PATHWAY TO HIS PRESENCE
On the first night of Winter Camp Meeting at Epworth By The Sea, Bishop King asked us if we still had our Baptismal Certificate. He said that as he has grown older, his baptism has also grown in meaning.
Immediately, my mind went back to scenes from my childhood as I sat on Mama’s bedroom floor and asked the question she heard me ask every year on my birthday.
“Is this the year, Mama? Is this the year I get to open the preacher’s letter to me?”
“Not yet,” she would answer. “But it won’t be long.”
Sometimes she would open the large cedar chest in her room and let me take the envelope out and look at it. I was so curious to see what was inside. All I knew was that our minister gave my mama this letter for me to open when I reached a certain age, and that he gave it to her the day I was baptized as an infant.
With every year, the envelope carried more mystery. I could feel something inside. What was it? I examined the envelope carefully, waiting for the big day when I could open it. Finally, on my 13th year,
Mama handed the envelope to me and said, “Now.”
I was not disappointed. Inside was a letter written by the pastor who baptized me. He talked about the significance of my baptism, and that one day I would be ready to accept Christ as my personal Savior and join the church. The rose, placed on the altar that day to commemorate my baptism, had long lost its scent and its color, but to me, it looked just about perfect.
It’s hard for me to describe the deep appreciation I have for that letter and the rose. They both say to me, “You matter to God and to the Body of Christ. On the day of your baptism, your parents and your church promised to teach you about Jesus, so that one day you could know Him for yourself.”
That happened. My parents took this vow seriously. I enjoyed years and years of Vacation Bible School, Sunday school, Youth Fellowship programs, morning and evening services and Wednesday choir and then supper. The day came when I knew that I wanted Jesus to be my Savior and also my Lord.
What about you? Have you remembered your baptism lately, that beautiful time when your parents acknowledged that you did not belong to them, but instead, to God? Have you touched your forehead or the top of your head in holy recognition of that wonderful moment when God whispered, “You’re mine,” and your parents whispered back, “He’s Yours.”
Like Bishop King, as I grow older, my baptism ripens in meaning, like a green banana that receives its best color after a certain amount of time has passed. I am humbled and awed over what took place on that Sunday morning so long ago, and I am so thankful to God that I had parents who cared not only about my physical needs but about my spiritual ones, as well.
Since humans are limited in our understanding of spiritual matters, there is no way I can adequately describe what my baptism means to me. I certainly was unaware of that touch of water on my head when it happened, but I understand now the significance of that moment, and I will shout from the rooftops that something did indeed happen. A holy mystery occurred as my mama held me at the altar of our church. It was not a magical moment; not a moment that made the front page of our local newspaper. No photographer was paid to snap our picture. To most people in church that day, it might have been just another baptism.
But, to me, it was a holy miracle, a divine interacting of God with my spirit, an interactive conversation between God and my parents, a commitment from my congregation to seriously enter into the training of my heart with Christian teaching.
It was the day God said, “I adopt you,” and my parents’ signature on my certificate said, “Let it be so.”
How thankful I am, how rich I am, how blessed I am for my baptism.
The Rev. B.J. Funk is associate pastor of Central UMC in Fitzgerald. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.