August 12, 2020

The Baptisms In My Life; Wednesday Devotional by Margaret Harris

Passage: Matthew 3:11

Bible Text: Matthew 3:11 | CUMC WEDNESDAY DEVOTIONAL

AUGUST 12, 2020

THE BAPTISMS IN MY LIFE

(MARGARET HARRIS)

 

Last Wednesday, Danny Burton began our series of Wednesday devotionals based upon the August focus on baptisms. He spoke about the historical symbolism in the Old Testament of water that “washes away our sins.”  He went on to share two personal baptism stories. I will be picking up on the baptismal theme today from both the perspective of the United Methodist Church, and my personal reflections.

I would like to begin by briefly looking at the following:  (Results of a Google Search)

WHAT DO UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE ABOUT BAPTISM?

Baptism is symbolic of God’s intention for his children to be heirs of God’s kingdom.  In the Methodist Church, and most other denominations, it always involves water.
Baptism is a sacred symbol that affirms Christian beliefs.
The Methodist Church acknowledges “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins,” according to the Nicene Creed. (This creed was written at the Council of Nicaea {present day Turkey} in 325 AD and amended to its present form that we sometimes use in our services in 381 AD.)
Baptism is a symbol of rebirth and repentance.  
Candidates for baptism (or the parents in the case of infant baptism) may chose sprinkling, pouring (which is what we are seeing in our August services), or immersion.
The final point which I find to be perhaps the most powerful message of baptism is that it represents the beginning of an ongoing process of responding to God’s grace and a lifelong journey of learning and growing in one’s faith!  

If I were to ask you which Biblical character comes to mind upon hearing the word baptism, it would of course be John the Baptist.  In Matthew 3: 11, John the Baptist declares to those who were coming to him for baptism in the Jordan River, “I baptize with water for repentance.  But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit…” (NIV)  It is that wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit that is freely offered to us each day.  In Matthew 3:13-17, we read of Jesus coming from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist.  As you hear verses 16-17, seek to create a visual image of the most meaningful baptism in the Bible.  “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.  At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said.  ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” (NIV)  Can you imagine the looks on the faces of John the Baptist and those standing around the Jordan River when this miracle in the New Testament took place?  

This pivotal event in the story of the life and times of Jesus is captured in the hymn that was sung at our worship service this past Sunday.  Moreover, the lyrics speak to the pivotal nature of baptism in each of our lives today.

“When Jesus Came to Jordan”

When Jesus came to Jordan to be baptized by John, he did not come for pardon but as the sinless one.  He came to share repentance with all who mourn their sins, to speak the vital sentence with which good news begins.
He came to share temptation, our utmost woe and loss, for us and our salvation to die upon the cross.  So when the dove descended on him, the Son of Man, the hidden years had ended, the age of grace began.
Come, Holy Spirit, aid us to keep the vows we make; this very day invade us, and every bondage break.  Come, give our lives direction, the gift we covet most:  to share the resurrection that leads to Pentecost. (Words by  Fred Pratt Green – 1973 – Music adaptation by Carlton R. Young- 1988 – United Methodist Hymnal pg. 252)

 

I will now turn to reflections on the baptisms in my life.  My cherished memories begin with my baptism at the age of 12, followed by my children’s infant baptisms, as well as my grandchildren’s baptisms.  Pastor Richard suggested that if I had any recollections on baptisms that went, and I quote, “sideways” to reflect on those as well.

When I was old enough to grasp what they were saying, my parents told me that following my birth, they made the decision to wait on my baptism until I had completed confirmation classes.   I honestly cannot tell you that I vividly recall the classes or my baptism, for it was just a FEW years ago.  However, there is a baptismal moment that I can almost feel each time I remember that day.  As I knelt at the altar, the minister, Rev. Robert Bunch, came to the time in the sacrament when I was sprinkled.  As the water trickled from the top of my head and down my back, I experienced a sense of peace and affirmation that I truly was a child of God.

In 1974 our son Jason was born.  He was a lively baby, to say the least.  He was nine months old when we brought him forward for baptism on a beautiful spring Sunday morning.  He had begun to squirm and cry in Steve’s arms before we could even make it all the way down the aisle.  At that point, things went rapidly downhill.  During the entire liturgy, he whined, cried, and made several attempts at a getaway!  When our pastor, Rev. Miller, took him in his arms for the sprinkling, Jason clung to his neck for dear life and wailed.  Steve and I were mortified, but the congregation found it to be sweet and charming.  

