I was baptized in the Assembly of God Church. Don’t remember exactly when. Sometime in the mid ’60s.

It was a full immersion. At that age, probably 12 or 13, I’d never seen it done any other way.

The baptistry – or dunk tank as I suspect I called it at the time – was located behind the chancel. Two sliding doors opened to allow the congregation to witness the event.

I and maybe four of five others were dressed in t-shirts and bathing suits. We met with the minister in a room behind the chancel before the service.

At the appointed time we were ushered into the tank one at a time. I remember the water was cold, though not uncomfortably so.

I knelt. The minister held the back of my head and the small of my back as he lowered me backwards, dunking me under the water and quickly bringing me back up.

As he did so, he uttered words something like “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

That was it. Then we had lunch, I think.

The whole thing didn’t mean that much to me at the time. It was something I was supposed to do. I did it. And everyone seemed quite happy about it.

By Giotto di Bondone - Giotto di Bondone, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=94619

It has taken on new meaning for me over the years. A meaning that comes into sharper focus tomorrow on Baptism of the Lord Sunday.

On this special Sunday, we commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.

We do so by remembering our own baptism. Not so much the mechanics of it, but rather the meaning.

It symbolizes purification and renewal. The surrender of a sinful life in favor of a new life where those sins are forgiven.

It symbolizes Jesus’ death and resurrection. And our belief that we, too, are promised an everlasting life after death.

This is probably what qualifies as the greatly simplified view. Scholars and theologians more studied and well versed than I can spend hours on the subject.

But to me, it boils down to this.

It is a recognition and an acknowledgement that God loves me for who I am. Unconditionally. Despite who I am. Regardless of my warts. Regardless of my faults.

And all this, says the Introduction to the Baptismal Covenant of The United Methodist Church, “is God’s gift, offered to us without price.”

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Published by Mark Buford

Director of Communications, First United Methodist Church Garland

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