I really love baptisms. Every Easter our local church, along with a few other ministries, hold a community baptism. BEST DAY OF THE YEAR. Some people live for Christmas; some people count the days to Thanksgiving. But Easter is the reason our faith exists; it celebrates the day Jesus broke death and rose from the tomb. Combine the profound depth of Easter, with the power of people making the commitment of Baptism, and it doesn’t get better. I look forward to Easter all year.
Although I’m involved in a lot of ministry, the high point of my year is helping the local pastor baptize people. Standing in the water and leaning people back as the water washes over them, marking them as clean before GOD, ushering in that new beginning is monumental. My feeble scribblings do not give justice to this act that has been going on since John the Baptist stood in the River Jordan.
One year, the baptisms didn’t go the way I thought they would. The crowd had gathered at our local lagoon, a wide spot in the local river that even looked biblical that day. The reeds were tall and softly waving in the wind, the sun was bouncing off the grass around the edges of the water. The brown hills framed all this in the background, it felt and looked like John the Baptist himself might wander out to join in the proceedings. The perfect day.
As we got started, our pastor helped one of the other missionaries in the area baptize about six people from another ministry. I stood by the edge assisting people into the soft mud as they walked into the water, afterword I was handing them towels as they came out. I was expectantly waiting for my cue to join our pastor to baptize the people from our church and the children from our orphanage who were taking this step of faith. As the transition was supposed to happen something went wrong, the other missionary stayed out there, and the people from our church started to wander out to be baptized. The transition wasn’t happening for me to go out to help in the water. I soon came to the realization that it was not going to happen.
First I was frustrated, then I was angry. For a few minutes I thought about just wandering out into the water, but I knew it would be awkward. So I just stood in the mud smiling stupidly as I held the hand of each person walking into the lagoon for their life-altering event. I continued to hand them their towels as I was battling my frustration on the inside. “But wait, I’m supposed to be out there!” This was not going as I had envisioned. My Easter was ruined. (I’m a little dense.)
Over the next thirty minutes or so nothing changed on the outside, I was just standing in the mud helping people in and out of the water, but something changed for me on the inside. God knew I needed to spend some time in the mud, and He had planned this day long before I was born. As I watched each person receive this joy into their lives, I started to receive it also. As God was moving through that day, I had to repent of my own enormous pride. Why did I need to be out there in the water? Why did I need to be the person dunking? I told myself it was about the act, but I started to realize it was a little (or a lot) about me, and me being the one doing it. (Once again, I’m a little dense.) I realized my place that day was not the baptizer, I was called to be the one serving the ones being baptized by standing in the mud. I was just there to back up the pastor and help the people being baptized. It changed me.
Many people want to go into ministry. They want to teach, they want to lead worship, they want to be the one up front leading people into a deeper walk with God. There is nothing wrong with that if that is where you’re called. But some people are called to stand in the mud.
Not a lot of people have the dream of someday becoming the sound man. People usually aren’t fighting to handle day-care sign-ins, putting together the bulletin is not an “in demand” position. If you look at what Jesus taught, the “lower” positions in the church should have a long line of people fighting for those jobs. We are called to serve. We are called to do the jobs no one wants, we are called to foot washing. Jesus spoke directly against the leaders of the day exalting in their important positions. It’s easy to think, “Well, those Pharisees were jerks, didn’t they see what they were doing?” How many of us are modern day Pharisees working in ministry for the wrong motivations?
Wherever we stand in the Family of God, it’s important to examine our hearts, our attitudes, our entitlement. We need to daily ask ourselves if we’re being shaped into the example Jesus gave of humble service to others. We need to find and maintain that elusive servant’s heart. Sometimes we need to be baptized in mud.