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Summary: When we are baptized with the water we are also baptized with the Holy Spirit and, as a result, receive a full measure of the same grace and love Jesus received when He showed us the way with His baptism.

Watergrave

Do any of you remember your baptism? I remember mine. You see, I can remember

mine because I was 17 at the time. I was baptized and brought into membership in a

Baptist church. Now, it wasn’t because I was a Baptist that I was older when I had

this experience of baptism and I’m not here to debate the theology of this passage of

scripture. For those of you who might not know what I mean, Baptists believe in

total immersion as the only acceptable method of baptism. Verse 16, where it says

Jesus came “up from” or “up out of” the water is interpreted by Baptists to mean

Jesus was baptized by total immersion, which may be how it happened. Other

interpretations say that maybe Jesus was standing waist deep in the water, was

sprinkled, and then walked up to shore “out of” or “from” the water. We, as

Presbyterians, believe the latter interpretation.

No, I was older when I was baptized because I never went to church until I was 15.

Now, you might think that, being older, I would understand or, at least, have a clue

as to what my baptism meant. Wrong! I wanted to be a member of this church and

to do that I had to be baptized. And, as a Baptist, I had to be baptized by immersion.

Now, Wendy will verify this, I won’t put my head under water in the pool, so it’s

hard to believe that I would allow myself to be “dunked”. Well, I wasn’t thrilled

about it, but I did it.

I remember it well. The baptistery was located behind a wall in back of the pulpit.

There were steps down into it from both sides, I came from the left side, along with

the other men. The women came from the other side. The water was warm and

came up to right here on me. I remember turning to my left to turn back toward the

steps I had just come down, seeing the blurred faces of the congregation as I turned

(no glasses). I stood there in my white robe, as the Pastor said his words, dreading

what was coming next. When the Pastor finished, he put his right hand on my back

(the signal from our practice sessions to lean back toward the water). The moment I

had been dreading was about to happen. My head was about to go under water.

If you swim, you know the sound when your head goes under the surface of the

water. I remember that sound so well. I can still hear it and feel it. He guided my

body backwards, then I was completely underwater. I was in a watergrave.

After being under for like, 5-6 minutes (actually, only a few seconds) I was brought

back up out of the water to an upright position. Water was in my eyes, I couldn’t

see, water was dripping off my (much longer) hair. I had done it! Now if I could

only tell you just what it meant. I didn’t really have a clue. I remember everything

about my baptism except the most important thing. What it meant. The significance

of baptism. Clueless.

It is only in the past few years that I have come to realize the significance of that

event on that day, the magnitude of the statement I was making to the world when I

was “buried alive” in my watergrave.

When a person is baptized, that person is making a statement to the world, that they

are a changed person. Baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward and

spiritual grace. In the song you just heard (The Baptism of Jesse Taylor by the

Gaither Vocal Band), Jesse was an alcoholic, a cheater, and a gambler, spending his

money on liquor, women, and gambling without regard for the welfare of his family.

But when he was baptized, he changed. He got back on the right track. He gained

respect from his wife, he got his family back. The baptism changed Jesse, turned

him around, because when he went under, he went under for the Lord.

You all know that a grave is where a person is buried. That’s kind of like what

baptism symbolizes. When a person is baptized, the person they were is dead,

buried in a grave of water. They have gone to their “watergrave”. And the person

that comes out of that watergrave is like a new person. All of that filth, all of that

dirt has been washed away and they have a new beginning. They have repented of

their sins. The order for The Sacrament of Baptism in our Book of Common

Worship acknowledges this.

(Read questions from pg. 407 in BOCW.) That’s what “repent” means, to turn

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