Baptism of the Lord & Epiphany

Epiphany is a little known Special Sunday in the Christian Church. On this day, January 6th, we celebrate the “revelation” of Jesus to world, especially as it was marked by the coming of the Wise Men to visit the Christ Child. The Sundays following Epiphany are known – no sarcasm here – as the Season after Epiphany.  Those Sundays go until Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent. One other special Sunday celebrated in the Season after the Epiphany is Baptism of the Lord Sunday. The following is a reflection on Jesus’ Baptism based on the reading from Luke 3.

I can still feel the coolness of the water as it pours over my heads, rolls onto my shoulders, and causes me to halt my breath for just a moment. The words of Rev. Hinzman are muffled but clear, “…of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

I stand before the congregation, wet with the waters poured over me at Baptism. Some are smiling, some are joyous, and some just look bored. I catch a glimpse of God’s Kingdom: people I know, people I will never know, old, young, rich, poor, gay, straight, female, and male. When they join their voices together it is as if the heavens open up and God proclaims: “We give thanks for all that God has already given you and we welcome you in Christian love…that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

I did not know then all the paths I would travel on the road of discipleship, but I began it with words of hope echoing from the very mouth of Christ’s body, the church. The memory of those words are my source of hope from day to day.

I cannot help but be glad to read that God’s own Son had hope filled words fall upon him at his baptism as well: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

God’s voice spoken from heaven or spoken by the Body of Christ are still seeds of hope.

India – A Love Once Removed

Allie in India 1My youngest daughter just returned from a Mission of Peace trip in India. It has been suggested that the participants of this trip not give any public presentations about the journey for at least one month in order to allow them the time to internalize everything that they experienced. I think that is a great idea.

However, I didn’t go to India. I allowed my daughter to answer a call she felt in her life to go and experience the world in a way that is different than what she normally experiences here in Southern West Virginia. Continue reading “India – A Love Once Removed”

Quote Me

“Only dead men (sic) can follow the God of the Cross.”  Erwin McManus

I sat in the sanctuary alone after pulling the plug on the baptismal font.   The sounds of the water going down the drain echoed through the space with a sound that mimicked my spirit at the moment.  Yes, I had just baptized two people new to the faith and I should have been rejoicing about that high moment.

But I couldn’t.

The third grader who had left a few minutes earlier with his mom had been very upset. He and his mom hung back from the crowd in order to talk with me. The instant I asked what was wrong, it hit me… I had promised this third grader that the next time we were baptizing people, he would be included. In my joy of preparing two adults for baptism, I forgot a child. Even as I listened to the mother explain this to me, my spirit sank. I felt awful.

As I sat and listened to the last of the water gurgling out of the font, I knew what had to be done. I had to go to this boy, tell him that what I did was wrong, and ask him to forgive me. It was always hard for me to apologize to adults when my memory caused hurt. More than a little of me would have to die to get through this one. Fortunately, God gave me and that family the grace to get through it.

Truthfully, his baptism was more meaningful to this pastor than any other. He may have been in the water, but this dead man was the one receiving grace…

“Only dead men (sic) can follow the God of the Cross. “

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what to do. To move forward, I was sure the church had to take this risk but I wasn’t certain I wanted to be the one out on the limb offering the direction we should head. If we failed, everyone would know who had led them down this path. My thoughts were only on what might happen if we failed – we might lose members… I might end up leaving a community I loved… The thoughts raced through my mind as the leadership team and I sat in the room. No one seemed willing to speak.

I looked up and saw the cross on the wall and I wish I could say I was filled with courage and confidence in the direction I saw. Instead, I was filled with the sense that only one thing mattered – following the One who ended up on a cross.

With a different confidence and courage, I spoke a vision of where we could go together. The confidence and courage did not come from the certainty of my decision. It came from knowing I was already dead – nothing that could happen would change my future one bit. It had been changed forever when the God of the Cross found me.

“Only dead men (sic) can follow the God of the Cross. “

I don’t know when or where I first ran across this quote but I just can’t seem to forget it.pad2013