AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.
A 3-Minute Read
by Lisa Goddard
Having not been raised in a Christian home, I didn’t accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior until I was 30 years old. At the time, I was the mother of a little girl and pregnant with our second child. I knew I wanted our children to be grounded in “faith,” although I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, so I began attending church with my husband to learn more about Jesus and explore what it meant to be a follower.
I participated in a series of new member classes and began to understand the sacrifice Jesus made for me. I accepted that by faith in Him, through His grace and love, I am forgiven my sins. Embarking on my new journey as a Christian, I understood that baptism wasn’t a requirement for “membership” in the church body, but an option if desired. I must be honest and say that I felt a little uncomfortable and probably embarrassed to consider being baptized publicly as an adult when it seemed the majority of baptisms were done for children. I knew that my salvation was promised through my faith and felt I had been spiritually baptized and didn’t need the ritual of water baptism.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Fast forward 31 years. While attending a meeting for a group trip we were planning to take to the Holy Land, it was mentioned that there would be an opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River during our adventure. I thought to myself, “I’m not doing that, I don’t need to.” (You can probably guess where this is leading.) The night before our group was to travel to the river, as one of our guides talked about the baptism opportunity, the power of the Holy Spirit invaded my heart, and I whispered to my husband, “I’m going to do it.” He was surprised, to say the least, but so supportive that he said he would join me even though he had been baptized as a child.
As Jordan (our pastor…not the river) mentioned in this past Sunday’s message, Jesus sometimes asks us to listen and draw closer. I feel this is exactly what He was doing four years ago when I was in Israel. He was beckoning, calling me to make a new profession of faith.
Referencing Robert Mulholland, Jordan talked about two ways of being in the world, “a life in my power or a life in God‘s power.” While standing chest-deep in the Jordan River, I knew that, while Jesus wouldn’t love me any more than He did already after my symbolic dip in the water, I wanted to strengthen my relationship with Him. That moment, while being submerged in the waters where Jesus himself had been baptized, was for me a refocusing on God as the center of my life and a re-emphasizing of my desire to walk in the way of Jesus and live in his power.
I made the choice, as I had three decades before, to surrender to living in Christ. This time, I was proud to proclaim publicly that I am His beloved child. The water itself didn’t provide a magical change in my Christian walk, but the symbolism helped spark an inward change in my heart. As the water was cool and refreshing to my body, it had become the same to my soul, an invigorating and renewed cleansing agent enabling me to refocus on Jesus more clearly.
Sunday, while watching children of The Parish participate in the ceremony of baptism, I was reminded of another important meaning of the ritual. I am part of a community of believers in Christ, a body that desires to walk in his ways and live life as lights of love to others.
“See, how good and how pleasing it is for brothers to live together as one. It is like oil of great worth poured on the head, flowing down through the hair on the face, even the face of Aaron, and flowing down to his coat. It is like the morning water of Hermon coming down upon the hills of Zion. For there the Lord has given the gift of life that lasts forever.” Psalm 133:1-3
As we pledged to support the baptized and the families of the baptized, I again realized how God exhorts us to do life in relationship with others, to share the burdens and sorrows and celebrate the triumphs as a community. How wonderful it is to find peace in the assurance that in our Parish body, I have brothers and sisters in Christ who will encourage, support, pray for and offer wise counsel to me.
“So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:5