Monday, May 20, 2013

The First Baptism

Of course it would be a baby baptism. 

Until yesterday morning I have held precisely two babies.  Last year during communion at First a baby was placed in my lap.  The one before that took place approximately a fourteen years ago at a family reunion.   Each of these times I was handed a baby while I was sitting down, with a lap, and a nearby adult to hand off any disasters (crying).   

So when I realized that my first baptism would be “simply” a matter holding an infant, pouring water over his head, and standing up in front of an entire congregation in a confident and holy manner, I may have lost some sleep.  I’ve been praying the same thing for weeks: “Don’t let me drop the baby, don’t let me drop the baby.” 

Yet when I met the baby, I immediately relaxed.  He was a curious child and smiled a bubble of joy as I peered into his carrier.  I practiced holding him and we both realized this was a bit scary, but he was willing to work with me.  The pastoral calm front was well in place.  

I offered him a finger and he held fast and bobbled it through the whole prelude to the baptism.  The congregation was distracted with giggles and joy – as it should be.  When I put the water on his head “I baptize you in the name of the Father,” I stopped for a moment.  I lost my ability to speak as I held this wonder of a new life and performing one of the most sacred acts of my church.  

He turned back at me and made eye contact with large eyes.  They said: “This is new, this is weird, this is kinda … AWESOME.”  He clapped his hands in the baptismal water bowl, sprinkling it all over me. 

Ah.  Remember my baptism and be thankful.  Thank you God. 

“I baptize you in the name of the Son.  I baptize you in the name of the Holy Spirit.” 

And although I wanted kiss this wonderful, patient, giggling, splattered boy on the head, I said a small prayer instead:

You know kiddo, it’s a big family.  There are more than your fair share of embarrassing uncles and hard family secrets.  Despite that I want you to  know that God loves you - absolutely, thoroughly, ungrudgingly, unconditionally loves you.  I hope you will help join us in the work that God has laid out before us, by loving your neighbor and working to bring about justice, peace, and hope for all.

Yet, even as I say this I realize that your work has already begun.  You’ve given such joy to me and to this congregation through your excitement.  I cannot wait to see what beauty you will bring next. 

God, be with this child, and help him teach us more about this love, curiosity, and bravery he’s already got in spades.