Something happened on my last day at work that I think is rather incredible…
Early on when I started at the church (that I’ve now transitioned off staff) we had a service where we invited people to get baptized-just right then and there.
There must have been over a 100 people that weekend-not that the number is the point. The point was how many unchurched people that day said yes to Jesus and as a result decided to get baptized in that same moment.
The reason someone should get baptized is pretty clear in the Gospel of Luke…
Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.
That’s what these people were proclaiming and I was awed frankly to be a part of it. I had maybe only baptized a couple of people up to that point and on this Sunday morning I was in the water taking turns with 2 other pastors as we baptized over 100.
It was an incredible and humbling experience to be a part of and I was wide-eyed for every minute of it.
This one powerful weekend happened very shortly after I was initially hired… my feeling then was ‘holy crap, I’m the new guy… are you sure I should be in the water?!’
Well a couple of weeks ago on my very last Sunday at The Crossing Church, we held baptisms again and I had the honor of getting in the water and walking people through this amazing act of proclaiming new life.
The only difference was that this time instead of 100 people there were 3.
A teenage boy from my (adult!) volunteer team, the mom of one of my former youth ministry students and one more surprise guest-another teenager… a girl… actually the above listed boy’s twin sister, who we will call Gemma.
I didn’t know Gemma wanted to get baptized, in fact I had never even met Gemma before, and I also didn’t know that she was in a wheelchair (she has cerebral palsy); she was very nervous about getting wet and very nervous about the whole public ‘show’… understandably so.
So the first two I invited to meet me down in the baptismal while onlookers watched and supported from above and then I got out of the water to check on Gemma.
She was a few steps away under the shade of a nearby tree and it appeared that she was giving the ‘go ahead nod’ after the encouragement of her parents and no doubt the amazing courage within her own self.
I ran back to the baptismal and grabbed a handful of water. I stood in front of her, while the droplets of water slowing dissipated from my cupped palms, and spoke the same words of life that I proclaim over all people who make the decision…
I told her how the immersion into water represented Christ’s stay in the tomb.
I told her how emerging from the water represented Christ’s defeat of sin and death.
I told her she was dead to sin, alive in Christ.
And I said that it was in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that I baptize her.
I dropped the remaining cup full of water on Gemma’s head and she smiled while her family and I all cheered, gave hugs and exchanged many unspoken words about what had just occurred.
It was just a few short moments later that I realized that there was more going on here than meets the eye.
First, I took the experience to be a prophetic symbol for my conclusion of one chapter and my beginning of another.
In fact there is tremendous precedence for this. If you take one particular Biblical reference of baptism, the baptism of Jesus for example, you may see what I mean.
You see at least from what we know of, baptism marked the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Based off what was recorded in the Gospels, Jesus was about 30 years-old when his his “public” ministry began and before anything, he was baptized.
Before he multiplied one loaf of bread, before he cured one sick little girl, before he gathered the disciples and went viral, he was first baptized.
It’s recorded in many gospels but this one from Matthew is a little more descriptive:
13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”
15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.
16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
In this way you could interpret (as I have many times as I dictate the many impacts of baptism to those who I have had the privilege of “dunking”) that baptism has a way of launching people into the new and next.
Well this was and is true for me. It was true when I baptized that Sunday nearly 3 years ago at the new church, new position, new experience and new season.
And it’s true for me now as I end one chapter of an incredible season of ministry and begin another new one.
But that’s not all of what was revealed to me in that moment…
You see it was the juxtaposition of that young girl’s courage (to allow me to splash water all over her in front of her family and these strangers) sitting perfectly alongside the prophetic call of God in my life.
His call. Her courage.
His call. The courage required for me to leap well and dive deep for what’s next.
I’m thankful for a God who still speaks. If you have questions or comments about anything here or particularly about how to hear God, post below!