Friday, August 31, 2007

Why Not Gather at the River?

August 30 was the date of our second baptism at Agape Church of Christ. It has been almost a year since the first one, but with the launch of this new church 3 months ago, we are seeing many more studying to put on Jesus. We met at a state park along the Columbia River in Washington. It is interesting that this has been a popular place to hang out since Lewis and Clark made this their last stop along the river.
A popular hangout? In my many years of baptizing people, and watching others baptize, I realized that most of the baptisms were in a baptistery. How private! I don’t just mean a few people gathering to see a baptism, I mean a private “Christians only party.” God forbid anyone who doesn't believe see this sacred event. Besides--they wouldn't appreciate this anyway.

The folks ahead of us picked a spot way down the river. I was wondering why we weren’t by the place where everyone gathered. I started talking to a young couple about their 2 week old baby and the conversation turned to why I was there. It was obvious that God had placed us there because the father was talking about religious things—you know, how he smokes pot, loves Jesus, and can’t find a church. The more we talked the more he wanted to know about God’s love, why we came there to baptize, and why a minister would give a pot smoker the time of day. “Can I come watch her get baptized?” he said?

I made the long trek to the baptism site which was somewhat isolated. In spite of this, God was good and the couple, their baby, and 3 family members came to see the baptism. As usual a conversation happened with our group, the woman about to be baptized, and the visitors. It was beautiful. How often does someone share their faith and their reception of God’s love immediately before they are baptized? Our visitors cheered, joined us for cake and ice cream, and became teary eyed when I told them how God’s love was shown in Jesus. Even better, three other young people, after witnessing the baptism, came over to ask who we were. As they carried their beer cans one told us about her church home as a teenager.

Why not gather at the river? What an opportunity to teach, witness, and show the power of God. I always feel great at a baptism, but this time I saw firsthand that people still seek God. Too often we are busy avoiding people, celebrating the private Christians Only party, or thinking that beer drinkers and pot smokers don’t have a soul. Yet it is in the quiet places on the river where people ask questions about God. It is in the quiet places on the river we find where people rejoice in the simple act of baptism. It is in the quiet places on the river where the kingdom is revealed.

Should we avoid the public display of rebirth? Only if we wish to avoid conversations about Jesus.

Isn’t baptism a private event? Only if you let it be!

1 comment:

Royce Ogle said...

One of the reasons for baptism is to make a "public" declaration of our faith in Christ. When you think about it, God doesn't need to witness our immersion to know our intentions, but the world (Christian and non-Christian)does. How better to identify with Christ, the family of believers, and to seperate ourselves from the world system?

I have always contended that baptisms should be public events. I will always cherish my own baptism in the chilly water of North Fork River in the hills of Western North Carolina on an Easter Sunday right after day break long, long ago.

Thanks for the great post.

Grace to you,
Royce Ogle