New Names, Laughter, and Baptismal Joy
God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, you will no longer call her Sarai. Her name will now be Sarah. I will bless her and even give you a son from her. I will bless her so that she will become nations, and kings of peoples will come from her.” Abraham fell on his face and laughed. He said to himself, can a 100-year-old man become a father, or Sarah, a 90-year-old woman, have a child?
We just recently celebrated a baptism service at Wannamaker Woods on Wednesday night. As many of these services as I have participated in, they never seem to get old for me. You hear the moving testimonies. You see the smiles on the faces of people. There is joy, laughter, and tears upon the countenance of those gathered. In many ways, it time travels you back to the time and place of your own baptism.
There is something about baptism that encapsulates joy and laughter. There are even faith traditions where they practice immediate baptism. If you receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior, they will baptize you that same day so that all those around can experience the joy of what God has done. Jesus had it right. When a sinner makes the Lord his choice, even the angels in heaven have to stop what they are doing and have themselves a holy hootenanny.
I heard a story of a minister who was baptizing a teenager one Sunday and accidentally called him by the wrongname in the water: “I baptize you, Scott, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The young man came up out of the water and softly whispered to the minister: “Is that my new Christian name?”
It really is a fair question isn’t it? When we commit to follow God’s ways, we do start fresh. There is a place of beginning again. Most of us don’t get new names like Abram and Sarai did, but all of us get the same kind of new beginning. Whether you have just recently come to the Lord, or you find yourself as weathered in faith as Father Abraham, each day is a fresh start in your journey with the Lord. New beginnings don’t have road maps like our old paths do, and so it takes a special kind of faith to embark on such a life journey. Even if, like the newly named Abraham, we fall down laughing at the thought of it.
I encourage you to pray the prayer of the Psalmist today.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.