” 

“Am I good enough for this water?” 

“Jesus I can’t wait to show the world the choice I’ve made for you and I want to cherish every moment.” 

Whatever it was, it caused her to pause in the shallow end as long as I have ever seen anyone hold up during a baptism.  The lengthy wait was sensed by our crowd of believers too as they couldn’t help but cheer her on alongside Mike and his slow rhythmic fist pump that reached high into the air again and again.  Be it the encouragement of the crowd, fulfillment of her relishing, overcoming of fear or tugging of the Holy Spirit – whatever it was, she eased slowly forward and deeper to the spot where she was now seated at a chest deep level. Here she awaited her final words of encouragement from Mike before heeding the 2,000 year old command to wash away one life and rise in another.

3,000 times in a single day the apostles saw the same trembling hands, slow shuffling feet and wondering faces come to them over and over and over again.  The 12 had never seen such a movement minus Jesus by their side. The bewildering questions must have filled the air that day too and not just from the crowd but from apostles themselves.

“Am I worthy of this?”

“Am I good enough to do this?”

“Am I doing this right?”

 “What happens in that water?”

“What happens when I leave that water?”

When Victoria was pulled up from the water her face and body were emotionless and silent.  It was an expression that spoke of, “what just happened to me?” 

Mike’s signature fist pump was in overdrive as he stood over her. 

The crowd was excited, cheering, celebrating but waiting in a “How will she react?” kind of manner.

After yet another seemingly eternal pause, it came!  Her arms burst to the side slinging water onto the stage on one side and front row of seats on the other!  Her face and body expression now proclaimed a resounding, “YES! Yes! Yes.”

1 Corinthians 2:9-12 (The Voice)

9 But as the Scriptures say,

No eye has ever seen and no ear has ever heard
and it has never occurred to the human heart
All the things God prepared for those who love Him.

10 God has shown us these profound and startling realities through His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep mysteries of God. 11 Who can see into a man’s heart and know his thoughts? Only the spirit that dwells within the man. In the same way, the thoughts of God are known only by His Spirit. 12 You must know that we have not received the spirit of this rebellious and broken world but the Spirit that comes from God, so that we may experience and comprehend the gifts that come from God.

We were blessed on this day to imagine the miracle going on in Victoria’s mind, in the 12 apostles and 3,000 new converts that we’ve only gotten to read about.  Because of her obedience she was blessed to the receive the revelation of what God had prepared for her through baptism, just as the church has done for 2,000 years and we will continue to do until He comes back for us. What Victoria pondered and He revealed to her that Sunday only she will know.  Let’s leave it that way and enjoy the beauty in the mystery that God has given us.