For my fellow UMC readers, it's on page 50 of the UMC Hymnal. For those not of this particular persuasion, it is a liturgy about remembering and revisiting our baptism. You see, many were Christened as infants and do not recall their baptism. Others, as adults, do recall their baptism. But taking the time to reflect and recall those things pertinent to being baptized as a follower of Jesus Christ is oh, so, important.
Today's scripture reading was from Acts 9 where Luke tells of Saul's conversion after seeing a bright light and hearing and speaking to Jesus. But if we catapult to Acts 22: 14-16 we see Paul's personal reflection upon that day when he was baptized. Here is what Paul had to say about that:
14"Then he said: 'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'
Therein lies the message for all of us: "...what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name." You see, Paul was still Saul until he was baptized. He was a guy who had this wildly awesome experience, but had not yet committed himself to serving that lord he encountered. It was at baptism that Saul became Paul. When he turned his life over to the risen savior and made his life available for His service. Saul became Paul at baptism...NOT at the Damascus road event that led him to this point. This is important.
Many of us receive a revelation that Christ is, indeed, God. Many of us are overwhelmed by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. But...Big BUT...we're nothing in the kingdom until we "get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name." That is what I'm talking about...getting up and going about God's business.
This service of reaffirmation of our baptismal covenant was so potent...so moving...that it could not happen without someone reporting on it. I am that reporter! Today over half the church came to the alter, refreshed themselves with the baptismal water by dipping their hands in it and letting it evaporate...then going to the alter on bended knees and reaffirming their relationship with God the father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This preacher was humbled, awed, and overwhelmed with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. God touches people when they come with a contrite heart to His throne. That...I repeat...THAT...happened today at our worship service. Over half of our congregation was on bended knee at the alter.
I heard exclamations of "I love you" and "God loves you" and "Jesus loves you" and "Save me Lord from myself". I could not prevent tears from falling from my eyes. It was that moving. The love and passion that comes from following Jesus can rise up in otherwise quiet followers to the point where it must express itself. Today, in my small church, it expressed itself!
To all Christians who have been baptized into the faith I say: Revisit that event; relive that event; reclaim that victory over self and "get up and go" with the assurance that sins are washed away. Proclaim Christ as the redeemer of all the world.
Again, I say that Paul was Saul who had this wild experience. It wasn't until Ananias told him to get up and get baptized then go tell the world that Saul became Paul. What's your name? Is it due for a change?