Paul Dennis baptized two of his grandchildren, Luke and Mackenzie, yesterday afternoon here at the Legacy church building. It was a moving ceremony. Carefully planned. Wonderfully executed. Packed with love and emotion. A true portrait of what it means to pass on the Christian faith.
Paul spoke of the pride he has in his grandkids. An uncle led us in a couple of songs of faith and thanksgiving. Paul then talked with the kids in front of us about the things they had been studying, especially over the past few months about Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection. He talked about the promises we have in God through Christ. And he reminded them, and us, of what it means to be buried with Jesus in the waters of baptism. And then Paul confessed his belief in Jesus as the Christ, the son of God. Two of the uncles voiced the same confession. Then all of the baptized believers in the congregation made the same confession in unison. Paul talked to Luke and Mackenzie about how they are not alone in their belief and in their faith. He mentioned the cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12. And then Luke and Mackenzie confessed Jesus as the Son of God and were baptized into his death, burial, and resurrection.
I was honored to read from 2 Corinthians 5 and to exhort everyone in attendance to look back often on our own baptisms and to be reminded of what it means to become, not just new creatures, but part of a new creation. All of creation is brand new to those who come up out of the waters of baptism. All the old things have become new. The way we look at each other, the way we treat each other, the way we view creation is all new. The mercy I extend my neighbor is in response to the mercy I’m shown by God. The forgiveness I show my brother is in recognition of the forgiveness I receive from my Father. The love I give others is from the overflow I get from God. Everything’s brand new.
And then Jim McDoniel took the kids through their first communion. He spoke lovingly to them about how communion means all of us together, as if we’re all sitting at a big round dining room table, sharing in the blessings we have from God in Christ. And then we all participated in the Lord’s Supper with them, eating the bread and drinking the wine, and hugging Luke and Mackenzie, congratulating them, pledging our love and support to them.
Can we incorporate a little more of this into every single baptismal ceremony in our churches? Or how about a lot more? If we weren’t so confined by the blasted time constraints, I think our baptisms would look and feel significantly more like yesterday’s services with Paul’s family. And I think we would better communicate as the Church, to each other and to our communities, how important it is to be baptized into Christ Jesus.
Baptism is not an individual thing. It’s a family thing. It’s a Church thing. It’s a community of faith thing. Baptism involves parents and friends and preachers and cousins and elders and angels and Bible school teachers and brothers and sisters and those who have gone before and those who are coming after. It touches the past, the present, and the future. It obligates the young and the old. It’s a cause for rejoicing and remembering.
It should never be entered into lightly. And it should never be treated as a mere ritual performed in order to gain forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, a place at the communion table, Church membership, and whatever else you want to add to the list.
May we always treat baptism as the unique and God-ordained sacrament that it is. And may we always give it the special focus and attention in our churches it deserves.
Saturday’s Inaugural Legacy Chili Cookoff was a fantastic success. Mild to super-hot. Beans and no-beans. Weight watchers and suet (is that how you spell suet?). Chili with chocolate. Chili with potatoes. We even had SPAM chili.
Congratulations to all the winners: Greg, Judy, Jackie, and Jennifer. Congratulations to Suzanne and Bonny and Kipi and everyone who organized the evening.