When I was training with the Navy as a Chaplain we were often divided into four groups. Baby Baptizers, non–baby baptizers, Catholics and Jews. This was especially true when it came to worship. The divide was always one that I struggled with. I remember having conversations about this distinction. Actually they were more like futile arguments to change the other’s thinking. I tended to stay away from these discussions. After all, these were all people highly committed to their belief systems and there was little to no chance of change. Also, I have always erred on the side of seeking out places of commonality rather than difference.
Regardless of my desire to avoid these sorts of theological/Sacramental arguments, inevitably they would happen. Catholics would try to expand my understanding and number of Sacraments, while Baptists would try to reign in my understanding. Regardless, I have always been on the abundant side of the Sacraments. I remember going to a Catholic Church with my neighbor and feeling like an outsider because I couldn’t take the Eucharist. I also remember the disappointment of hearing an old friend from my home church telling me how their new Baptist church said they needed to be baptized since they weren’t really baptized as a child.
This past Sunday we were blessed to have Abigail Murphy in worship to be Baptized. The Murphy’s are part of our congregational life and we were extremely pleased to care for them with food following Abigail’s birth. When we gathered in the sanctuary with her extended family and reflected on the promises of God that were being brought to bear on her life, it was clear that this was a meaningful moment for those gathered. Yet, it is easy for these moments to become a time of ritual and cuteness. Following the Scriptural words and flowing of the water, I loved showing the reality of our lives in Christ by carrying her around the sanctuary so everyone could see how God views each of us as a beloved child.
One thing that most of you may have missed because your eyes were closed in prayer was during the time I was praying over her while she was in her mother’s arms. As I laid my hands on her and prayed these words something special happened:
O Lord, uphold Abigail by your Holy Spirit.
Give her the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord,
the spirit of joy in your presence,
both now and forever. AMEN
In this moment I was given the ultimate affirmation of the practice of Infant Baptism and the power of God’s Holy Spirit to work even when we have little to know understanding. As I prayed these powerful words, Abigail looked up at me with a countenance that said she had experienced the very aspects of the Spirit found in the prayer I was offering. Her face spoke of a divine thankfulness and joy. I came pretty close to a tear at the Spirit’s presence I felt in that moment.
I have been blessed to be part of numerous Baptisms throughout my ministry. I don’t know if I have ever truly expressed the Spiritual presence I have experienced during every single instance. Having such a sweet spiritual experience with Abigail reminded me that we must not take such moments for granted.
The thing we also need to remember is that these moments come not only at times like Baptisms, but we experience the Spirit every day. The trouble we have is that we often overlook the powerful presence. My hope is that each of us would be able to be more attentive to the interplay of the Spirit of God in our lives.
- How have you experienced the presence of God in your life recently?
- What do you need to do to make yourself more attentive to the Spirit?