Some of us need to allow the Holy Spirit to mess with our plans so he can operate in our life and the lives of others.
Carla and I attended a worship service near our lake cabin last Sunday. It was a nice sized church with a contemporary worship style much like our home church. The message was on “faithfulness” and the main text was from Acts 8. Philip, a Jesus follower, is faithful to the call of the Holy Spirit and gets into a conversation with man of privilege when he hears him reading scriptures out loud. The traveler asks for help understanding the passage and by the end of the account, Philip baptizes the man. I can’t image that Philip had that on his check list of things to do that day – baptize an Ethiopian Eunuch – check!
Yet he was faithful to the call. Whatever hassle it caused, risk he perceived or anxiety he felt he stepped up and did what sometimes seems so difficult; break from our own agenda and rigid systems or plans and move as the Holy Spirit calls.
What came next was truly incredible and in complete alignment with the teaching.
This was a baptism service. This particular church believes in baptism by immersion, so there was a rather large tub (or small pool) in the front of the worship center, placed there prior to the service. The candidate enters the pool and is to respond to a few questions asked by the officiant/pastor then is laid back into the pool, completely submerged for a moment, then brought back up by the pastor and his helper on the opposite side of the pool. Those that prepared for this day to be baptized were called up front. An invitation to any others that desired to confirm their faith and be baptized was also extended – the first time I’ve experienced this spontaneity in a baptism service.
The seven people, a mix of adults and children of age to answer for his/her self were all baptized. A second call went out to the audience, “Anyone wishing to confirm his or her faith by baptism today, don’t put this off. This is an invitation. We have clothes for you to wear in the back and extra towels so don’t let that be a problem.” Pretty soon, up goes a hand; then another. People were getting up and moving about the worship center, hustling to prepare the folks that just agreed to be baptized. I think in all, there were four additional people baptized this morning. I expect that these people didn’t go to church this morning expecting or planning to be baptized. And the church and its pastor also did not know who else might be added to the God’s kingdom today. These people had no idea that when they left from home this morning, they’d be going home wet.
When I was baptized as an adult, we were asked to take a class, albeit a one-time meeting. We learned about what it means to be baptized and asked to decide if we believed and were committed to our faith in Jesus. If so, then our testimonies were recorded for playback at the service. Then we showed up on the appointed day and were baptized. It was a truly remarkable experience, freeing like a weight having been lifted off my shoulders. And I’m glad I learned about baptized before I did it.
I also LOVE the idea that we allow room for the Holy Spirit to call those up for baptism, even without going through a class, yet in that moment he or she is stirred as this is the time to move. This is the time to commit. This is my time to choose Jesus and change direction in my life for good.
Sometimes, churches may get a bit too scripted for their own good. Too planful. Too organized. I’m an organized and planful guy myself, so it’s a bit of herosy for me to state such things. But I think allowing the Holy Spirit to rattle our plans is a really good thing.
We need to allow room for such things, to give over the reigns, to let him be in charge. And to be willing to go home wet.
[image credit: curtis b c dot com]