Of all the privileges that come with being a minister, I think that my favorite is presiding over baptisms.
Among the many things that we have missed over the past several months, I have probably missed baptisms the most. It is a beautiful and wonderful gift to get to hold a child or stand with an adult, proclaim God’s unending grace, declare them a chosen child of God, and welcome them into the faith community.
While adult baptism does lack a bit of the cuteness factor of infant baptism, I never fail to get a little misty and choke on my words a bit in any baptism.
The Holy Spirit shows up
Last week I performed my first baptism since we began virtual services in March. Like communion and ordinations and basically everything else, baptisms don’t look like what we’re used to right now. It was a Tuesday evening instead of a Sunday morning. A few family members instead of a full congregation. A camera and tripod in the middle of the aisle. Separate fonts for each of the two candidates. And everyone was wearing masks. It was all so foreign.
I probably shouldn’t be surprised when the Holy Spirit shows up, but it continues to catch me off guard. I expect things in our COVID world to be just a bit “less-than” — not quite what things used to be. I prepare myself for the disappointment ahead of time. But then, the Holy Spirit still shows up, and nothing is less-than in the moment.
Chaos of the water
One of my favorite things about baptisms is the holy mess that they are. In baptism liturgies, we often reference the chaos of the water at creation.
And I love when that chaos shows up in the baptism itself. Babies may cry. Older siblings might lose interest — or have way too much interest. Kids might get wiggly. The water in the font might look perfect for splashing. Someone might try to run away to grandma down in the pews. The possibilities of mishaps are endless. It mortifies the parents, I know. But I love it, and it always brings a smile to my face.
Feeling welcome at the font
Regardless of what chaos ensues, the Holy Spirit actively moves in the waters of baptism. The child still belongs to God. Grace still abounds.
I want the children to feel comfortable playing in the baptismal water, running their hands through it, wondering what in the world it is. They should always feel safe and welcome at the font; it is there for them. It’s fine if the children are wiggly. God never intended children to be still anyway. It’s okay if there are tears. Even if we’re crying, God still claims all of us.
No matter what happens, grace abounds. And the holy mess of baptism reminds us all of this.
As we prepared for the baptisms, I feared that they would be lacking. But then siblings got the wiggles. Babies cried. And it suddenly began to feel more like what I’m used to. Then when it came time for me to actually baptize the candidate, the world stopped. Everything faded into the background as I told the most precious baby boy that he was a chosen child of God and I prayed over him. In that moment, the Holy Spirit filled the room, and everything became familiar.
It felt like that moment lasted hours, and it was beautiful.