Still Wet Hands
March 15, 2008 § 3 Comments
Last Sunday we had an infant baptism – one of my favorite things to do as a pastor. I know, I know – not everyone agrees that we should baptize infants, but that is what we do – and I love it. There is something sweet about a little baby being held before a congregation of people – Young, Old, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic – you name it – here you are – holding this little precious one with all eyes on him (this week it was a ‘him’). Everyone is disarmed by that baby’s presence.
As the one holding the child I feel a bit like Rafiki, the Ape, holding up, Simba, the son of Mufasa, the reigning Lion King (in the beautiful Disney movie that bears that name) before the Animal Kingdom as it celebrates its future leader. As a Community we celebrate that child – almost as though it belongs to each of us – and in a sense he does.
This was driven home to me in what followed as one of our pastors began to pray – because before, during and after he prayed I realized that my hand was still wet from having scooped water out of a bowl to splash on the child’s head. I wouldn’t have noticed if people weren’t walking past me – but as they did I felt the water chill on my hands – kind of the way you catch a whiff of an over-perfumed woman or a man who never learned that bottles of aftershave are designed to be emptied over the course of time rather than all in one morning.
Those still-wet-hands reminded me of how connected in the Community of Christ we really are. My hands felt cooler because there were other people in the room passing by in close proximity, and they were wet because there was a baby there as well – his head still moist due to his baptism before that Community. There was no escaping one another. We had been tied together in this bond of intimate sacrament sharing.
And I love that – that we are not in this ‘thing’ alone – that regardless of our propensities to hide within the solitude of self, in Christ we belong to a narrative larger than ourselves. The Scriptures use words and phrases like, ‘body,’ ‘priesthood,’ ‘people’ – the list goes on, really. In a baptism we are reminded that we are all over one another in some form or another – because in Christ – we are.
The truth is that this isn’t my ‘way’ – In spite of the reality of my calling, intimate crowds make me uneasy and my instinct is to hide. But the Gospel won’t have anything to do with a self-centered, disconnected, distant religious expression. We are the beneficiaries of a Redeemer who entered our broken community so that we could be citizens in His beautiful one. This means that this flawed, imperfect and always struggling community called the Church is meant to do more than give us friends – it is the one physical expression of the presence of Christ on a planet filled with people who desperately need to catch His aroma of Grace. We are not alone – and this means we can’t live unto ourselves.