Pastor Bob's Thoughts for Today
July 14, 2017
Sixty years ago today, the Rev. Duncan MacPherson of the Mechanicsburg (Pennsylvania) Presbyterian Church took an eight month-old boy in his arms, poured water on his head, and said, "Robert Alan, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." I don't remember that day, but I have a certificate that tells me it happened. And I sure do remember Pastor MacPherson and the slight Nova Scotia lilt to his voice; he was still our pastor eighteen years later, when I went off to college.
Sometimes I have conducted Renewal of Baptism services, in which I anoint people and say, "Remember your baptism and be glad." One young man said to me, "I was a baby; I don't remember it." I don't remember mine, either. But I remember that it happened. John Calvin, the founder of our brand of Christianity, said that we should make a spiritual practice of reminding ourselves daily of our baptism. If we remember our baptism every day, then we will remember that our sins are forgiven, that we are called by God, that we belong to Jesus Christ.
I don't remember every day. I need to make myself a sign that reads, "Remember your baptism and be glad." But I'm remembering it today.
One of the reasons I'm a Christian is what the Church meant to me as a young person. Being a teenager is hard, and it was hard in the 1970s. School was something of a nightmare, where you were somebody if you were a jock or a stoner, but the rest of us were nobodies. At Church, though, I was somebody: I was Paul and Ann Keefer's son, sure, but even more: I was another child of God. I felt that not only from the other kids in the youth group but also from the adults in the Church, who acted as though I was a real person.
That may be enough to make me feel good about the Church as an organization, but I belong to other organizations that are also worthwhile. Only in the Church could I be baptized, could I be told that I'm not only somebody, but I'm a child of God, only in the Church can I be claimed "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost" in the words of Pastor MacPherson's battered 1946 edition of the Book of Common Worship.
Only in the Church can I hear the Word of God; only in the Church can I receive the Body and Blood of Christ. I have made great friends in the Ohio Renaissance Festival; I help change the world for the better in Rotary International. But my salvation and the salvation of the world are in Jesus Christ, whom I know in His Church. And in Christ's Church I hear God's Word, I receive Christ's presence in bread and wine, and I am reminded that I am baptized.
One day a man in his eighties came to see me. He was not a member of our church, but he had been at one time, and he worshiped with us occasionally. He said that he wanted some assurance that he had really been baptized. So I found our Session book and started looking through minutes. I found a meeting in the 1920s in which the Clerk reported the names of the babies who had been baptized the previous month. His name was on the list. So I turned the book to him and showed him his name in the Session minutes. Tears filled his eyes. "Thank you," he said. "Thank you."
I remember my baptism. No, I have no concrete memory of the event. But I have a certificate that tells me it was July 14, 1957, sixty years ago today. And I am glad.