What if I Can’t Remember My Baptism? // Exploration 2011 Friday Night
November 12, 2011 § Leave a Comment
When we hear the phrase “remember your baptism,” it always feels a little awkward. I don’t remember my baptism; I was a newborn. (My formerly Southern Baptist husband has a much easier time with this task.) I deeply resonated with the video testimony shared tonight — what if I can’t remember my baptism??
Even with a theological education and having “passed” my theological interview and paperwork for ordination, the concept of baptism is a little fuzzy at times. Remembrance, though … remembrance I can do.
As I boarded the plane in Orlando at 8 a.m. Eastern, a flood of memories rushed back. No, I don’t remember the flights from the last two Exploration events, but the events themselves are firmly etched into my spiritual memory.
I gazed over the airplane wing and the faces of so many people rushed by me. Most of them were people I have only been with in person for three days of my entire life, but they were people that changed my life forever.
My first Exploration event was Explo 2006 in Jacksonville, Florida. The theme was “Dive In, Make Waves.” I remember finding it a bit cheesy at the time, but it was kinda fun to raise strips of cloth above our heads and make an ocean of discernment around the room. That’s an image that sticks with me, to be sure.
I remember a Saturday night birthday supper shared with folks I had not known 24 hours before. I had come alone to Explo, but quickly we loners found each other and formed a ragtag group of individuals desperately seeking community, and desperately seeking discernment (which we did — together).
I remember sitting in the front row of Saturday night worship weeping with a new friend as the Spirit engulfed us, clarifying our calls to ministry.
I also remember one lone admissions director standing by her table just outside the worship space, as the final worship service of the weekend was about to begin. Soon after I remember a whirlwind campus visit during which I found a place that would change me forever, and a place in which I would begin a lifelong journey of theological inquiry and love for ministry.
I remember in 2009 returning to represent that same school in Dallas, sharing my seminary, call, and ministry experience with other young people who were walking around with the same excitement and bewilderment as I had been only three years before.
There are so many more memories that can’t be captured with mere words, and I look forward to experiencing another weekend of memories here in St. Louis.
Remembering is exciting, and if we’re honest, memory is often about an image. The image of water is powerful. It represents renewal of life, a new beginning knowing that God is present in our every move. Baptism is a time to prepare to share in the work of Christ, a cleansing of those things that keep us from God. I experienced much of that in the rather haphazard community I found at Exploration 2006, and in the devotion of an admissions director to stick around for those last few moments, and in tears that fell on newly kindred shoulders.
It’s interesting to reflect on the 2006 theme: “Dive in.” The image of water is pervasive in my story in particular, but I pray that we can all dive into this experience, and be immersed (no, not just sprinkled) in God’s presence, that we can listen for God’s voice, that we can put aside those things that distract us and remember our own baptisms, when God began that work in each of us.
I loved the possibility sprinkled through Adam Hamilton’s sermon tonight — that this weekend in St. Louis could represent a reawakening in the church. Tonight could have begun an opportunity to reaffirm its own baptism, in a way. As young people, we do hold the keys to the future of the church. As a young clergyperson, I feel that pressure more and more each day, and I was reconvicted tonight during his sermon.
I have to confess that I’m an idealist. I believe in what the church can be, not just what it is. I still believe that I (we) can do anything. When Adam Hamilton began the Church of the Resurrection, he was told his dreams were too big; but I loved his response: “I was 25 and I didn’t know it couldn’t happen yet.” Well, I will be 27 next week, and I still commit my life every day to minister within a denomination that appears to be dying. The statistics scream at me, “Get out while you still can!”
But, I see in events like this light that has the power to “knock some holes in the darkness.” This weekend could be the beginning of something big. So this weekend, do remember your baptism. Let it be a renewal of mind, with clarity of intention, and openness of heart, to hear what God has for you — for us.
And for those of you reading this who are not present in St. Louis, know that there are nearly 600 young people seriously trying to figure out what God wants them to do with their lives. Pray for them. And support them when they return to your communities with newfound clarity and excitement. You will be amazed at what can — and will — happen.