Last Easter Sunday my young friend, Deeandra, was baptized. A month away from being 16 years of age, this was a mountaintop moment in her life. A more diligent, more valiant child you could not wish to meet. She is inflamed by the spirit.
She is filled with joy. She is filled with a divine companionship. She had sought out this sacrament herself. She had been called by God and in his name. Deeandra received the gift of baptism and rejoiced.
I love baptism. I love how it feels like being hugged by Christ himself, and being raised up in that amazing joy. Each baptism is a resounding yes to life and to Christ.
I remember being godfather to Baby Tara, years ago. Her mother had borne her out of wedlock after I had helped counsel her not to go ahead with an abortion. It was the best and most happy decision Tara’s mother had ever made.
Being a Lutheran, our denomination performs both adult and infant baptisms, wherever people seek to receive Christ’s gift for themselves or for their children. It binds us as one family of God. It makes us one with him.
There was a story I had once heard of a small community church in Eastern Oregon. A young couple lost their baby suddenly — and when they went to the leaders of their church asking them of their baby’s destiny, the elders told them that because their child had died before being baptized, they would never see their baby again. There was no place for their baby in heaven with them. Such terrible nonsense!
The consequence of this grotesque statement was that the church itself imploded, and split asunder with this lie. When a church turns away from love and mercy and makes really stupid and heartbreaking statements that scandalize congregations, then God himself intervenes to bring about healing and renewal. In this case the old church shriveled — its congregation evaporated — and a new church was formed that was centered around Christ’s love and healing spirit that did not deny God’s profound love for the little ones and the innocent. It still lives.
There is a profound grace in the sacraments of the church, but Jesus trumps all — and Jesus is not constrained. He is the great liberator of all of us. He is the son of Love.
My baptism was in 1993. I was baptized as an adult at St. Clare’s Catholic Church in Portland. It was a full immersion. A great water tank had been provided and steps led to the top for those of us who were the candidates for that season. I had taken the RCIA program given to those who wished to enter the church. I wore the radiant white baptismal garment. My wife and son were in the congregation.
As I rose to the top of the tank, my leg caught in my garment and I dove head first into the cold water in a massive splash and wave. The congregation laughed and cheered and I received my baptism to the hooting of the priest and the people.
I did not know then that the gift I once received would begin to stretch me and deepen the ministry that has taken me to my role as a pastor. My baptism lives in me as a wave that continues to take me deeper into the love of Jesus and my trust in God’s call.
Please pray for me. I pray for you in all your churches and that the Lord will continue to work miracles and wonders in all your lives.
Colin Brown is the former pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Boardman.