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A story full of baptisms

September 1, 2023

Daily Scripture

Acts 2:38-41, 10:45-48, 16:33, 22:14-16

Acts 2
38 Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” 40 With many other words he testified to them and encouraged them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized. God brought about three thousand people into the community on that day.

Acts 10
45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 They heard them speaking in other languages and praising God. Peter asked, 47 “These people have received the Holy Spirit just as we have. Surely no one can stop them from being baptized with water, can they?” 48 He directed that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited Peter to stay for several days.

Acts 16
33 Right then, in the middle of the night, the jailer welcomed them and washed their wounds. He and everyone in his household were immediately baptized.

Acts 22
12 [Paul said,] “There was a certain man named Ananias. According to the standards of the Law, he was a pious man who enjoyed the respect of all the Jews living there. 13 He came and stood beside me. ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ he said. Instantly, I regained my sight and I could see him. 14 He said, ‘The God of our ancestors has selected you to know his will, to see the righteous one, and to hear his voice. 15 You will be his witness to everyone concerning what you have seen and heard. 16 What are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, and wash away your sins as you call on his name.’

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Jesus commissioned his followers to “make disciples, baptizing them” (cf. Matthew 28:16-20). The book of Acts is full of stories of how seriously they took that commission. (Today’s readings are only four examples of many.) Baptism developed from only a personal act into an expression of identity with the church, the body of God’s people. “Early Christian baptism was an obvious initiatory rite into the church, though it retained an emphasis on moral purity and cleansing (Acts 2:38).” *

  • Some Christian groups seem to treat baptism as a hurdle to clear, a kind of final exam to see if a person is worthy to join the church. The stories in Acts do not sound that way. 3000 people in Acts 2 (don’t you wish Luke had explained how the apostles baptized that many people?), whole households in Acts 10 and 16, the apostle Paul recalling Ananias asking him, “What are you waiting for?” Do you see baptism as God’s gift of grace to you, or as something you accomplish and want “credit” for from God?
  • Acts 9:10-18 told the story of Ananias bravely going to a man who had come to town to imprison and maybe kill him. When on trial, in Acts 22, Paul remembered that Ananias was eager to get him baptized, despite his track record of violently opposing Christians. Has God ever called you to do something good that nevertheless scared you and called for some courage? If God called you to an “Ananias” mission today, how easy or hard do you believe it would be for you to respond?

Lord, if Ananias had said “no,” he would have missed the chance to be part of a historically great moment. Help me not to miss your call, or to fail to answer. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe and his wife, Doris, first met in a Resurrection Single Adult Sunday School class in 1997 and were married in what is now the Student Center. They are empty nesters with 2 college-aged sons, Matthew and Jacob. Darren serves as a Couples Small Group co-leader & Men's Group Leader, while volunteering in a variety of other capacities at Resurrection.

The significance & meaning of baptism has evolved for me through the years:

When I was a kid, the idea of baptisms was kind of mysterious. I remember being disappointed when I discovered that our church’s baptismal font was portable. I had imagined it was hooked up to all sorts of pipes to a special water barrel in the basement of the church. 

In 3rd grade I was at a sleepover at my friend Robert’s house & accompanied his family to a Southern Baptist worship service. My jaw hit the floor when they parted the curtains behind the altar to reveal a tiled swimming pool (actually, the size of a small hot tub) to baptize a young man into the congregation. My Dad explained that this is why Baptists like dipped ice cream cones, while we Methodists prefer ice cream cones with sprinkles. (It is all beginning to make sense now – Editor.)

As a father, 21 & 23 years ago, baptism became more heartfelt & emotional as Pastor Adam baptized our 2 sons in what is now the Student Center. I recall rushing around beforehand trying to find another dress shirt that wasn’t covered with spit-up. (This was for Matthew’s baptism. When we baptized Jacob, I knew better than to get dressed too early.) My breath prayer that morning was that nothing too memorable occurs. (“Remember when that Lippe boy was baptized? Oh my. Yes. Yes, I do.”) And as we settled into our seats, I recalled the scene of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River & marveled at God’s powerful & amazingly succinct statement, “You are my Son, whom I love & I am well pleased.” Needless to say, if there had been an open microphone available to me those poignant Sunday mornings years ago, the organist, ala the Oscars, would have had to play me off the chancel area to get me to stop talking. (The christening invitations we sent to Grandparents & Aunts/Uncles looked pretty sharp. Instead of the Times New Roman typeface, we used the Baptismal font.) (Editor groans audibly, and is not alone.)

Regarding the debate about the timing of one’s baptism, my Grandmother Rosalie resolved the debate for me saying, “Any time someone is baptized, it is always the perfect time.”

This past February when Doris & I traveled with Church of the Resurrection to the Holy Land, baptism became much more meaningful as we remembered our own baptisms by being fully immersed in the Jordan River. Our group purchased our white robes, changed into our swimsuits and then gathered by the shoreline to pray & read from the Scriptures of when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan. Having my friend from my mission trip to Honduras, Pastor Bill Gepford, take me below the water & lift me back out made the moment even more powerful. It was a worshipful moment of serenity & peacefulness. Back onshore, it was a chaotic celebration as everyone excitedly chatted, cheered, & took pictures as our friends came out of the water. I couldn’t help but think that this is exactly like the scene around John the Baptist & Jesus years ago. There was the quiet moment in the water & then the great excitement on the shoreline as believers tearfully rejoiced at being reconciled as a child of God & as God busily snapped His own pictures. (Of course, God has so many pictures, He probably has to store them on the Cloud.)

We may be tempted to limit our view of baptism as a “once in a lifetime” experience. However, while in Israel we also visited the historic site of Qumran, home to the Essenes. They were a devout Jewish sect that lived a commune lifestyle & who are famous to us today for the creating the Dead Sea Scrolls that were exhibited in Kansas City’s Union Station in 2007. Scholars believe that they would walk into their mikvehs (small bathing pools) each day as a way to ritualistically cleanse themselves & prepare their hearts for the day. 

So, perhaps we could use our new shower tags & consider our time bathing as a way to remind us of our baptism. Or, if we prefer, we could say a quick breath prayer each time we check our phones. God would love hearing us say, “I love you,” “Use me,” “Forgive me,” or “Inspire me” some 344 times per day. (That shower idea is looking a bit more manageable now, huh?)

You know, that reminds me of an old preacher joke… (I think I hear organ music – Editor.)

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* D. S. Dockery, article “Baptism” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL., InterVarsity Press, 1992, p. 58.