Saturday, January 12, 2013

I Want Water - A baptismal vignette by Jan Chesnut

We were celebrating Pentecost Sunday at our small, multicultural Presbyterian Church. It was a beautiful northern New Mexico day with a brilliant, cerulean sky and no gusting wind for a change.

There was much excitement in the sanctuary, a feeling of celebration on this holy day of Pentecost marking the birthday of the Christian Church. The congregation came dressed in red, symbolizing the flames of the Holy Spirit. A special event was also due to take place—a young mother joining the church and her three year old daughter being baptized. The first part of the service went seamlessly with Gina, the mother, being received into the church fellowship with Emma, her daughter, arrayed in a festive, white dress, standing quietly by her mother.

Now it was Emma’s turn to be baptized by Chester Topple, the pastor. As Chester turned to Emma she quickly ran down the center aisle crying, “No, no, no.” She was racing about the sanctuary as if swept along by the wind. The congregation was amazed by her reaction while Chester and Gina helplessly looked on, wondering what on earth to do next. Emma’s father Mark and her brother Forest stood nearby also clearly perplexed by Emma’s behavior.

Emma continued to circle the sanctuary, even heading up the steps to the chancel. After dashing to the back of the church, she paused for a moment and in a loud voice shouted, “I want water! I want water!” Then, suddenly calm, she returned to the front of the sanctuary where Chester and her mother and father were patiently waiting.

Emma and Mark proudly affirmed the baptismal vows asked of the parents. The pastor then took Emma by the hand, dipping his other hand into the baptismal font and baptizing her. A smile appeared on the child’s small, impish face and at that moment it seemed clear that the Holy Spirit itself was present in this little child. This was the Spirit that hovers over each of us, reclaiming us in spite of our insistent, “no, no, no,” until we come to our senses and cry “I want water.”

Indeed, as Jesus said, “The wind blows where it chooses…..So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit.” (Jn. 3:8) l .  

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