Paragraphs 1-6: Preamble (April 11-29)
Paragraphs 7-12: Creation (April 30-May 8)
Paragraphs 13-17: Fall (May 11-15)
Paragraphs 18-22: Redemption (May 18-22)
Paragraphs 23-27: Jesus Christ
Paragraphs 28-30: Holy Spirit
Ah baptism, that ancient rite given for our union in Christ, which for 500 years been such a source of such division. That statement is nowhere more true than in the tradition I grew up in. I was weaned on today's Scriptures. Baptism was the number one topic of discussion of my Christian youth. Acts 2:38 was the central verse of our denomination. The joke was that a preacher could take any verse in the Bible and turn it into a sermon on baptism. This point was proven again to me recently when I got together with a high school friend (still in the denomination) and, sure enough, eventually we got on the topic of baptism and Acts 2:38. Unfortunately the joke was not always funny, and in the end it was baptism which divided me from the church of my youth.
But I have nothing but good to say about my own baptism. The denomination believed that a person should, must, be baptized without delay, once they came to believe. When I was 10 years old, I was attending a Christian camp in northern Minnesota. The evening devotions included a stirring sermon about Christ's amazing sacrifice for us. Sometime after midnight, my counsellor asked me why I was not asleep; I told him I couldn't stop thinking about the sermon and wanted to give my life to Jesus. Immediately he told me to get dressed for water, and he marched me down to the lake. The leaders gathered, and I was immersed in that cold lake water at 12:30am on the most beautiful night I have ever witnessed. Every star was shining; the moon shone brightly through the cold clear air. There was even lightening on the horizon over the lake, just to complete the masterpiece. I will never forget that night.
Since this is my personal story today, please indulge me with today's song. It has to be the one I grew up singing at every baptism of my childhood, "O Happy Day!" Not the Glen Campbell or the Elvis Presley version, but this joyous rendition by the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, Maryland which brings tears to my eyes.
Most of you cannot remember your baptisms, and I feel sad for you for that. But like me, your love and trust of Jesus our common Saviour continues to this day. Grace was communicated to us on that day, and the Holy Spirit was given. "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!"
"Lord Jesus, thank you for saving us. We are sorry that this act, symbolizing the power of your death and resurrection in our own lives, is a source of division, even wars. But we, like disciples of 2000 years, rely on your grace. We are truly grateful."
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
PS - Online office hours tomorrow will be 11am - noon. Just click on that link to open a video conference session.
PSS - Please don't forget that Thursday night, we have our session with Stephen Doucet Campbell of Shalem Mental Health Networks. We have contracted with him to provide practical help to those struggling with this pandemic isolation. Take a minutes right now and think: who do you know who needs this kind of help? Be sure and share this with them.