When Jason was 3 ½ years old, his sister Joanna was born.  Realizing that 9 months is a dicey age at which to have a child baptized, we presented Joanna for baptism when she was 3 months old.  She did beautifully and beamed up at Rev. Northington when he took her in his arms.  However, Jason, who was standing beside Steve and me, saw an opportunity for mischief, yet again!  As we stood at the altar, he encircled my legs, grabbed at my skirt, and made a number of typically three-year-old comments.  Suffice it to say, that as soon as Joanna’s baptismal service ended, her big brother was quickly ushered out of the sanctuary and down to the church nursery.

My children may have provided entertainment during their baptisms; however, as I remember that part of our journey as parents, I smile and remind myself that we vowed that day, with some distracting moments, to endeavor to set our children upon a journey of learning and growing in their faith.  The tears and aggravation aside, each baptism was a sacred and endearing experience.

As of you know, Steve and I have five grandchildren.   Do not fear, I shall not give you a detailed breakdown of their baptisms, but I will share some sweet as well as humorous memories.

Our granddaughter Hannah Lois and her brother Camden Allen were baptized as infants. Hannah wore an absolutely breathtaking white “christening gown” made by her paternal grandmother.  The pictures of her in that gown still bring tears to my eyes.  I also sang at her baptism, and that memory  holds a special place in my grandmother heart.  Cam was growing so rapidly that when his baptismal day arrived, he had to be wedged into his little white romper suit.  He behaved well, and as an answer to our prayers, did not rip the seams in that little suit as he was sprinkled.  As soon as we left the church that day, he was quickly changed to get him out of his misery.   

Our grandchildren Landon Marshall, Reedling Zelle, and Baysden Sloan were all baptized at the same time several months following little sister Bay’s birth.  Neither tears nor uncomfortable clothing provided a distraction that day.  At the conclusion of the sacrament, the minister told their parents to let each child put his or her hands into the large baptismal font and splash around!  The picture we have of the three of them splashing in the water is one that we treasure.

It is not just the memories of the baptisms in my family’s life that hold special meaning. Through the years, I have been blessed to observe and take part in the baptismal sacrament many times over within our Church Family.  When thinking back over those baptisms, it is as if I am seeing a colorful mosaic that is part of the pattern of life within the church that I have attended since birth.  The common thread that runs through this mosaic is that with each baptism there is the beginning of a journey of living and growing in faith based upon the acceptance of God’s grace and a willingness to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

I will conclude today’s devotional with a simple prayer that is often addressed to the congregation by the minister at the conclusion of the sacrament of baptism in the United Methodist Church.

Remember your baptism and be thankful.  Amen (The United Methodist Hymnal – pg. 37)

 

CUMC WEDNESDAY DEVOTIONAL

AUGUST 12, 2020

THE BAPTISMS IN MY LIFE

(MARGARET HARRIS)

 

Last Wednesday, Danny Burton began our series of Wednesday devotionals based upon the August focus on baptisms. He spoke about the historical symbolism in the Old Testament of water that “washes away our sins.”  He went on to share two personal baptism stories. I will be picking up on the baptismal theme today from both the perspective of the United Methodist Church, and my personal reflections.

I would like to begin by briefly looking at the following:  (Results of a Google Search)

WHAT DO UNITED METHODISTS BELIEVE ABOUT BAPTISM?

  • Baptism is symbolic of God’s intention for his children to be heirs of God’s kingdom.  In the Methodist Church, and most other denominations, it always involves water.
  • Baptism is a sacred symbol that affirms Christian beliefs.
  • The Methodist Church acknowledges “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins,” according to the Nicene Creed. (This creed was written at the Council of Nicaea {present day Turkey} in 325 AD and amended to its present form that we sometimes use in our services in 381 AD.)
  • Baptism is a symbol of rebirth and repentance.  
  • Candidates for baptism (or the parents in the case of infant baptism) may chose sprinkling, pouring (which is what we are seeing in our August services), or immersion.
  • The final point which I find to be perhaps the most powerful message of baptism is that it represents the beginning of an ongoing process of responding to God’s grace and a lifelong journey of learning and growing in one’s faith!  

If I were to ask you which Biblical character comes to mind upon hearing the word baptism, it would of course be John the Baptist.  In Matthew 3: 11, John the Baptist declares to those who were coming to him for baptism in the Jordan River, “I baptize with water for repentance.  But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit…” (NIV)  It is that wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit that is freely offered to us each day.  In Matthew 3:13-17, we read of Jesus coming from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist.  As you hear verses 16-17, seek to create a visual image of the most meaningful baptism in the Bible.  “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.  At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said.  ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” (NIV)  Can you imagine the looks on the faces of John the Baptist and those standing around the Jordan River when this miracle in the New Testament took place?  

This pivotal event in the story of the life and times of Jesus is captured in the hymn that was sung at our worship service this past Sunday.  Moreover, the lyrics speak to the pivotal nature of baptism in each of our lives today.

