A reflection on Pentecost, Baptism, and 1 Corinthians 12
12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
12:5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;
12:6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone
12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
12:13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Although she was only nine years old she knew that she wanted to be baptized. She went to church, week in and week out, walking herself down the street to the local congregation. Her parents were much more relaxed about church. So she asked them if they would arrange for her to be baptized. At first her parents thought she should wait until she was older. But eventually, as her asking became persistent, they relented, and a baptism was arranged.
The day of the baptism she arrived at the building that held the font. There she changed into the flowing white gowns of baptism and proceeded toward the font. A number of people were being baptized that day, and she had to stand in line. Finally her time came and she climbed the stairs to font. Her baptism would be by full immersion. The pool was a semi-circle, almost as large as an olympic pool, with a mural of Jesus being baptized. As she waited on the ledge, while the person in front of her was baptized, she suddenly realized just how deep the water was. It would easily be up to her shoulders. And she couldn’t swim.
She became terrified. What if she drowned in the water? What if her uncle, who would baptize her, by tipping her over backward and under the water, what if he dropped her? And being backward and disoriented she inhaled water and drowned?
For a moment she thought about leaving, but there were people behind her, also waiting their turn. She was had no choice but to walk down the steps and into the pool. The water was warm, and deep. Easily up to her shoulders. Walking to the center of the pool where her uncle stood waiting for her, was slow and challenging in that deep water. Her fear rose higher. Her uncle greeted her, covered her nose with her hand and his, and with the other hand he tipped her backward into the water.
I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Up out of the water she came, alive, and relieved.
Fearing death through baptism might strike us a bit odd, but death and new life are metaphors for the baptismal event. The ancient church taught new members of the church that they were leaving behind, dying to, an old way of life, dying into the death of Christ, and rising again into a new life as a Christian, into the life and body of Christ. The girl was on to something mystical and ancient in this ritual we call baptism.
The ancient church also celebrated the gifts given to the apostles in baptism and again on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit infused the community of people gathered, and called them into a new order, the church, the Body of Christ.
The gifts given were that each would live as God has called us, in Christ, to live: to love God, love others, and love ourselves. Each of us has a special calling from God, infused with gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some of us live out our gifts as musicians, or artists, or executives, or gardeners, or teachers, lawyers, doctors, or parents, or as someone who is ordained a priest, deacon, or Bishop.
On Thursday we celebrated the many ministries of this parish, and renewed our commitment to those ministries. Today we celebrate the a new member being welcomed into our community, our Christian family. We have been praying for P. E. K. for a month, preparing him and us, for this day. We have prayed for him by his first name and two middle names, because today his last name will become the same as ours – Christian. Today he will receive his gifts of the Holy Spirit, being born anew into a life in Christ. Our job, our ministry, is to support P. and his family, in their faith journey, just as it is our ministry to support each other with prayer and acts of kindness, with honesty and companionship, with love.