It was a momentous day. I was not aware of just how momentous it was. Indeed I am still growing in my appreciation of that.
25th May 1980. Torquay. It was a Sunday morning and I was about to get wet. Very wet. I was baptised by immersion as a follower of Jesus on that day. I had known him as my friend since the age of six, but my awareness of him had grown and the sense that I needed to be baptised grew irresistible.
I found Baptismal services very moving. A number of times before then at the end of a Baptismal service I had wanted to respond to the Minister’s invitation for anyone who wanted to be baptised themselves but had been kept back. But at the Baptismal service before this one I knew I had to respond and I made the very long journey from the balcony in our church down to the front.
I had written a poem as my ‘testimony’ – quite a primitive but sincere statement of my desire to follow Jesus through my life. I remember one line in particular because my Mum had typed it up for me (yes, young people, typed on a manual typewriter (look it up!)) and instead of “I’ll follow him through baptism…” she had typed “I’II follow him through baptism…”
You can’t see the difference can you? Well the second one has three ‘i’s and we joked that I should read “eye eye eye follow him through baptism”.
I can’t remember too much about the baptism itself, it happened rather quickly. Our two Ministers, Peter and Nick plunged me under the water and back up again “on my profession of faith in Jesus.” Then they read out a Bible verse that they had chosen for me which they felt was appropriate.
It was 2 Timothy 4:5. Before you read it bear in mind that I was only 13 and had no idea at all that God was going to call me to become a Baptist Minister. These are the words in the version written in my Baptism Certificate:
“As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.”
Those words did not mean too much to me at the time but very soon afterwards God brought them alive to me and they have been with me ever since. They are now on a poster on the wall of my study as a reminder of that call, in a slightly more contemporary version:
“Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
Same meaning, different words.
Why all the reminiscing? Well 25th May 1980 was Pentecost Sunday that year (it’s a moveable feast dependent on the date of Easter). This coming Sunday is Pentecost this year. It will be the 34th anniversary of my Baptism. And even though I have not always followed Jesus as closely as he (or I) would like, he has always been there for me. He has never let me down. It has not always been easy. In fact sometimes it has been [insert extreme adjective here] hard. But I have always known that Jesus has been with me by his Spirit.
This Sunday morning we are baptising someone who has only been a follower of Jesus for a couple of months – it is so exciting. We will also have a couple of people renew the promises they made when they were baptised a number of years ago – that is so exciting. And we will have one lady who wants to share her testimony decades after she was baptised because she didn’t have an opportunity to do it then – that is so exciting.
If you can possibly be there, do come. Come to support those who are sharing. Come to celebrate with us. And come to meet with Jesus by his Spirit.