The baptism of these three led to my thinking about baptism. Over the years of my ministry, there have been some particularly moving baptisms but none more moving than my baptism of Sarah, an eight year-old who I was sure had no knowledge of what was happening.
Sarah, who was born with severe physical and mental handicaps, was mentally no older than a two year-old. She cried most of her waking hours. Her grandparents, who had taken over her care, lived in our community. They called this Baptist preacher to baptize their granddaughter “because doctors tell us she only has a few weeks to live and we don’t want her dying without being baptized.” I thought of all the reasons why I couldn’t and why it wasn’t necessary; and then I agreed to do it. In fact, I was ready to do it right then; but the grandparents asked me to come back two days later.
On the day of Sarah’s baptism, I arrived at the family’s home and found Sarah wearing a lovely new white dress. Her grandfather was sitting in a chair, holding her as she squirmed and cried. Beside them on a side table was a small silver bowl that her grandmother had filled with water. We read the story of Jesus’ baptism and the story of the disciples trying to keep children from bothering Jesus. Then I dipped my fingers in the bowl and made the sign of the cross on Sarah’s forehead. “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, I baptize you Sarah. You are a beloved daughter of God.” As I finished, Sarah’s crying stopped. She lay quietly against her grandfather’s shoulder and smiled.
Sarah died about two months later. At her funeral, her grandparents told me, “Sarah was so much calmer, hardly crying at all, after you baptized her.”
And to think, I had thought she had no knowledge of what was happening!
Baptism is not about water or who baptizes or how they do it. It's about grace--God's grace--flowing to us.