“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned,” Matthew 16:16
Let’s face it, my church is a little weird. First, it’s on an island–North Carolina’s Topsail Island to be specific. That’s strange for a lifelong Midwesterner like me who relocated only three years ago. In Indiana, flat cornfields were more of the norm. There is not a major body of water within 100 miles of Indianapolis, where I had been living.
Then there’s the pastor and co-pastor. One catches a tossed football on the beach headed to baptism. The other is wearing an American-flag inspired swimsuit as he officiates. Not exactly typical for ministers getting ready to induct new Christians into the fold. Their actions may be unconventional, but they have built a growing, Bible-teaching, welcoming church under their tenure.
One of the biggest reason I say our church is weird is that we do our baptisms in the Atlantic Ocean. THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. Let that sink in for a while. It’s the world’s second-largest ocean, covering 20 percent of the earth’s surface, according to Wikipedia.com. That’s a big baptismal. By contrast, I was baptized in a baptismal slightly larger than a bathtub, something like 4 feet by eight feet. Both accomplish the same purpose, but the Atlantic, and its symbolism, is so much cooler.
When my oldest grandson told my wife that he wanted to be baptized, I was thrilled. AJ’s about the right age, 10, to make this public declaration for Christ. I’m not sure what prompted this decision, but he and his seven-year-old younger brother usually accompany us to church since we moved here. I’m sure they’ve heard child-sized preaching in Sunday School and a recently concluded Vacation Bible School. Still, some people go their entire lives hearing the gospel and never respond.
On two other occasions, they’d seen other church members be baptized in the ocean, including a young friend the prior Sunday.
So we found ourselves walking with sand in our toes on a nearly cloudless day this past Labor Day week. The temperature was in the ’90s, and the beach was packed as a small crowd gathered. A few of those frolicking on the beach looked on.
Our lead pastor, caught a football from some boys playing on the beach as he neared the ocean’s edge. The co-lead pastor walked into the water too.
The pastors’ called for AJ first. The thin, African-American boy responded by taking his place between the two men. “Do you believe that Christ died and rose again on the third day and that he is alive right now,” the co-pastor asked. “Yes,” came his short reply. “With forgiveness of your sins, do you accept Jesus Christ as your savior and Lord.” “Yes,” again came his response. Then AJ, another adult who was being baptized, waded into the ocean and prepared to have their sins forgiven.
They waded into until the water was knee deep for the pastors. The white-capped waves rushed past every few minutes. Then, at the waves peak, AJ was immersed under the water, then raised back up, a new man in Christ.
How many baptisms have their been since Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist? Millions and millions or is it billions and billions. Each one has God’s grace, and each one-changes lives forever. But this one was special to me because it was my grandson and because it took place in the Atlantic Ocean.
Dear Heavenly Father, bless those who have yet to embrace you through baptism to accept your invitation away from the condemnation, to everlasting life. May all accept this gift, for which we cannot pay, and clutch the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. Amen.