Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Baptism and Grace

Worship this past Sunday included the baptism of three young people ranging in age from nine to eighteen.  Although they shared having been at a church-sponsored retreat this summer, their paths to faith were as individual as they are.  I never cease to marvel at how God' grace reaches out to us.

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.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Computer Grace

When it comes to computers, I am not illiterate; neither am I an expert.  Like many of you, I've had more than my share of frustration with computers. For the past week, as if three funerals from our church and community were not enough extra, I have also been having some major computer issues.

Two experts and seven days later, nearing midnight, I'm back in business.  A virus got past my security program.  By late afternoon I had a virus-free computer back in my possession.  Of course, there were programs to reinstall.  I manged it--all of them.  Even managed to keep my email contacts from Windows Live; however, I lost all the saved emails . . . some of which were waiting for responses from me.  Oh, well, at least I have the contacts.

The amazing thing is that I've managed all of this and maintained my cool.  Okay, there were some moments of frustration, but there was no losing of cool.  Maybe having 14 church-related deaths since July 1 has put a few things in perspective.  What's a few lost files and emails compared to the loss of a mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, wife, husband, grandparent, grandchild, or best friend?  Nothing at all!

So I'm smiling tonight and working from a computer that is almost back to where it was and realizing how fortunate I am to be alive.

Oh, and its raining . . . water is dropping from the sky . . . we have a flood warning out.  It's the first sustained rain we've had in over a month.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

750 Miles for a Peach

How for would you go to get the best peach available? 

As best as I can remember, I was in college before I heard about Georgia peaches.  The word was that if you wanted to taste a really good peach, you needed fresh peaches from Georgia.  I was determined to have a Georgia peach.  When some years later, I finally got the opportunity, I was disappointed.  It wasn't a bad peach; it just wasn't a great peach.  Why, I thought, I had tasted better peaches back home.

I just got back from a 750-mile round trip to secure the best peaches to be found anywhere!  I did not go to Georgia.  I drove to the southeast corner of Missouri (The Bootheel) to an orchard near Campbell, Missouri--about 17 miles from where I grew up.  Was it worth 13 hours on the road and a hundred dollars in gasoline?  Let me answer in this way.  I will be doing it again next summer.

I thought back to those years long ago when I heard about the peaches down in Georgia.  I couldn't wait to get some; yet, all along, the best peaches were right there in my backyard--well, almost.  How often have we yearned for what was just beyond the horizon or just over the hill when the best was all around us?

Biting into that first peach of the season, having my tastebuds come awake, and feeling the juice run from the corners of my mouth into my beard . . . Ah, it is a call to thanksgiving.  What would the world be like had God not created peaches?

By the way, there was once a peach in Tennessee.  I married her and that, too, is a call to thanksgiving.