Baptizing Babies - Greatest Joy, Greatest Sorrow.
The first time I performed the ceremony for a family, the parents were not there. They grieved, and could not hold or see their infant, born too soon. “Her grandma would want it done; its not important to us,” the father said as he protectively hugged his heartbroken fiance. They wanted me away from their private grief. I was the hospital chaplain on call; they didn’t know this stranger, but they needed my position to provide grandma with difficult closure. A young nurse brought me to the space where the baby rested in the plastic bassinet - preternaturally still. It was surreal to be in that moment. I prayed, baptized the tiny bundle in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The nurse stayed, witness to this event that should be joyous, nervous, and having a hard time with the idea that the young couple didn’t want to hold their baby. My hands shook, the water spilled a little. She took my hands and we prayed together. She thanked me, and we cleaned up the spilled water. I went back to the couple, but they were asleep. My shift neared it’s close, I packed up, and went to church, still thinking of that spilled water.
From the very beginnings in Genesis, water, deep unfathomable water, was present, “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep… God swept over the face of the waters.” Eventually God speaks that a dome "separate the waters from the waters”, and the dome is the sky that holds up the waters above the dome, leaving on the face of the earth the waters under the dome - which eventually become rivers, lakes, streams and oceans. The sky protects us from the ravages outside this earth; while the ancients spoke of sea monsters, today we know that space, the vast vacuum of nothingness, is just as scary and also a threat to our continued life. The sky, the dome that kept out the waters of the firmament were vital to the continued life of the people. At Jesus’ baptism, the heavens were torn apart - the very dome that protected the people, rent.
The waters spilled a little, and from those waters came the Spirit.