How Does Baptism Work?
How does Baptism work?
Baptism is a lot more powerful than knowing the right stuff. Baptism is a lot more impactful than doing the right things, or reading the right liturgy. This is my father’s story, and my story.
My father, is a fully ordained Southern Baptist minister. Dad graduated from Southern Seminary is Louisville, Kentucky, back in the late 1960’s. Dad served three churches over seven or eight years and then left the ministry to go into social work in the criminal justice system. Dad started two non-profits, and he and my Mom ran a halfway house in Nashville, Tennessee. I learned to walk in Mom and Dad’s halfway house. When we left Nashville, Dad took a job working for the juvenile court in Huntsville, Alabama. I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama. I mention all of this to say that my father has not served as a pastor since before I was born. I have talked with my Dad a lot about that and the best we can figure is Dad misunderstood God’s calling on Dad’s life. Dad heard God say, “Help My people.” Dad thought that meant go be a minister. Clearly, God’s call to, “Help My people,” was geared more toward social work because that is where Dad bore good fruit.
However, in the Baptist church ordination is dependent upon two elders of the local church agreeing they see a call in a person’s life. In the Baptist church they believe this is an extension of Christ’s teaching, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). And 1”8 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[a] in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). And so today my father is still a fully ordained pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention. That is my father’s story. Here’s where Dad’s story intersects with mine.
When I was baby in the presence of my mother, and the woman would be my god-mother, my Dad baptized me one day over the kitchen sink. (pause) Yup. We are going to let that one sink in a minute. (pause) My Dad baptized me over the kitchen sink. Now, what was a good Southern Baptist Minister doing baptizing a BABY over the kitchen sink? I couldn’t tell you what Dad was thinking? I have talked with Dad about it a lot, and every time Dad’s explanation seems to change. My conclusion is it had very little to do with Dad. Dad was simply the ordained person in the place and time God decided to move.
Baptism is not about the minister. Baptism is not about a specific church building or a specific creek, or water hole. While those bear significance to us as we exist in real time and space those things are not nearly as important to our God who exists outside of time and space. God put a call on my life to serve God’s people and to deliver God’s messages. More specifically I was called at an early age to Word, Order, Sacrament and Service in the United Methodist Church. God’s Holy Spirit has always been with me. God’s Holy Spirit would sometimes scare me as a child because I didn’t understand it. I fought this pulling or pushing of the Holy Spirit for a long time. However, when I finally opened up and said, “Okay God. I will go where You want me to go. I will serve who You want me to serve. I will do what you want me to do, and I will try my best to do all of those things the way You want me to do them,” the flood gates of God’s grace rushed upon me. Yes. I was baptized as an infant, and yes I confirmed that faith as an adult.
This is what I have learned. God calls who God wants, when God wants, to serve where God wants. Just as God is all knowing, all powerful, and ever present, God knows where God needs us to be and to serve. God is not dependent upon specific people, but God does call and set apart specific people. Then those people have a choice. Will we say yes? Will we accept God’s grace? Will we accept saving faith in Jesus Christ – this gift God freely gives? (pause) If we will, our answer is we will. Then, through the power of God’s grace we are offered guidance and power to be changed and to offer the Good news of God’s grace to others. This is not a one time choice. The choice to put God first and serve is an opportunity we are gifted everyday. We may only experience the waters of Baptism once, but the opportunity to choose to put God first, that we might live in righteousness is an everyday choice. Whenever I pause to consider this I wonder, how am I choosing to put God first today?
In the name of Jesus Christ,