Ephesians 4:5 "...one Lord, one faith, one baptism..."
Late January always reminds me of my baptism. That event occurred on January 31, 1988, nearly a quarter century ago. I was 15 at the time. I had started attending church about two years earlier with my grandmother, who had herself only attended for maybe a year before that. It was a small church in a small town, and Sunday mornings brought out 25 to 35 people. It was part of a three-point Methodist charge and during my few years there went through four ministers – Revs. Beckwith, Swann, Hogue, and Dunaway. I still remember their names. As a teenager, and one who attended willingly, I was an anomaly and the congregation simply didn’t know what to do with me.
Rev. Swann decided at one point to hold confirmation classes for anyone interested. My grandmother and I took part as did a couple of adults from another church on the charge. I still remember sitting in the parsonage one evening per week, looking through an oversimplified booklet with cartoonish characters, meant to explain the most basic tenets of faith. Finally, we set a date for our baptisms and confirmations. Though my grandmother’s own grandfather had been a minister, there was no memory of her having been baptized, so she took part in that ritual as did I.
Baptisms at that church were exceedingly rare, and Rev. Swann was so young these might have been his first ones for all I knew. It was an important day for me. I had been soaking up what I could learn at the church and this moment of initiation meant a great deal. It was a time of anticipation and pride -- of the good kind. We had gone over the short ceremony in detail and I was ready. I had been instructed to kneel for the baptism (which, at most, could have been described as a light sprinkling), but my grandmother could not do so due to a bad hip. But when the moment came, with a bunch of much older folks looking on, my 15-year old self felt a bit embarrassed and I didn’t kneel, but instead stood there as the pastor baptized me. I’m sure no one thought about or even noticed this, but I had a sudden sense of guilt for failing to follow through on this one, simple action of kneeling at the altar.
As the years went by, whenever I considered my baptism, this guilt would always crop up. It was a small thing, yet it seemed big to me. But now I realize that even this taught me a lesson in grace. The very imperfections of our humanity that caused me to hesitate that day are what Jesus came to address. The very act of baptism both cleanses us from sin and welcomes us into a lifetime of improving who we are through an on-going relationship with Christ. Sure, I was weak that day, but it was alright. To say the least, I had a lot left to learn. I still do.