Reflections from the River
Later this month we are going to do something I have never done. We are going to baptize outdoors. I’ve never done that. As a Baptist pastor I’ve baptized many folks but never out doors. I’m 40 and we just haven’t done that much in my lifetime. But many folks remember a different time when this is what we did and they love telling about where they were baptized.
At our church we have several folks who have requested this and I’m excited about it. I’ve spent much time driving here and there looking at spots on the James River, lakes, and such.
Today I went out down to an old mill and climbed into the James. I walked up to my waist and stood in an isolated river spot. I could see the beauty all around me. I thought about the history of that river. I wondered how many have been baptized in those waters. It’s not the Jordan but I’m sure it has plenty of baptism stories.
I’m looking forward to having folks join us this month. We’ll sing songs, pray, and baptize. It’s dirty, messy, and not at all like we usually do it. I love that. Parking is a challenge. You have to be able to walk to get there. Old clothes are a must. It’s old school.
This made me think about several things.
*In the 21st century folks are looking for authentic and less flash. Why a river’s baptism? After all we have a nice baptistry! I still like indoor baptisms. More folks can see it. It’s a part of an overall worship service. It’s easily seen. I love it. It works and it’s great. But this idea of going back to nature may be an impulse to a different time. It may be a hunger to get back to the roots of our heritage and to forget all that 21st century world for a moment. Baptists have been doing it this way for 400 years. Before that other groups have traveled to waters. Read the NT and you’ll find these stories. So why not?
*And perhaps this is a hunger that goes even deeper. Maybe we are wanting to get real. We don’t need flash. We want substance. We don’t need the bells and whistles. We want real and authentic faith. Amen. Many churches have thought for years that if they could just get the right gimmick or do it like the big church next door they might grow. But it isn’t about that. It’s about God. It’s about a need. It’s about the Spirit’s movement.
*Baptism really is beautiful. We as Baptists should know this. This is a starting point. This is a testimony. This is a statement. This is our line in the sand. We believe each person should make this decision for his/herself and stand in those waters and make a commitment to God and the world.
*And it is about commitment. We need to understand that commitment and embrace it. In a world of ease and comfort we need a challenge to do what may be hard and difficult.
Standing in those waters I am reminded of those who came before and those who will yet come.