By Sam Gutierrez
On Christmas night, 1971, Alger Park Church caught on fire.
A single light bulb illuminating a stained glass window was left on, overheated, and ignited fabric covering a pew. The fire quickly spread and soon the windows collapsed, melting into fragments. The fire department responded quickly and began spraying thousands of gallons of water into the sanctuary in an attempt to douse the flames. A few firefighters entered the back of the building, finding their way into the pastor’s office. In an attempt to save a lifetime’s worth of collected resources, they tossed books and commentaries through the window onto a tarp on the ground. As the fire continued to blaze, more and more water poured into the sanctuary. There was so much water covering the floor that the baptismal font rose from its position near the pulpit and floated into the center aisle. From there, the font swirled around until it eventually descended down two flights of stairs, through a door and out into the parking lot.
I tell this story because it perfectly illustrates the fourth thing that I want to highlight about baptism: Mission.
Jesus gave us two sacraments: The Lord’s Supper and Baptism. The most basic definition is that a sacrament is a means of grace. This is why the sacraments are really about God and who God is. God is love and we are the recipients of God’s love. I invite you to touch your forehead and say, “I am baptized.” Now do it again and say, “God loves me.” The two are synonymous.
Yes, you are loved. But just like that baptismal font floating down the stairs and into the parking lot, there is an outflowing nature to the love you’ve received. The baptismal waters are not meant to stay in the sanctuary – they are meant to flow out into the surrounding neighborhood and community.
Simply put: You are loved. As a loved person, you are called to witness to others that they are loved too. You’ve been given promises not to simply bask in them, but to go out and tell others that God’s good promises are for them, too. This is the missional theme of baptism.
The waters of baptism are not static. They are flowing waters. They drench and move outwards. This is why at the end of every worship service, the congregation is sent as a “blessed” people. A baptized people. Blessed to be a blessing.
On Christmas night in 1971, the Baptismal font floated down the stairs into the parking lot. Did it really happen? I don’t know. Legend has it – Yes! But the spirit of the story is true - the Baptismal waters are flowing waters. God’s grace is always trying to escape the confines of the church walls, out through the doors in order to drench our community in endless waves of blessing.