Since the beginning of August, I've gotten at least four phone calls from people I don't know asking about baptisms for their babies.
This isn't unheard up, but it is a little unusual. Most often of course, the people who call requesting baptism are members of the church; once in awhile they are people who have been worshiping with us for awhile, but haven't become members yet.
All of the people who have called are strangers to me -- at least so far. I've caught myself thinking, "what's going on? Is there something in the water right now? Why am I getting all of these requests at the same time?" And because the families are strangers to me, I've been leaving messages, and then they've been leaving messages, and we've had a hard time connecting with one another. I've been trying to set appointments, trying to get to know them a little, not just 'set up a baptism'.
I love baptisms. Infants on up, I consider a baptism a great celebration of God's absolutely amazing and impossibly wide love and grace. I still remember baptizing all of the children in one family on one evening in our chapel service. The oldest son was so excited, he blurted out, "This is fun! I like baptizing!" Two years ago a 5th grade boy was baptized just before his first communion. All of his classmates helped pour the water; and all of them declared to him "Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." It it were up to me, we'd have as much baptizing as possible in my church. It's God's power at work, reminding us every time that we belong to God, that our present and our futures are in God's hands. I also believe that when we are baptized we embark on a life-long adventure -- being God's representative where-ever we are. It's a very big deal.
So, I'm more than happy to do those baptisms for the people I called, who I don't know... yet
But (and I don't want them to take this as a criticism) I do want to sit down and have a talk with them. I want to get to know them and to discover what they believe about baptism and what it means to them. I don't want to 'just schedule the baptism' -- because baptism is a beginning of a relationship -- not just with God, but with God's people, too. I don't want to put big requirements on them, and I don't want to twist arms, but I want to get to know them, just a little bit. Because if their child is baptized at my church, then we'll be bound together in the love of Christ.
Yes, indeed, there's something in the water right now. I don't know what it is. But I confess, can't wait to have these conversations, and to see how God is working in all the lives of these strangers.
Most of the time we don't even know it, but there is something in the water, when we are immersed in it, when it is sprinkled over our heads, when it flows over our foreheads. There's something in the water and the water when we take the plunge and come up sputtering and new.
I'd just like to have a conversation about that. And after that, maybe we won't be strangers any more.