As we prepare to celebrate another baptism at the Surge, I’m reminiscing.
At age nine I noticed that the preacher’s sermons usually worked around to Acts chapter 2 where Simon Peter says this:
… Everyone in Israel should then know for certain that God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ, even though you put him to death on a cross.”
I was already trusting Jesus and his principles. Acts chapter 2 and especially Matthew chapter 3 convinced me I should obey:
Jesus left Galilee and went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John kept objecting and said, “I ought to be baptized by you. Why have you come to me?”
So on a January day I announced at Sunday lunch that I ought to be baptized. I figured the preacher and I were in for a chill. The next Sunday I found that a caring farmer had put warm water in the baptistery. Here’s a recent photo during communion time of this spot in Callao, Missouri:
Thus for me baptism was an odd but well-established demonstration of obedience to God. I didn’t think of baptism as washing away much. Sin and stupidity continued working on me and everyone I knew. There’s corroboration from Peter in his first letter, chapter 3:
Eight people went into Noah’s boat and were brought safely through the flood. Those flood waters were like baptism that now saves you. But baptism is more than just washing your body. It means turning to God with a clear conscience, because Jesus Christ was raised from death.
The water is not just a bath. It is a barrier. Paul points out that by going through the water, the people following Moses left behind the Egyptian army and escaped slavery:
Friends, I want to remind you that all our ancestors walked under the cloud and went through the sea. This was like being baptized and becoming followers of Moses.” (1 Corinthians 10)
Ten years later, another Missouri winter: I saw the biggest thing baptism re-enacts.
Mizzou Christian Campus House was a mile from an old gravel quarry that had accumulated a pond. Through the autumn I witnessed and assisted baptisms at the quarry. I supposed that when winter came, for baptisms we might borrow a church facility or the University’s swimming pool. That we did. But some new believers wanted the authentic Rock Quarry dip, even in January and February. That we did:
That’s my housemate Greg Stephenson with the axe making a path for campus minister Roy Weece and those being baptized that day. I see Rick, Marv, Brian, and Steve. Imitating Greg is young Jud Weece. While we waited, Roy elicited from the crowd verses and thoughts about following Christ, including those quoted above. He pointed out that baptism offered a profound re-enactment that Paul describes in Romans chapter 6:
Don't you know that all who share in Christ Jesus by being baptized also share in his death? When we were baptized, we died and were buried with Christ. We were baptized, so we would live a new life, as Christ was raised to life by the glory of God the Father. If we shared in Jesus' death by being baptized, we will be raised to life with him.”
Roy asked the bundled baptizees a few easy questions besides the usual, who is Jesus to you? Roy asked: Under the water, will you breathe? Will you see much? Will you hear anything? While you are under, what will you say? You will have much in common with a dead person. Will you want to delay coming up?
Roy observed: We've baptized in churches, in households, in prisons. But here, outside, is a demonstration in the world, to the world, of your commitment to Jesus. It's not just your statement. God shows through baptism that He raised Jesus from the dead. God demonstrates that He raises people to a new life.
The above photo from Missouri Alumni Magazine March 1975 was not of our coldest baptism. There was one with about a foot of ice. “Buried with Christ,” indeed!
A bonus: After that baptism, participants walked on water! There were a lot of warm hugs—with blankets.
Baptism demonstrates many things: Obedience to God. Public commitment to Christ. Washing. Escape from slavery. Burial. Resurrection!
In the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle argued that it is impossible to be virtuous without friends.
The following is a direct quote, where he is imagining a good person contemplating friendship.
The best kind of friendship, he maintains, is friendship with those to whom we wish well and with whom we can spend time in shared valuable activities, all because of their virtue.
This is why church is important. It's why Jesus had disciples... and it's why He called us His friends. There are times of isolated prayer, of solitude and reflection. But no man is an island and it's not good for us to be alone.
So come to a place where we can be together. It matters! And this is the heart of church, to dream about God and the good things he brings, pressing into virtue in community.
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.