When the Disciples of Christ movement was getting started, it was unique on the American church landscape for a number of reasons. For one thing, our movement rejected long detailed creedal statements as a test of fellowship. How can you boil down the mystery of faith into some formulas? Our founders said, “let’s just look in the New Testament, and do our best to follow the Way of Jesus Christ. Insisting on your own creed only divides people.” And so that is where we still stand, as just followers (disciples) of Jesus Christ, without requiring agreements on all the specific issues.
Another of our major emphases was baptism. And unlike most of the rest of the churches, we decided that baptism was most appropriately the act of an adult, or nearly adult believer. Although many other churches baptize infants by sprinkling water on them, we baptize by immersion. Baptism by immersion has proved for generations to be a powerful memory that inspires believers for the rest of their lives. Most commonly in the New Testament, baptism happened when an adult heard a gospel message and wanted to take a step of obedience in response to that message. One of the most well-known examples is the story of the Ethiopian eunuch. This man, whose name we are never told, travels to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel. But he leaves to go home to Africa still spiritually unfulfilled. As he travels, he meets the Apostle Philip, and Philip teaches him about Jesus. The Ethiopian receives his word with whole-hearted commitment. He knows that this is what his heart has searched for all of his life. So as the two travel, he says, “Here is water What is to prevent me from being baptized?” And Philip takes him into the water and immersed him.
Even still, the amount of water was not the only big thing. For us as disciples, we think about baptism as being a big step of commitment. It is the time when we make our statement, “I have decided to follow Jesus. I am going to wash away all that has been and allow God to create in me a new life.” And that statement can only truly be made by people who are old enough to think about their lives and to understand how big a choice that is. It isn’t like, “Do I want a peanut butter and jelly or turkey sandwich?” This is a once and for all choice that henceforth, you have set a new path.
Although it is common that people are baptized as teenagers or young adults, our church rejoices whenever anyone steps into the waters of new life. On Sunday, August 30, after livestream worship, we will be celebrating the baptism of Peggy Gilmore at the Snyder home, 1541 39th Street. Even though we will not be able to gather as the full community of faith, we hope that you will surround her with prayer at that time.
With hope and faith, Pastor Ted