Goose Creek, in Hartsville, Tennessee, is a beautiful place to have a baptism. Today, since my own son is being baptized, I make a special effort to remember as much about the event as I can.
Before the baptisms begin, I look up and see vultures circling. Vultures eat dead things. But here, they will search in vain for the dead carcass of the old life. It has been discarded. Jesus has already done his regenerating work in the lives of these children. And while remnants of the old nature remain, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead has freed these children from slavery to the old life. The vultures will seek in vain for their carrion fare. Yet, the birds will linger, hoping that one of these little ones might stumble.
Linger not oh vile birds of prey; The Lord of the Harvest does good work. These little ones shall remain in His protection; you shall have none of them.
The vultures continue to circle over the left bank where corn is planted. The field reminds me that the harvest is not finished. We will pray to The Lord of the Harvest to continue to send forth laborers, even ourselves. As God directs, we will use the instruments of harvest he has given us, especially prayer and the preaching and declaring of the word. But, we will discipline ourselves to look where the harvest is truly ripe, having been made so by The Lord of the Harvest, himself, not by works of man. For, only God can change the heart. Only God can replace a heart of stone.
Stones are everywhere; they cover the ground, making it difficult to walk. I look closely at them, wondering if I might find my own old stony heart, which The Holy Spirit took away. Now, as all things work together for good, these discarded hearts of stone pave the way, as we walk towards the waters of baptism.
Today, a gentle breeze blows across the creek. Like the Regenerating Spirit of God, no one controls the breeze. But, oh how we long for the Wind of God to blow across the hearts of the remaining unregenerate children, imparting life to their dead spirits, just as in the beginning, God gave life to Adam and made him a living soul. Breathe on us oh Breath of God; give life to all these children.
We watch as the children enter the water. The water is cold; the children enter it timidly. On this most joyous occasion, why do I think of death? Yet the Holy Scriptures declare that we are buried with Jesus through baptism. But thanks be to God, it doesnít stop there. The scriptures declare that we are raised with Him through our faith in the power of God who raised Jesus from the dead! As the ministers bring the children up out of the water, they rise to the applause of those on the shore. Yet, the applause is not just for the children, but an offering of praise and thanksgiving to The One who said "suffer the little children to come unto Me, for of such is the Kingdom of God."
My son is the second to be baptized. I am surprised when Pastor Carroll tells my son to go ahead and walk out into the water, beside Pastor Donny, and give his testimony there, saying that he has the voice of a man and that we will be able to hear him. In my mind I think, "No, he has a soft voice."
Yet, I canít help but wonder if Pastor Carrollís words are unintentionally prophetic, if the day will come when he will boldly declare his testimony, with the voice of a grown man, a man remade and renewed by the design of God.
My sonís testimony is brief, but as predicted, is well heard. He says, "I was baptized when I was four. I thought I was saved but I wasnít, really. Then, God woke me up and showed my how rotten I was on the inside. I asked him to save me, and I believe he did."
There is a slight inflection of voice when he finishes, as if to say, Iíve said what I needed to say and Iíve said enough.
When the service is over, the kids enter the water again, this time to swim and splash with reckless joy and abandonment. Since I am a grownup, I wait on the bank, towel in hand.
But someday, Iíll be a child again, and Iíll join the rest of them, splashing and reveling in the joy of His presence, with youth renewed like the eagleís, neither growing weary nor fainting, for The Master bids us come.
Indeed, there is another baptism that waits for all of us, the physical death of our bodies. Surely, it is timidly that we enter those waters. And yet, we shall rise. And, while I can only guess, perhaps we shall rise to the applause of holy angels and long lost loved ones. Perhaps the sky will be blue, the breeze, gentle and soothing. But this I do know, we shall bow before The One who entered that baptism that none of us could bear, The One who for our sake, was baptized with The Wrath of God, Jesus our Lord.
Then, will we not laugh at death? Such a silly prideful thing it is, doing itís best to scare us. Yet, it holds us only for a moment, until it is finally compelled to release us into the arms of our blessed savior.
Dear children, today you rise in newness of life, with new hearts, where Jesus is reverenced as Lord, and where obedience is freely chosen. But, the skies will not always be blue, or the breeze always gentle. At such times, remember the hope He has given you, and His keeping power, whereby He enables you to continue in your faith, for He promises to be with you through the end of your life.
But when the end comes, will we not note that this life was merely the infancy of immortality? For we shall emerge from the baptism of death, delighting in the gentle breeze of his presence, covered by the sky blue canopy of his love, drinking of the rivers of life that run freely, and feasting upon the leaves that grow for the healing of the nations.
Maybe then, weíll laugh just a little, that we ever thought ourselves to be poor, while we lose ourselves in the riches and delights of his presence forever.