The temperature is in the forties, there is drizzling rain, and an excited crowd gathers together. After moments of anticipation, a roar erupts! There is mass celebration, one heard from quite a ways around. After all, football is king in the heart of Texas.
Only… it’s not a football game, but something much better. It’s worth enduring far colder weather and yelling far louder. It’s something that’s been done for thousands of years and never gets old. It is one of our most sacred and celebratory of rites, and it evokes rejoicing reserved only for that which reflects the eternal. It is… baptism.
There is just something about baptism and what it means to the global church. All around the world, for all these years, people have been baptized in varying cultures and contexts. Inside and outside, lengthy ceremony and short, rivers and bathtubs… or, in our case, a horse trough. It may not be a football game, but we are still in Texas.
So much of life is always a work in progress. We have never quite arrived, and won’t until the day we are with Jesus. So until then, we are always striving, always working, always pressing forward. And perhaps that’s one reason why baptism is so special. It reminds us that something has been completed, that we have arrived. Our sanctification, our growth in Christ, is still a work in progress, but we can rest in the salvation. The old has gone, and the new has come.
I was teaching under a tree in Africa one time when men in parched South Sudan asked about baptizing with sand. During the dry season, the only water is in water wells, and in their mud hut land there is no facility for retaining water. Would it be okay, they asked, if sand could be used instead. The celebration, in their mind, was far too pressing… it couldn’t wait until the rainy season. It was time to celebrate.
One day, in heaven, we’ll hear rejoicing that supersedes that of baptism. I can’t wait for that day. But until then, give me frigid weather and massive roars any time. Texas football is great, but we’ve found something far better. Bring on the baptisms, and bring on the celebration.