When I'm on vacation, I'll often search to see which church I might want to visit for worship. Many of you know that I normally go to a friend's timeshare every year in Las Vegas - and I know that sounds strange, but the resort has the best lazy river in the world - it just so happens to be in Las Vegas. And contrary to what you may believe, Las Vegas is a city that is full of churches.
Last summer, I decided to attend Sunday worship at the main campus of Central Christian Church in Henderson, NV. Central is one of the largest churches in the U.S. and they describe themselves as "the church where it's okay to not be okay." On the website, the pastor states that they exist "to introduce irreligious people to Jesus." Wow. I definitely wanted to see what this was all about.
Well, during the service, several people - former drug addicts, former homeless persons, and others - told their personal story of how Christ had saved their life. And then the pastor invited anyone in the congregation who had never been baptized to give their life to Christ today. He said they would be doing baptisms at the end of the service and everyone was invited to the party. For those desiring baptism, he invited them to gather at the front of the auditorium and follow the man carrying the "Follow Me!" sign. And he assured everyone not to worry - they had plenty of towels and their clothing would dry in no time in that desert heat. Literally hundreds of people who had been living troubled lives in the Las Vegas area came forward to be baptized.
We all followed them outside. There were 3 very large baptismal pools with ladders going into each. After registering for baptism at one of the large tables, people were given a towel and were then asked to stand in line at one of the pools.
Needless to say, I was fascinated. I even took pictures (I still have them saved on my phone). This was not exactly how WE do ministry, but when you think about how this church is managing to reach the "irreligious" of Las Vegas and turn them into committed followers of Jesus Christ, I was practically in tears. And it all began with baptism.
But, you know, it was really the same for us, wasn't it? It all began with our baptism. That's the day we (or our parents, who took the vows for us) pledged to commit ourselves to Christ.
This Sunday we celebrate Baptism of the Lord Sunday. We remember the day Jesus stepped into the Jordan to be baptized by John - the day that the heavens opened and the voice of His Father proclaimed, "This is my beloved Son." And this is the Sunday we celebrate our own baptism. We will renew our baptismal vows and be invited to come forward to be anointed once again with water. "Remember Your Baptism and Be Thankful."
I look forward to celebrating with you this Sunday.
P.S. This is a reaffirmation of baptism, not baptism itself. However, if you have never been baptized and desire to be baptized on Sunday, please come forward and let us know. I will be happy to baptize you.