Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A cold baptism in Hot Coffee

When I was a pastor in the community of Hot Coffee, Mississippi, I did one of the coldest baptisms of my life.

A young couple had accepted Christ. It was a cold February day when they came to be baptized, and the baptistry heater was broken. Back then, I didn't wear waders in the baptistry. I had two pair of brown Hagar slacks, and after I got wet baptizing, I dried off and put on the other pair. So I knew I was going to get cold, too. I asked them if they wanted to wait until the heater was fixed. They said, "Naw, we've been swimmin' in a cold creek before."

So at the end of the service, we got ready. I descended into the water, and wow! it was cold, but I acted like there was no problem. After reading scripture, I turned to the man, who slowly stepped into the water from my right side. He, too, acted like the water was fine.

Since this was my first baptism in this church, I was not familiar with the faucet sticking out on my left side. As I brought the man up out of the icy water, I scraped his head on the faucet! Yet he joyfully arose from the baptistry, revealing no pain.

Next, his wife stepped into the water. When her feet touched the near-freezing water, she froze, too. I tugged at her hand to come. Reluctantly, and shivering from the cold, she came into the water. I baptized her, this time being careful not to rip open her forehead on the faucet. When she came up out of the water, she slung her long hair back and forth, opened her mouth as wide as possible, and shouted at the top of her lungs, "GOD! IT'S COLD!"

People were rolling in the aisles laughiung. I could see the tonsils of half of the congregation. That day I was glad we had baptism at the end of the service, because church was over!

I suppose somebody might say I shouldn't tell that story, because somebody is going to be afraid to be baptized after reading this (especially if I'm the one doing the baptizing!). Although baptisms are rarely as painful as that one, if you think about it, this story reminds us of what baptism is all about. Baptism is a symbol of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and going under the water symbolizes our repentance from sin and our acceptance of Jesus' complete payment for sin. Jesus even asked his disciples, "Can you... be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" (Mark 10:38, NIV) He was using baptism as a symbol of death, asking them if they were ready to follow him to death, if need be. So although I don't want to make it as painful as my two friends experienced that day, the fact remains that whatever baptism we have can never compare with what Jesus experienced for us on the cross.

Copyright 2010 by Bob Rogers.