Tag Archive: Baptism


baby_frog_2_by_jay_k_pics-d3nwm43A typical second grade boy cannot be expected to understand when a parent says “Just a few minutes.” He was in the garage dressed in his nice jeans with his button up shirt tucked in, and hair all combed ready to go to the church dinner on a Wednesday night. Mom sticks her head through the door and says, “We will be leaving in just a few minutes.” The door shuts as Mom goes back in to finish getting ready. The 2nd grader thinks that “Just a few minutes” gives him permission because it is enough time for a small adventure despite knowing that she most likely intended for him to stay there to be ready. Behind the houses across the street there is a canal which has been the source of many previous adventures. Despite knowing better he found himself leaving the garage. The canal slopes down on each side dropping around 10 feet below street level and always have at the minimum of about a foot of water flowing slowly even on the driest days.  On this particular day walking along the edge of the canal near a drain pipe emptying a trickle of water into the canal provides an amazing discovery. Hundred upon hundreds of baby frogs scatter with every step. This of course requires further investigation. So closer to the edge of the water the 2nd grader discovers hundreds of these creatures are transitioning from tadpole to frog. Many are still in the water with both legs and a tail. He has just a few minutes so off go the shoes and socks and he rolls up his jeans and the slimy clay-like earth squish between his toes as he enters into the water to catch these amazing creatures. The adventure takes him deeper when above the rim of the canal he hears a familiar voice drift down to the muddy water which awakens him from his fascination. He looks down to realize how deep he is. He realizes how there is sediment, clay, and mud all over him and his clothes. Awareness of his situation and all of his choices fill him with some remorse as he quickly grabs his socks and shoes and rises over the top of the canal dripping with him the stale smell of the neighborhood’s drainage system. He begins to move in the direction of his Mom’s voice.

Mom was filled with great emotions as her beloved son who had disappeared from the garage had now returned. The boy begins to tear up and apologize, but Mom interrupts saying, “shhh, baby…I love you. Take my hand. Let’s go get you cleaned up.” Mom graciously took her sons dirty hand and gently ushers him into the garage and shuts the outer door. She instructs her child to strip down out of those once nice church clothes. As the shirt comes off little frogs begin appearing jumping out of every pocket, nook, cranny, and crevice and scattering all over the garage for safety from the dirty little boy. Some of the little frogs didn’t survive. His wet and muddy jeans end up bunched around his ankles. No matter how hard he struggles, twists, and pulls the jeans won’t come off. He is filled with a mix of guilt and gratitude as Mom reaches down and helps him out of those smelly wet jeans as the last few frogs are released to safety as she empties the pockets. Mom brings her son inside straight to the shower. The water starts off cold and shocking, but warms up as the soap and water begin doing their wonderful transforming work. As if Mom has some magical powers, when he get’s out of the shower he sees that a new set of clean church clothes mysteriously appeared on the counter-top next to the sink. Moments later that 2nd grade boy is clean and dressed in these fresh garments. He is hungry and looking forward to eating dinner with his Mom. His Mom is smiling as he gets in the car. They get to the Wednesday night church dinner right on time instead of arriving very early as planned because it all took just a few minutes.

  • I wonder where you see yourself in this story?
  • I wonder where you see God in this story?

My wife has been leading a group that would meet once a month to reflect on the scriptures and themes of upcoming sermons and then in prayer, with brush and paint, or pencil and paper in hand the members of the group would seek to creatively express their reflections. This past week was the first sermon in the Traveling with Jesus series focused on the Jordan River and below is one of the creative reflections that came out of the Divine Inspiration group by Lynn Carey.

LYnn Carey

It Began In The Jordan

My name is John. I am also called the Baptizer. As a youth, I heard a call to bring others to God. My message is a simple one. “Repent,” I urge the crowds. “The end is drawing near.” As was written by the prophets and I know in my heart to be true, this is the message I speak. The Messiah who will deliver us is coming; this is the reason for my sense of urgency.

Today, as I have for many days, I was standing in the Jordan, waiting to baptize those who seek it. Every day they come: simple folk and the rich ones, believers and skeptics, even the Pharisees. Today, however, was not like any other. Something wonderful came to pass.

I was waiting for each pilgrim to come forth when one man approached me who stood out from any other I have baptized before… or since. There was something special, unique about him. As he drew near, his eyes never left mine. He stood before me. Before I could lay my hands upon him I was overcome with a sense of awe and wonder. He wanted me to baptize him. But I could not bring myself to do it.

“You are seeking baptism from me?” I blurted out, “I am not even worthy to touch your sandals or the hem of your garment!” But he remained there, his eyes on mine, waiting for baptism.

Suddenly, above us, the clouds parted. An intense, almost blinding, white light shown upon him. A dove descended to him and a voice boomed “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” The Messiah had indeed come!

Since that amazing day, I hear news of great miracles that he does in his Father’s name.

What a blessing it is for such a humble and unworthy man like me, to be used as one of God’s instruments. Whatever comes to me, I know that the work I was called to do, I have done.

I can’t help but feel, however, that it began in the waters of the Jordan.

 

Given to Lynn Carey

To Him be the glory.

 

Roots and Wires

clarafications IMG_1250A few days before the turn to the new year Jill and my boys took me around downtown Raleigh to the Artspace. We met an artist named Clara Johnson (check out her website: http://www.clarafications.com/ !!! Amazing stuff! ). She has these fascinating 3D sculptures using wires and beads that just drew me into her studio. There was one in particular that hung on the wall of her studio with its burst of sun and trees that captured my attention. Clara and I began to talk about this work of art and little did I know how God was preparing me for this recent pilgrimage journey of exploring issues of race and the church in our state of North Carolina. As we talked I noticed the sun giving life to the two magnificent trees with their branches and roots breaking the boundary of the frame. Images of the tree of life and parables of the vine and branches were flowing through my mind as I gazed upon this creation, until she points out the tombstones lining the bottom of the art. What is death doing in this? In avoidance my eyes went back to the red and yellow sun. Then Clara helps my eyes see that connecting these two parental trees is the silhouette of the continent of Africa. I didn’t see it at first, but right before me was a grand history of family and a story of pride with branches reaching out. I was given permission to witness the amazing roots of family and love that hold strong and break the boundary of the frame itself, but some of those stones of death seemed to have their own roots of bitterness and pain acknowledging a reality of injustice that continues to hold up these trees and stones.

Now I find myself wondering and asking questions after this journey around North Carolina. I heard stories of masters, slaves, stories both personal and institutional of dividing walls of racism that still separate communities today, and I heard of the all-to-seldom hero that would speak and act as if dripping wet with the waters of baptism resisting injustice and oppression in their various forms.  It all makes me wonder what kind of roots are we laying down?  What kind of roots are holding us up? Do we have roots of love and life, roots of death and destruction, or a strange tangled mix of both holding us up? Are our branches building up hedges that keep out or reaching out breaking boundaries?

Lord Jesus, there are some branches that have tangled together because the roots of racism and prejudice have nourished our trees to form hedges that only separate. There are some roots of pain and injustice that need to be transformed by your redeeming touch. Master Gardner Jesus, have your way with our roots and branches and heal us. Restore this garden to loving, interconnected, abundant life.   Amen.

Clarafications IMG_1251

Thank you Clara for being willing to bear witness in your art to a story that is greater than the simplified story I only want to see.  You tell a good story.

 

 

Race and the Gospel

There is something in the air. It seems like everywhere I turn issues of race are stirring all around. I find myself being challenged and wondering what does this mean for me as a follower of Christ, and a pastor in His church. How am I to participate in God reconciling all things? In these recent years I have been experiencing the freedom and healing that comes through repentance in regards to this area of my life. God’s sanctifying grace that refines continues to shine light into places of darkness I previously wasn’t aware of before.

Race-Gospel-IssueI feel like I am being primed to listen to God in a deeper way in regards to myself, the church, and culture in general about racial healing. In January, apart of my RIOM (Residency in Ordained Ministry) journey, I will be able to join with my fellow provisional members of the NC Annual Conference to explore North Carolina through the lens of race asking questions about where the church was present throughout our history and where has it been faithful. Then to add to the mix  I was recently listening to the Seven Minute Seminary podcast where Lisa Yebuah challenges us as a church to talk about race in a different way from the world. It is episode 192: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/seven-minute-seminary/id979597268?mt=2&i=355046558  These are just a couple of the conversations and experiences that are swarming around me, not counting the TED talk or the readings I am doing. I pray that I am willing to listen well to what God has to say, and by the power of the Holy Spirit I would have the courage to respond.

 

Today I am reminded that there is one baptism. As Christians we are people who swim in one and the same waters of baptism. When we come out of the waters of baptism may our ears be clean and our eyes opened to love each other and live into the unity that Christ prayed for.

Lord Jesus, help us turn from the ways we talk, think, and act that divide and separate us. Actually help us to take the power you have given us through your Holy Spirit to knock down the dividing walls of hostility, not through force of violence, but through loving resistance to the forces that tear us down. Through these loving acts of rebellion against the evil forces of this world may we all find ourselves in love calling the LORD God Almighty: OUR one Father.  Continue your redemptive work in me even if it means light shining in shadowy places I am still unaware of.  Amen