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J. Grant Swank

Summer's For Baptizing
By J Grant Swank Jr.
Apr 1, 2012 - 6:03:53 AM

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Chilly! Yep. Maine's lakes take their good ol' time getting warm in summer. Wade in and size-up gingerly the environs. Looks comfy from the shoreline but is cooool as you get under the water. That is, unless you're a bronzed pro who braves all to dive straight in from the dock.

But we were not into diving that Sunday. We were into going old-fashioned for a baptism in the lake.

"Baptized in water, Sealed by the Spirit,
Cleansed by the blood of Christ, our King;
Heirs of salvation, Trusting the promise,
Faithfully now God's praises we sing."

So Michael A. Saward wrote it in 1981 and so we sang it in summer 2002.

Mike Ziobrowski had wanted to be baptized. And it was to be the real thing - immersion. Nothing short of. So with the lake handy and mid-summer hanging over our heads, the place and time called for the blessing.

"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38-39)

Evening hours had just begun. We welcomed them with several hymns, Scriptures and prayers. Then there was a brief exhortation regarding the seriousness of baptism. In the early church, believers risked their lives for that sacrament. Or they would be shut out of their homes for the new Jesus religion. In other times, devotees could be burnt at the stake, fed to lions, or scalded alive in the caldrons.

In a democracy, baptism is usually accepted as civil if not utterly polite religion.

I recall when a youngster joining others at the river for "The Baptism." Oldsters and youngsters were lined up with the parson waiting in the water. Hymns were sung extemporaneously. Testimonies were shared. It was a jolly good time of it in the Lord God.

Standing alongside the Jordan I witnessed the several submitting to those historic waves, biblical pictures flashing across our minds. At that particular scene, there was a hushed awe that overcame us. After all, we had traveled far for that event; now it had actually come to pass.

I recall one large fellow I baptized in a New York sanctuary baptismal. I am average in height. So when I attempted to govern his backward tilted frame, he just about pulled me under! Never to be forgotten, for sure.

Even now, many years later, there are those precious folk who still delight in reminding me of the imbalance.

That's why when watching a video of an African missionary baptizing new converts, I noted that he simply laid his hand lightly upon each head, directing each believer to navigate the waters by his and her own senses. No spills. No dunks. All quite safe-and sacred, too. Since then I have followed suit.

So when walking into Lake Sebago with "Z" this summer, I reminded him that the logistics were all up to him. The blessing was up to God. He was relieved. And so was I.

"Come, Holy Spirit, Dove divine,
On these baptismal waters shine,
And teach our hearts, in highest strain,
To praise the Lamb for sinners slain."

Thank you, Adoniram Judson, of 1832 script.

J. Grant Swank Jr.

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