Two weeks ago, my church had an exciting time as we had a baptismal service for 10 people. One church member saw three members, representing three generations of his family taking part in this testimony of faith. First there was his father who was 75 years old, then his wife and finally his 16 year old niece. His father and his niece were also both the eldest and the youngest taking part. The group was truly a mixed bunch as some had grown up in Christian homes while others were from other backgrounds and only recently accepted Christ as Lord and Saviour.
So that you can get a visual picture, the church actually has a small pool sunken into the front of the church on an elevated portion. You would be able to see them, one by one, enter the pool and stand waist deep in the water. The church elder will be in the water next to them. He will ask them if they believe in Jesus Crist as Saviour and accept him as Lord. The candidate will then respond and on his affirmation, the elder will lower them into the water until they are horizontal under the water and then they will be raised again and sent off to waiting towels and warm drinks.
I was given the privilege to give a short message to those assembled; friends and relatives. The objective of the message was to share with them the meaning of baptism and what the baptisismal candidates were testifying to by doing it.
I chose to approach it by quoting from 3 sources of literature. For the first literary reference, I turned to the Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy written by Douglas Adams. This is a series of books (seven, I believe, in total) which was increasingly wrongly refered to as a trilogy. It was of the science fiction/humor/satire genre. A key idea of the story was the quest for the “answer to Life, the Universe and Everything”. A supercomputer was built and it spent billions of years to discover that the answer was 42. The computer then went on to advise the super-intelligent pan-dimensional beings (they look like white mice but that’s a different story) that had built it that all would be clear when they discover the “question of Life, the Universe and Everything.
Anyway, playing with suspense and using great marketing skills, Douglas Adams gets us to buy all the books in the seires before he reveals the discovery of the Ultimate Question which is “What is 6 multiplied by 9?” At this juncture, those gifted mathematicians amongst you would have realised that “6 x 9 = 54” and not “42”.
At which point, one of the story’s protagonist dryly remarks, “I knew there was something fundamentally wrong with the world.” (Did you get it? I assure you that most of my Malaysian audience hadn’t a clue what I was saying! I really ought to stop using Hitch-Hiker’s Guide with Malaysian audiences.)
The second piece of Literature I used was Shakesphere’s MacBeth. Specifically I refer to the remorse and guilt shown by MacBeth and Lady MacBeth after they had killed King Duncan. ( A bit more recognition amongst the audience with this quote).
“Will all the water in the ocean wash this blood from my hands? No, instead my hands will stain the seas scarlet, turning the green waters red.” MacBeth
Lady MacBeth while washing her hands of imagined blood; “ Out damn spot!” “Will these hands never be clean?” “ Here’s the smell of blood still,; All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”
Finally, I read from the Holy Bible, quoting from the Good News according to John, Chapter 3 and verses 1 -18.
Jesus Teaches Nicodemus
1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.[a]”
4″How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
5Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
9″How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10″You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[d] 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.[e]
16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
The Three Points of the Message:-
- There is something fundamentally wrong with this world ……..it is corrupted by sin (disobedience to God).
- We are powerless to remove the guilt of sin or to remove ourselves from its control.
- Only Jesus can set us free from sin.
Jesus did this by taking our place and our sin and paying the penalty for us by dying on a cross at Calvary, being buried but after 3 days rising from the grave having defeated bith death and sin. Likewise, the candidates as they are immersed in water and then rise out of it, testify that a miracle has happened in their lives and they too are dead to their old ways and are reborn in God.
Okay, written out, it seems like a long message but actually I took less than 8 minutes. I did not want to detract from the main event of the night which was the personal testimonies of each of those 10 as they shared about the difference knowing Jesus had made in their vaired lives.
It was a great night of celebrating lives made anew. We could do with more of that.