Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Reflections on Baptism

As I posted a couple of days ago, we grieved for our loss but celebrated the HomeGoing of Rev. Kathleen Baskin-Ball. One of the things that I learned after her death was that the Sunday before she died, she baptized 37 people at Suncreek UMC in Allen. What a gift to the church and to them--to have one of her last acts be an act of grace in that magnitude!

Baptism has been on my mind lately, and some of it is tied up with Kathleen. I presided over 3 baptisms this past Sunday, and I was trying to bring across some of what it means to baptize infants to our congregation. In the United Methodist Church, the baptism of a child or one who is not able to speak for themselves begins a journey that is completed by confirmation or a profession of faith. But in the meantime, we promise as a gathered congregation to watch over and care for, pray for and teach those whom we are baptizing.

When Kathleen stood before the General Conference in Ft. Worth this past April for the last time, she said this:

"I am Kathleen Baskin-Ball, clergy from the North Texas Conference, Chair of the Committee on Ministry and Higher Education. More importantly, I am the mother of a precious little boy by the name of Skyler, who at four months of age attended his first General Conference; and I'm here to confess tonight that he voted illegally on the floor of General Conference 2004. But now at age four Skyler is watching the proceedings on live stream on his dad's computer at home and so I promised I would wave to him since this is my last time to be before you because it is our last petition to share with you tonight. Woo hoo!

"I want to say one other thing before I introduce the one who is going to give the rationale for this petition. I want to say thank you to my brothers and sisters who are shaping Skyler's young life with such love and who continue--I want to say thank you to all of you who continue to find ways to make the church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ accessible to all God's children. This church of ours, even with all its imperfections and its disagreements and its brokenness is absolutely the greatest blessing in my life, in my family's life.

"I want to say thank you to the Church, for in my battle with cancer these last 14 months, we have known no greater joy than the love and the fellowship of the Church. And so thank you for these last two weeks and for the privilege of chairing the Legislative Committee and for being a part of the love that, no matter what we have done these last two weeks, I believe God will continue to share with the world in a bold and ferocious way. And so the victory will be Jesus Christ's and I believe that and so it's with confidence that I move on to be the church after this event."

What I heard in those words, in addition to her confidence in the love of God, was a love for the Church. And I also heard her saying that she would now turn to the Church and ask to take them up on that promise that we make in baptism...that we will do our best to raise these children in the faith. Because she knew that she might not be around to do it.

And now we face that particular reality. I have no doubt that Skyler will have more love and care growing up, even without his mother physically present. But I also want us to take seriously the other children who grow up in our midst with one or more parent absent. They are all our children, whether they live in our homes or not. They are all loved by God, and we all bear the responsibility of helping them to know and understand that love.

Thank you, Kathleen. Skyler will never be alone...because of Jesus Christ and His Body, the Church. May all God's children have that kind of love and attention in which they know they are loved.

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