It’s taken me a bit longer than I imagined to channel my swirling thoughts and emotions since the day Aaron was baptized. Sometimes things converge with such power that you can barely stand as God’s grace washes over you, and that’s what happened to me at the font on March 8.
There was something about the people with us around the font that made the moment come alive in a way that surprised me. As our promises were surrounded and strengthened by the promises of God and the gathered congregation, everything about that moment began to shimmer like a diamond held and turned against the light. Though words can’t capture it all, I have pieced together some of what I saw through that baptismal prism.
I saw friends. The Joiner Family making the journey from Tennessee and setting aside their responsibilities at the First Presbyterian Church of Franklin or the soccer field in order to baptize Aaron is a gift beyond telling. Chris’s words at the font were filled with such beauty and power that I can still feel the joy evoked by his description of being pursued by a God who seeks to claim us in grace. Kim’s steadfast graciousness that has marked her since our college days together and which only deepens with the passing years surrounded us throughout the weekend, and especially in the sanctuary that Sunday morning. And what can I say about Chandler? She has become such a significant part of my daughters’ lives and is a hero to them in the very best and deepest sense of that word. I am thankful that Rachel, Sarah, and Aaron have her as a friend and fellow follower of Christ.
I saw colleagues in ministry. Pastor Ann’s wonderful sermon for the day–fittingly on Jesus’ call to take up our cross and follow–and her generous spirit brought deep joy to the celebration. Nancy’s last-minute–but careful–hemming of Rachel’s acolyte gown was an unexpected and much-appreciated gift. Bob and Carol’s excellent and well-chosen music throughout the service embodied the fullness of what we were doing. I could see Karen’s smiling face from her seat on the back row and we are thankful for her supportive presence in every way. It is indeed a joy to serve alongside such a fine and gifted staff, and my own life is enriched by their friendship.
I saw the church. Randy’s well-spoken presentation of Aaron on behalf of the session and his holding Aaron as a symbol of the way the community of faith will hold Aaron throughout his days will continue to be a treasured memory for our family. Seeing the faces in the congregation etched with joy as promises to love and nurture Aaron and to support me and Alayne were made. I even heard a few voices from the great cloud of witnesses cheering as the waters fell on Aaron’s head. I sensed in the very depths of my being the power of what it means to be a people–a community of faith–gathered by God and claimed in baptismal waters.
I also saw my daughters Rachel and Sarah carrying in the pitcher of water and candle for their brother’s baptism. Honestly, I had argued that they shouldn’t do it–that others should do it to reflect how the church’s story is larger than just our family. I was happy to have been proven wrong about my daughters’ role as I watched with a father’s pride and a pastor’s joy as these two saints of God shared in the celebration of their brother’s baptism.
Most of all, I saw how what God does in focusing on one child of God in a particular baptism enables others to recognize the same grace that is calling and claiming them. I think that’s what ultimately swept over me at the font that morning. The deep and abiding awareness that I belong to God–in life and in death–and that the waters of baptism run deeper than any of us can fully know.