This past Sunday at ONEchapel we water baptized 22 people during a night of worship celebration. If you were there then you know what happened. We were swept up in an experience of God’s presence and wonder—an encounter where you’re not sure whether to burst out in exuberant laughter, or fall to the ground weeping with tears of gratitude.
We danced and knelt, prayed and worshiped, listened and shouted like children who were unaware that anyone was watching. A young Catholic man who had been invited by a friend said to me in these exact words, “Whaaaat is this? This is transcendental, man!” His religious context provided no grid for this kind of spiritual awakening.
Watching people come alive from the mortality of their sinful past is an awe-inspiring experience that I want to see more of at ONEchapel. A water baptism service changes every one of us because we witness and participate in the greatest transformation of a human soul—death to life. It is a life-giving, perspective-altering, load-lifting, love-saturating, kingdom-coming, heaven-opening manifestation of God’s grace. What I’m saying is…it messes with you!
In Luke 15, Jesus tells three stories about lost things being found. He speaks of a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son—the prodigal son. In each of these stories, something is lost that is valuable to the person who can’t find it. The items are not lost in terms of ignorance, confusion, or cluelessness—although the prodigal son probably had his moments. They are lost because they are in the wrong place. They should be somewhere that they aren’t. They are not fulfilling their purpose. The lamb is alone, the coin is not being saved or spent, and the son is not in relationship with his father or his family.
This “lostness” produced a search that used up considerable time, energy, and in the case of the father of the prodigal son, expense. Actually, the father didn’t search as much as wait, pray, agonize, and watch. Still, he expended a great deal of energy.
In each of these stories, when what was lost is finally found, a celebration ensues. They call neighbors, invite friends, and kill calves for a feast. They essentially throw a huge party—a bash, a festive gala of epic proportions! This idea is exceedingly meaningful for who we are as a church.
I think our church should be kind of like a perpetual party! I’m not saying we aren’t serious or reverent about what we do. We need to acknowledge that life is challenging and suffering is real, but we constantly need new lives born into this church family, creating a culture of celebration and joy.
New life breeds celebration, wonder and love. It also brings responsibility, accountability, and maturity because we all have to take care of these new, young lives. The kingdom of God grows as people are born again spiritually and the rest of us grow as a result. Having babies is always a little bit of a struggle. The house stays a little messier and the schedule may revolve around the babies more than others, but there’s always love and joy.
Let’s pray together that God will use each of us to birth new believers into the family of God. Let’s look forward to more water baptism services where people are being raised to a new life with Christ. And may it always be true of our local church family that somebody is always throwing a party!