Sermon Illustrations

One time I was leading a retreat for single, middle-age people, that is people in their 40s and 50s. When I looked on the roster, there was a man I knew was 75 if he were a day, but he had signed up so I didn’t question his age. He was a regular at the church and had gone on other retreats. I figured it wouldn’t hurt anything for him to come.

We had a wonderful retreat on spiritual growth. A high point of the retreat was the outside worship service for Sunday morning, but on Saturday evening, this man came to me. He asked me if I would be willing to baptize him since he had never been baptized. There was a small brook that ran about 1/8 of a mile from the outside sanctuary which cross, communion table, and benches.

Now this may seem like a natural request, but it is a little more complicated than that for two reasons. First, an ordained Presbyterian minister is supposed to be authorized by the session to perform a baptism. I would be acting without authority. Second, this man was a bit of an oddball. We were all looking forward to a glorious worship experience in the woods among the trees. To do this baptism, we would have to walk to the creek without a path and no clearing.

I did that baptism, because Jesus chose that man. Jesus chose him to be baptized and God chose me to be the baptizer. When we collected the evaluation sheets at the end of the retreat, the most moving part of the service for many people was wandering through the woods and witnessing the baptism. The water in the creek was freezing, but I invited everyone to come forward and dip their hands in the water in order to experience the bracing chill of that fresh water.

In case you are wondering, I did get in some trouble for doing the baptism without authorization. The “Classes” which is the name the Reformed Church uses for the “Session” gave me a little reprimand. The man’s name was added to the names of others who were baptized in the church and the event was forgotten. But not by him and not by me and not by everyone else who had experienced that baptism.