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.


§ 3 Responses to Still Wet Hands

  • olivia says:

    I love this entry Mike. Drew’s baby, Logan, was baptized on Sunday and I really related to some of your feelings. I babysit for him every Wednesday night and it is the highlight of my week. When he was being baptized, I felt like he was my grandchild, like somehow I was vested in his future. This past week, the small group of teenage girls that meet at my house once a week really seemed to be bonding in a way I had not yet seen or even expected this soon. And I realized that I was experiencing the same feeling I have when my own kids are enjoying each other. It was utter contentment, like everything is right with the world for that moment. It was a Gospel moment. I suddenly was desparate for these girls to understand the promises God had for them. I was so struck by the fact that they, as a result of some of the toxic lies of our culture, have settled for crumbs, despite the fact that Jesus offers them a feast. I grieved over the things they did not understand and I loved talking through some of their misconceptions about God’s love for them. I understood where they were coming from because I still have a tendency to settle for crumbs. But in this amazing way, God is using them to remind me of the feast and compel me to share it with them. Who knew this could be so much fun!

  • Fred says:

    You as baboon? Hmmm. Interesting picture. If you ever feel the urge do hold the baby up a la Rafiti… Maybe only at the less formal service?

    The church is an interesting invention of the Lord’s. What was He thinking? He saves us and puts us in a community of the broken. And He calls us, His beautiful bride. And we are made to need Him and one-another. And if we want to know Him more, He requires us to know the members of His Body more. And to be known.

    “Adam? Where are you?”

  • Robert Kuntz says:

    Without going off on a doctrinal rampage, I’ll say that your post illustrates some of what those who oppose infant baptism utterly miss. God is a personal God, but he is also God to his people as “a people.” He made and makes promises, all fulfilled, to His people and those promises run through families and into the community. (Insert here a quick study of how God made his Old Testament covenants, and with whom.)

    Baptism isn’t merely (mostly?) for the baby. It is a refreshed and refreshing outward sign to the PEOPLE whom God loves. That dampness on your hand – the tears in the eyes of those touched last Sunday when a young pastor sweetly baptized his first born – the sound of the chorus of the congregation pledging its commitment to its newest member – the sight of that unknowing, but deeply loved infant raised high – the feel of the crowd pressing in to see the baby and give good wishes – all of these are physical manifestations of the bond we share and the hope in which we live as God’s people. Because we are human beings, just the way God made us, we need – we crave – those outward and physical manifestations.

    I always love the Lion King Moment. The “awwww” you hear from the congregants is an echo of their own reassurance that THEY belong as well.

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