Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” (John 4:13-14, The Message)
Every year that we visit my wife’s family in Honduras we take a family trip to the hot springs.
It’s an exciting trip; we rent a small bus, load up eight aunts and uncles with dozens of cousins, and around 5:15 am set out on the multi-hour drive through the winding mountains and valleys on roads that are not paved. We always take plastic bags, which are important for people who are silly enough to eat something before the trip. More than once I’ve been that person puking into the plastic bag. Even as I sit typing, I wonder why the heck we do this every year.
But then we arrive and bathe in gushing fountains of endless life. The warm water bubbles up from below to fill pool after pool, warming our spirits, relaxing our bodies and nourishing our souls. Sometimes gushing fountains of endless life come from unexpected places.
When we started working on the Water and Roots Resource Kit we formed the Baptismal Theology Taskforce to make sure that we would be centered in our United Methodist theology, doctrine and polity. Now I know what you’re thinking; unless you’re a really, really serious pastor the Baptismal Theology Taskforce sounds tremendously boring. I thought so too. And then I was charged to be the convener.
So I probably definitely postponed getting this group together as long as I could. When I couldn’t find anything else to fill my time with, I started to research the many resources that our denomination has provided on our baptismal theology. Finally I got together with this group of baptism experts from throughout our conference and I’ll be honest; I was expecting the worst: lists of rules, uptight pastors who have to follow them to the letter, and the need to produce one document to clearly and thoroughly outlining the United Methodist theology of baptism.
But throughout our hours of meeting and follow-up work, deepening our understanding of baptism has been nothing less than gushing fountains of endless life. We inherit an understanding of God calling each one of us “Beloved,” parting the skies for us, and for the community to gather around to celebrate and commit to working with God in our lives and fulfilling God’s purpose. Deepening my understanding of all this has been like gushing fountains of endless life in unexpected places.
Shortly after the taskforce was finished with the majority of their work, my wife and I had our daughters baptized. This sounds really great until you have to get two little girls all dressed up and ready to go to church on time. Mommy and Daddy have to look nice, the girls have to be coordinated but not wearing the same thing (we have twins), the Grandparents have to arrive at the right time, there was an accident on the highway that day… it was a lot of work for our family.
But then we got to the moment. We held our daughters with the whole community watching expectantly and again we found gushing fountains of endless life. The water, people’s smiles, the assurance of God’s plan for our girlies, and their joy completely filled us.
Baptism brings gushing waters of endless life to our worship services and communities every time. In the midst of extra logistics, stresses on parents, crying babies, coordinating guests from out of town and more – God never disappoints us. The heavens part and God’s Spirit comes down. It is truly a celebration.
In fact, so many of these challenges are a part of the blessing. Our family will never forget the trips to get to the hot springs. It was in the Baptismal Theology Taskforce that I remembered the beautiful tradition of what we believe. And in the challenges of having a church surround those being baptized, God’s Spirit is present. We are filled with gushing fountains of endless life.