Thursday, January 30, 2014

Baptismal Synchronicity

In December my wife and I attended a Christmas party for Baptist clergy and spouses at Camp Sentinel in Tuftonboro. We were sitting around the roughhewn wooden tables munching on Christmas fare and getting to know each other better.

A pastor from Wolfeboro asked where I was from. I said I was originally from Danvers, Massachusetts. Because this was a Baptist gathering, I added that I was baptized as an adult at the First Baptist Church in Danversport.

Another minister at the table replied, “Me, too!” It was John Babson, a minister serving as a chaplain in the Lakes Region. I had gotten to know him recently, and I had even invited to preach in Sandwich on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

We began to compare the details of our baptisms. We were not only baptized at the same church, we were also baptized by the same pastor, in the same location, in the same year! It turns out that we were baptized at the same time! Two people were immersed in the Danvers River on that July day in 1973 – he and I.

He recalled more details of the occasion than I could. He remembered me as a large, bearded young man with long hair. (It was the seventies, after all.) He said when I came up from the water I “looked just like Jesus.” My memories of him were vaguer, but I recall another man about my age being baptized that day.

Here we were forty years later, both Baptist ministers serving in the same area. Someone at the table commented on the chances that two young men baptized in a small church at the same time would become ministers.

Even more unlikely is the fact that we are still in active ministry after all these years. Most ministers don’t last that long. Statistics show that 60% to 80% of those who enter the ministry will not still be in it 10 years later, and only a fraction will stay in it as a lifetime career.

This providential encounter at a Christmas party has made me think back on my baptism. I was meditating on it during a worship service recently while we were on vacation in the Florida Keys. The gospel lesson for the day was on the baptism of Jesus.

As the preacher preached, my mind drifted. (I am sure that does not happen to anyone listening to my sermons!) In my imagination I returned to my own baptism. It was the turning point of my life. John Babson said I reminded him of Jesus emerging from the baptismal waters. I don’t know about that, but I know Christ was present at that beach.  

With summer sunbathers watching, two young men professed their faith in Jesus Christ and were immersed at a public beach. Spectators likely thought it was a curious sight, but they have long forgotten it. We have not forgotten. We are still disciples of Jesus and ministers of Christ after all those years.

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Art is Jesus Baptism 3 by Chris Cook. Here is his site

3 comments:

  1. I am staggered by your statistic that 60 to 80% of those who enter the ministry won't still be in it after 10 years and a fraction will do it as a lifetime career. I am certainly blessed in my pastoral friends then, as I cannot think of a single one who took up being a minister and then moved on to another walk of life as though being a priest was "just another job". If one is "called" to spread god's message, surely one is not "uncalled" like a retracted dinner invitation. And there can't be anyone alive who thinks you become a minister to earn big money. Very curious food for thought -as I'm sure you intended it to be. And I will add an extra prayer of thanks tonight for you and my other friends who took the ball from Jesus when it was passed and are still devoutly and eagerly in the game! Anne

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  2. A privilege to know BOTH you and John!

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  3. Marshall,

    What an awesome article on yours' and my shared experience so long ago. Nancy and I celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary on the weekend of April 12 in Ipswich, MA. Driving home to NH, we drove to Danvers First Baptist Church and I traced for Nancy our walking journey that sunny July Sunday morning when we trooped out the front door of the church in our white baptismal robes, led by Pastor Paul Aita (sp?) and the congregational enthusiastically following behind us. We crossed the road and walked to the beach. The river was regularly polluted - it was the day before and the day after. But God kept it clean for Marshal and me. It was low tide, so there was a lot of beach as bathers shifted themselves to allow the gathered church through their midst. We had to go quite a ways out and the hard sandy bottom gave way to oozing river mud - but as Marshall has so aptly recounted that didn't stop us or God from blessing His Kingdom so long ago!

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