“After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
She is 84 years old, the aunt of a member of the congregation I serve. Physically, she is probably healthier than I am, but her memory is fading quickly.
“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
“Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands …” (Isaiah 49:15-16).
She wanted to be baptized. Her niece asked if I would do it.
“Can she make that decision on her own?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“Then sure, why not?” I replied.
“Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized” (Acts 8:36)?
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
A few weeks later, the day had come. I went to the house. After a little chitchat, the woman had her husband of 65 years stand on one side of her and her niece and nephew-in-law on the other. All of us stood in front of a photo of a deceased son.
“But you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).
“I’ll need some water please,” I said. Her husband, not familiar with churchy things, brought water in a coffee cup.
“Clearly the water does not do it, but the word of God, which is with and alongside the water, and faith, which trusts this word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is plain water and not a baptism, but with the word of God it is a baptism …” (Martin Luther’s Small Catechism).
We read from Scripture: “For God so loved the world …” (John 3:16-17), what Luther called the “Gospel in miniature.” Let’s keep it simple.
“Why do you want to be baptized?” I asked. My summary: In this time of personal uncertainty, she wanted some assurance, particularly about her standing before God.
Dipping my hand into the water three times and placing it on her head I said: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Tracing the cross on her forehead I said: “Child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us … [nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37, 39).
“So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added” (Acts 2: 41).
There may not have been 3,000 on that day, but I am convinced that all heaven rejoiced (Luke 15:7, 10).
I hope you will as well.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers