Saturday, July 25, 2009
One of my favorite parts of being a pastor was baptisms. I enjoyed the study that led up to them. The clarifying of Christian truths in what ever language the student understood. I loved listening to the pure and honest confessions of faith. I craved standing waist deep in the water with my arm around a nervous person praying together for peace as we waited our turn. I loved saying those time honored words "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit...." And the physical bending and dipping and lifting and dripping that were all a part of this beautiful symbol.
Today was very different.
We stood in the very middle of a noisy NICU. Beeping machines, scurrying nurses and crying babies. A curtain pulled around our incubator lent a little privacy. Mom and dad were covered in full scrubs and masks. Little baby was decked out in a christening gown and hood, with a tube in his nose. He looked like a tiny, angry pope.
Mom and dad were Christians without a church family or pastor. After the trauma of the last few days, this ritual of baptism held the promise of comfort and hope to them. They asked that a chaplain come and administer the sacrament of baptism.
I've never baptized a baby. We talked about what they wanted. They didn't have any concrete ideas on how this should look. "Just read a good Bible verse and say a few things and baptism him." It sounded like a typical baby dedication ending with a slightly wet baby. I could do it.
But it wasn't typical at all. The setting lent a somber air. The parent's sincerity and love for that little man made it precious. And the beautiful words from Psalms 139 took on a whole new meaning under tenuous circumstances.
Thousands of years ago a strong, grown up Jesus waded into the Jordan River to meet John the Baptist. God spoke unmistakable words of love and affirmation to His Son. The Spirit hovered overhead.
The same Spirit of God inhabits this NICU. Pouring God's love on helpless little babies. Bringing comfort and strength to anxious parents. Giving courage to chaplains who are out of their comfort zones.
I felt Him there. In the traditions. In the air. In the words of the Psalmist.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalms 139