“When Jesus Came to Jordan”

  1. When Jesus came to Jordan to be baptized by John, he did not come for pardon but as the sinless one.  He came to share repentance with all who mourn their sins, to speak the vital sentence with which good news begins.
  2. He came to share temptation, our utmost woe and loss, for us and our salvation to die upon the cross.  So when the dove descended on him, the Son of Man, the hidden years had ended, the age of grace began.
  3. Come, Holy Spirit, aid us to keep the vows we make; this very day invade us, and every bondage break.  Come, give our lives direction, the gift we covet most:  to share the resurrection that leads to Pentecost. (Words by  Fred Pratt Green – 1973 – Music adaptation by Carlton R. Young- 1988 – United Methodist Hymnal pg. 252)

 

I will now turn to reflections on the baptisms in my life.  My cherished memories begin with my baptism at the age of 12, followed by my children’s infant baptisms, as well as my grandchildren’s baptisms.  Pastor Richard suggested that if I had any recollections on baptisms that went, and I quote, “sideways” to reflect on those as well.

When I was old enough to grasp what they were saying, my parents told me that following my birth, they made the decision to wait on my baptism until I had completed confirmation classes.   I honestly cannot tell you that I vividly recall the classes or my baptism, for it was just a FEW years ago.  However, there is a baptismal moment that I can almost feel each time I remember that day.  As I knelt at the altar, the minister, Rev. Robert Bunch, came to the time in the sacrament when I was sprinkled.  As the water trickled from the top of my head and down my back, I experienced a sense of peace and affirmation that I truly was a child of God.

In 1974 our son Jason was born.  He was a lively baby, to say the least.  He was nine months old when we brought him forward for baptism on a beautiful spring Sunday morning.  He had begun to squirm and cry in Steve’s arms before we could even make it all the way down the aisle.  At that point, things went rapidly downhill.  During the entire liturgy, he whined, cried, and made several attempts at a getaway!  When our pastor, Rev. Miller, took him in his arms for the sprinkling, Jason clung to his neck for dear life and wailed.  Steve and I were mortified, but the congregation found it to be sweet and charming.  

When Jason was 3 ½ years old, his sister Joanna was born.  Realizing that 9 months is a dicey age at which to have a child baptized, we presented Joanna for baptism when she was 3 months old.  She did beautifully and beamed up at Rev. Northington when he took her in his arms.  However, Jason, who was standing beside Steve and me, saw an opportunity for mischief, yet again!  As we stood at the altar, he encircled my legs, grabbed at my skirt, and made a number of typically three-year-old comments.  Suffice it to say, that as soon as Joanna’s baptismal service ended, her big brother was quickly ushered out of the sanctuary and down to the church nursery.

My children may have provided entertainment during their baptisms; however, as I remember that part of our journey as parents, I smile and remind myself that we vowed that day, with some distracting moments, to endeavor to set our children upon a journey of learning and growing in their faith.  The tears and aggravation aside, each baptism was a sacred and endearing experience.

As of you know, Steve and I have five grandchildren.   Do not fear, I shall not give you a detailed breakdown of their baptisms, but I will share some sweet as well as humorous memories.

Our granddaughter Hannah Lois and her brother Camden Allen were baptized as infants. Hannah wore an absolutely breathtaking white “christening gown” made by her paternal grandmother.  The pictures of her in that gown still bring tears to my eyes.  I also sang at her baptism, and that memory  holds a special place in my grandmother heart.  Cam was growing so rapidly that when his baptismal day arrived, he had to be wedged into his little white romper suit.  He behaved well, and as an answer to our prayers, did not rip the seams in that little suit as he was sprinkled.  As soon as we left the church that day, he was quickly changed to get him out of his misery.   

Our grandchildren Landon Marshall, Reedling Zelle, and Baysden Sloan were all baptized at the same time several months following little sister Bay’s birth.  Neither tears nor uncomfortable clothing provided a distraction that day.  At the conclusion of the sacrament, the minister told their parents to let each child put his or her hands into the large baptismal font and splash around!  The picture we have of the three of them splashing in the water is one that we treasure.

It is not just the memories of the baptisms in my family’s life that hold special meaning. Through the years, I have been blessed to observe and take part in the baptismal sacrament many times over within our Church Family.  When thinking back over those baptisms, it is as if I am seeing a colorful mosaic that is part of the pattern of life within the church that I have attended since birth.  The common thread that runs through this mosaic is that with each baptism there is the beginning of a journey of living and growing in faith based upon the acceptance of God’s grace and a willingness to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

I will conclude today’s devotional with a simple prayer that is often addressed to the congregation by the minister at the conclusion of the sacrament of baptism in the United Methodist Church.

Remember your baptism and be thankful.  Amen (The United Methodist Hymnal – pg. 37)

 

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