I’m Stupid, and God is Great
Last night was 5th Sunday–a gathering of churches in Aurora as the church in Aurora for baptisms, communion, and worship that happens, duh, whenever there’s a 5th Sunday. The previous Sunday was Celebrate Jesus Together, an annual worship and prayer event in a downtown Aurora park. It’s almost like a huge 5th Sunday that’s a much bigger production and a lot more people attend. So after all the work that was put into that, I assumed that 5th Sunday was going to stink. I know, horrible attitude, but I’m just being honest. I figured no one would show up (what kind of church am I doing again? Since when did I use that to judge the worth of something?), it would be disorganized, and pretty much a waste.
Isaiah and I arrived at the church where it was being held to be greeted by about six people standing outside, locked out. “Wow, not only is it not going to be good, but we’re not even going to have it,” I thought. As we stood there and 6:00 (the official starting time) came and went a few more people joined our sidewalk gathering. There was one woman there who was going to be baptized.
“Well, do you want to just wait and do this next time?” her pastor asked. “Or, if you want, we could just head down to the river and do it now.”
I fully expected her to punt until she could be baptized somewhere other than the Fox River, and she said, “I’d really like to do it now if you’re up for it.” And that was the moment when my attitude changed. It was like I snapped out of my idiotic funk of being caught up in programming and numbers and realized that this was about worshipping the true God and seeing new life happen through baptism that evening. (By the time we left for the river about 40 people had showed up too).
So we drove down Illinois avenue to the river. We stood there on the banks praying to our great God, singing praise to him, and feeling the unity of the Holy Spirit. The woman who was getting baptized stepped down by the river and shared how she wanted to leave her old life of short-lived thrills behind and follow Jesus. She had decided to be baptized that morning.
Before she and her pastor stepped into the water, a wise older man there said something like this: “You know that baptism is a funeral service. You are buried under that water and when you’re dead there you leave your old life and your old self under the water. You come up into a new life in Jesus Christ. And you won’t go back to your old life because you can’t, it’s dead.” I get chills again replaying those words in my mind now. He hit it right on.
So this woman and her pastor waded out into the chilly water of the Fox River, sun setting behind them with the reflection glancing off the water, and there she buried her old life and was raised to live in, with, and through Jesus Christ.
After that we celebrated communion with the cheap wheat bread and Snapple a guy bought at the closest gas station. We ended with another song and a dedication to our Lord. It was powerful, and I hadn’t wanted to go.
One of the greatest parts of the night was that Isaiah was there with me (Michelle had to stay home with Ayla to continue the potty training adventure–another story) and I had the immense privledge of explaining what was happening to my son. And for the first time I can remember he really cared and wanted to know. I think it was because he love the outdoors and he loves the river, and we weren’t in a big sanctuary that is boring to him. So I did my best to explain to a three year old what baptism is, and what communion is. And when we got home he told Michelle about it. He told her what we did, and about how he would be baptized when he was older. I praise God for memories like that one. I will never forget it.
So I am stupid, and God is great. I doubt I’ve learned my lesson for good. That the greatness of an evening is not measured by the execution of a great plan, but by an openness of God’s people to the work of his Spirit. And I hope the next time I forget he reminds me in a way just as amazing as this one.