Friday, May 08, 2009

Baptizing Maw

Maw asked me to baptize her and then asked what church I pastored. At eighty-something she had never been baptized and never had communion. It was a little hard to explain, at first, that she wouldn’t be baptized into a specific church. I would be administering the sacrament as a hospice chaplain. She’s a smart lady though, and it didn’t take long for her to understand that the two men, who established the rite of baptism two thousand years ago, didn’t have a church and had never seen one. The institutional church has done more to pervert the teachings of those men more than any heresy that has ever existed. The wild, hide wearing, locust eating prophet and his cousin, the carpenter’s boy, would go into the water and come up from the ritual of baptism to see a dove and hear a voice declaring the mission of the one the world knows as the Son of God.

Maw wasn’t much into church and the ones she visited denied her the rite of communion because she wasn’t a member of their denomination. Neither was she into exclusivity so she decided years ago that all she needed was her belief in Christ and the life of the Christian. Sophomoric rules and initiations were for others. She worshiped with Dr. Stanley on TV Sunday mornings and raised her family in “the way they should go,” and they never departed from it.
The family was very excited about our little ceremony and the favorite granddaughter flew in from Atlanta. Maw’s daughter and her husband pitched in and made it about a big as celebration as Maw would permit (three family members, herself, the minister and a neighborhood mutt). Any more would’ve been too much and Maw would’ve rebelled.

When I rolled up past the horse pasture to the little farmhouse Maw lived in most of her life, I saw them sitting on the front porch and my heart warmed. We were going to do this outside where Maw could see better. I went in to the kitchen to prepare for communion and get a chalice of water for the baptism. When I came back outside, It occurred to me that there was no place to set anything, so I handed the paper plate with the elements to daughter and carefully set the chalice on the concrete porch. Favorite granddaughter and her dad sang a beautiful song to his guitar and I settled in to become as pastoral as I could. I reached deep in my chest for my cathedral voice and began to intone the ceremony when the little white mutt strolled over to the chalice and began lapping the baptismal water. We cracked up. So much for whatever holiness there was to this event. It’s hard enough for a Quaker to pretend to be ministerial anyway and what the heck, the pup was just thirsty. I was willing to baptize Maw with the pup’s water but daughter ran in to change it and I stood there holding the plate and laughing with the others thinking, “God, I love you.”

I drew a liquid cross on Maw’s forehead and we remembered that our deep joy and light laughter comes out of the agony of the one who has the last laugh. The elements always taste the same to me but the meaning of the Last Supper forever takes on the flavor of whom I’m with. Therein is the beauty of the Kingdom.


At Monday, 11 May, 2009 , Blogger "Fearless" said...

Thanks for sharing this uplifting experience! Blessings,

At Tuesday, 12 May, 2009 , Blogger Maggie said...

What a wonderful, heartwarming story. Sometimes it is easy to forget what really matters.


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