LAKEWOOD – Making her sermon inclusive for children was an intentional part of Rev. Iraida Ruiz de Porras Sunday, January 28th service at Christ UMC in Lakewood. The church was concluding its Water & Roots series, focused on baptism’s power and significance, with the scheduled baptism of a ten-year-old boy named Ryan.
hroughout the interactive sermon, Ruiz de Porras explained how God views people as beloved. Six-year-old Steven was sitting in the back of the sanctuary next to his grandmother, Joyce, a faithful church member. Steven raised his hand to answer the questions posed during the sermon.
“It was so refreshing to hear his honest responses and see how excited he was to be participating in church,” said Ruiz de Porras.
Ryan, his family and sponsors came forward. Ruiz de Porras asked Ryan to share the many ways he used water before explaining that it would now be used to baptize him with the Holy Spirit. After the baptism, she reaffirmed the “beloved child of God” piece.
“That’s when I felt that deep nudge in my spirit to ask, ‘has anyone here felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to be baptized today?’” she said.
Before completing the sentence, Steven raised his hand high and ran down the aisle toward the baptismal font.
“The joyous look on his face and the gasping for air with the excitement his little body carried was miraculously breathtaking,” said Ruiz de Porras. “I looked him straight in his glassy eyes and turned towards his family and grandmother for their consent and asked for sponsors for Steven. I believe I saw everyone’s hand go up and heard an ‘amen’ and ‘hallelujah’ here and there.”
Ruiz de Porras asked Steven his name.
“So, Steven; you want to be baptized, right?” she asked.
“Yes!” he exclaimed.
“Do you know what your name will always be after today?” she asked.
“Yes!,” Steven said, “Beloved!”
Steven was invited to face the congregation of approximately 100.
“Do you see all these people here today?” Ruiz de Porras asked. “Well, as of today, they are your family; your church and faith family. And you are a member of this family and of the Body of Christ.”
Steven turned to his pastor and said, “Really?”
“Yup!” Ruiz de Porras affirmed. “And they are responsible for guiding you and watching you grow healthy spiritually and emotionally and will love you, nurture you, and care for you.”
“Wow!” he said.
Ryan and Steven were baptized before a congregation that had been remembering, reminiscing, learning, and preparing through the Water & Roots initiative, customized for their church’s setting, about the importance and significance of baptism in the life and journey of a Christian, and “as a clear reminder of how beloved we are and how we’re called to ministry in, to, and for the world,” said Ruiz de Porras.
“Ryan witnessed to Steven and to the congregation that it’s the celebration that comes from the gift of prevenient grace and the voice from the heavens that reminds us how pleasing we are in God’s sight, and that here is a church family that will provide for our needs because that’s what we’re called to do,” she said. “I believe Ryan witnessed God’s grace and love during baptism in such a way that moved the hearts of many, if not all, in the congregation; and in some grace-filled way inspired Steven to trust what Ryan was experiencing and witnessing through the ritual of the baptismal sacrament. The heavens opened up that Sunday morning to declare that Ryan and Steven are beloved and pleasing to God’s sight and heart. And, that their ministry, discipleship, and witness began that very same day!”
After the service, Ruiz de Porras couldn’t find Steven. She called his grandmother Joyce later and learned they had a birthday party to attend and could not stay for fellowship.
“But, pastor, I have to tell you,” Joyce paused and sighed joyfully, “Steven told everyone at the party that he had been baptized!”