Almost eight years ago we joined the church we still attend, and this past Sunday marked the end of a chapter there. Even though my family was out of town and I had kind of a free pass to skip, I didn't want to miss the last Sunday we'd have there with our friends, who had served as beloved youth pastor (and beloved youth pastor's wife) since joining the church on that same Sunday, almost eight years ago.
We'll see them again. A lot. So it wasn't so much that I felt like I couldn't miss being in the same building with them, although there was a twinge of that. It was baptism Sunday. I didn't want to miss the last baptisms he'd be performing up there.
Eight years ago, I chose to be baptized at our church. I'd been sprinkled after confirmation classes in middle school, but it was kind of just how sixth grade Sunday School class finished the year. Fifteen years later I joined a Southern Baptist church and assured them I was a Christian. They asked if I'd been baptized, so I told them my little sprinkling story and got a raised-eyebrow response. "Um, well, we'll talk about that," they said.
I saved them "the talk" and dove in, publicly acknowledging my faith in Christ, with my husband right beside me. Buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in new life.
Over time, the baptisms would come to be my favorite part of the church service. I love them for several reasons...I love how vulnerable the believer is, standing there soaking wet in front of hundreds of people, at the hands of someone who is about to throw them under water. I love how powerful it is, how it is evidence of a conviction strong enough for a person to willingly undergo such a mysterious ritual in such a public place. I love the symbolism of being buried with Christ and rising again to walk in new life. And I love what it does for a community of believers who come together to celebrate that new life. For that brief period of celebration our differences are set aside and we are truly one body. I also love how weird it is. Jesus could've just created some kind of membership card or secret handshake for new believers, but he went Big with this one.
So when the clock said 9:22, I actually said, out loud, something along the lines of "Oh, my gosh." Might not have been that. Church starts at 9:30. I'd planned to go. I don't change plans real easily.
But I made it through the doors at 9:39, slipped into the back row and watched my friend baptize four people whose lives will never be the same, looking forward to the day (coming very soon) when he will baptize my children - one of whom is already planning a big ol' beach party so that everyone can attend.
Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.” Luke 5:25-27
Remarkable things. The passage above takes place after Jesus had forgiven the sins of a paralyzed man brought before him by some friends that loved him enough to carry him into the presence of Jesus. The Pharisees in the room were indignant: "Who can forgive sins but God alone?," they said to themselves. Jesus had done the humanly impossible, and to prove that he had the authority to do it, he told the man to get up and walk. And he did.
That encounter with Christ would be the beginning of that man's story of faith - a remarkable beginning to a story that he would undoubtedly tell every day for the rest of his life.
Though not many of us begin our faith stories with a miraculous physical healing, it doesn't make what Jesus did for us any less remarkable. Romans 5:8 explains it this way: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
I am excited to be sharing parts of my faith story over the next several weeks as part of a series entitled Remarkable Faith. Check out more stories over at Giving Up on Perfect.