Sunday, March 1, 2009

1st Sunday in Lent, March 1, 2009

Mark 1: 9At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

The call came in one morning. My secretary said someone had asked if they could talk to the pastor about baptism.

I got mentally prepared to tell the person that yes I would love to baptize their child, but no we could not do so unless they were willing to start coming to church. After all, when you baptize a child or an infant, the parents and godparents promise to raise the child within the Christian community, teaching them to attend worship, to become an integral part of the Body of Christ.

So, getting my mental script ready I took the call.

A friendly male voice was on the other line. "You don’t know me" he said, "but you do know people I know. I live near the East Coast, but I am coming to Piedras Negras, Coahuila in about a month and a half and I would like to see if you would be willing to baptize me."

I threw away my mental script.

After a few moments of conversation I discovered that “Frank” came from a faith background that was not Christian. However a year earlier he’d come down with a friend to help on a veterinary mission trip that was working with a wonderful ministry in Piedras Negras called Constructores Para Cristo.

As the conversation unfolded, “Frank” told me that he’d enjoyed the trip very much. He’d gone back to his home city and thought a great deal about his time there. A few weeks later, he’d run across a book of apocalyptic Christian fiction. On a whim he’d decided to read it.

While reading it, he became convinced that Jesus was really the Son of God. That Sunday, he went with his wife, who was a Christian, to her Episcopal Church. After church he spoke with the rector.

Following a brief conversation, “Frank” prayed, asking for his sins to be forgiven, and committing himself to Jesus as Lord. Then the rector said, “Now Frank, you need to be baptized.”

Frank asked the rector if it might be possible to get baptized in the Rio Grande in a few months time, since he was going back to work with Constructores Para Cristo. He said “It was really crossing that river that was the first step for me in this faith journey.”

A few months later, I was standing in the river, when “Frank” and his daughter, who had also become a Christian were baptized.

As I gently immersed them, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I thought to myself about the power of the Holy Spirit, gently leading this man and his daughter to faith; about a wife and mother praying for their conversion for many years, standing smiling and weeping on the banks of the river, with a teary eyed crowd.

And I thought about Jesus, stepping into another river, many years before. As “Frank” and his daughter came up out of the water, I sensed that God was once again saying “This is my beloved son, this is my beloved daughter. I am well pleased with them.”

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