At yesterday's Easter celebration, we were privileged to witness three baptisms and eight people received into membership at Park church. The sanctuary was filled for both services, and the sunrise service on the hillside above Charlotte Center was the best start to the day. Having my son, daughter, and two granddaughters leading the congregation in worship, along with about ten other musicians and singers was personally, very fulfilling. But it is the celebration itself that is important, not who leads it, nor even how many people are gathered for it.
In baptism, the candidates are asked if they repent of their sins, turn from their old ways, believe in Jesus and trust in God to give them new life. They are symbolically buried in the water and raised to new life. Not having a baptistry, and being a bit cold for a creekside baptism, we had a cattle tank set up in the sanctuary. Fittingly, it looked somewhat like a coffin. Justin, the adult who was thus baptized, truly rose from the waters to new life.
Today I watched a video of Christians who finally were able to return to their town and their church after being driven out by ISIS fighters. They had lost everything, just as Jesus said would happen, but they gathered in desecrated and half-destroyed sanctuaries to celebrate the victory of Christ's life over the powers of darkness. The age-old baptismal call still held them: "We bid you come and die." They came, having lost everything for the sake of the Cross, but having gained all that is truly important.
We gather in safety and security. We sing and pray, and listen to the Word of God proclaimed. We hear the ancient call, "He is risen!" to which we reply, "He is risen indeed!" It was a glorious day. May we prove to be as faithful as those who have kept the faith in the face of ruinous persecution. I am thankful tonight for the faithfulness of God's people in such difficult circumstances, and for the unity of the Spirit that binds our congregation with believers around the world who like us, bow before The Lord of Lords, and King of Kings, the crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ.