Our online book study of Rachel Held Evans Searching for Sunday continues with a reflection from parishioner Ann Walsh.
Each week, one new entry by someone connected to the St. James’s community will post to this blog on Wednesday morning covering one section of the book. Please enter your email address to the right to receive these posts in your email inbox. Use the comment section to answer the discussion questions, and share these posts with your friends!
In the first six sections of Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans shares with us her experience of Baptism as a member of an evangelical church. She was baptized by her father, and “mostly” believed him when he told her that she would not go to hell for waiting until nearly age thirteen to do so. Rachel tells of her joy at seeing her mother waiting for her with open arms and a towel as she emerged from the water.
She shares her belief that however one is baptized, it is done at the hands of those who first welcome you to faith—the people who have or will introduce you to Jesus. The Lord uses ordinary people to tell us that we are beloved children of God.
For the church community gathered, this is the beauty of witnessing baptism during the main Sunday worship service. It never gets old as we renew our own vows together and promise to support the newly baptized Christian in his or her life, “with God’s help.” Could what we receive be called “Amazing Grace,” which indeed will lead us home again and again? Such has been my experience through the years.
In the book’s prologue, the author tells us, “Sometimes we are closer to the truth in our vulnerability than in our safe certainty.”
This seemed to be true for Rachel’s nineteen-year old friend, Andrew, the son of a pastor who said, “I was always denied baptism and communion growing up. Dad wanted me to wait until I was good enough, holy enough.” Andrew already had a deep relationship with Jesus. Having come to terms with his own sexuality, he came out to his family during Thanksgiving on break from college. He was disowned and told that he was going to hell. His new faith community arranged for his baptism. “Sometimes the church must be a refuge to its own refugees.” Andrew came to realize that you don’t have to have everything together to be baptized…” you just have to grasp God’s grace. God’s grace is enough.”
We also read of the evangelist Phillip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch on the wilderness road. When Phillip asked this person if he understood what he was reading, he responded, “How can I know unless someone guide me?” Phillip told him about Jesus. Filled with joy, the eunuch asked, “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” At the first body of water Phillip baptized the man. God had cleared a path, and Phillip got out of God’s Way.
Have you ever had the experience of spending such grace-filled time with another person? Were you, perhaps, the seeker?” While reading this section, I was reminded of the words of Isaiah 55, and of the song the prophet inspired, Come to the Water.
Question For Discussion
Do you know the story of your own baptism? If not, can you ask a family member or a godparent to share their memory of this very special time with you?