This past Sunday I had the honor of worshipping with Massanutten Presbyterian Church and baptizing Aaron Leggett, son of our dear friends John and Alayne Leggett (check out his blog at http://www.kairoscorner.blogspot.com). Spending time with the Leggetts is always life-giving. John and I have been friends since college days, and ours is a friendship that has only deepened in all respects as the years have passed. So I was moved beyond words when he and Alayne invited me to baptize Aaron.
The weekend was only made better by our accommodations. We were invited by Ellen Blose to stay in her home while she made the trip to middle Tennessee to see her grandchildren Aaron and Lauren, members of First, Franklin, play roles in a school drama (I’m told congratulations are in order for both of them on great jobs). This home has the best view in all the valley according to many locals in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and after staying there we believe it. We were privileged to be awakened by the gentle nudge of the sun coming up over the eastern ridge of Massanutten, which we followed by sitting on the deck, cups of coffee in hand, overlooking the valley. We found ourselves rejoicing together with the psalmist: “I lift mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help…”
The home itself is the family place where Ellen and the late Bill Blose raised seven daughters, one of whom, Sarah, is a member of First, Franklin. It was great being able to stay in this house, which is filled with meaning for that family. The old walls themselves seem to speak of the faithfulness of generations. It was not hard to see how it is that Sarah has come to live out her baptismal identity in such profound ways among this community in Franklin. Those baptismal waters run deep in the Blose household.
Kim, Chandler, and I went hiking with all the Leggetts (John, Alayne, Rachel, Sarah, and Aaron) in the Shenandoah National Park on Saturday. I will post photos of this excursion soon on the blog, and they will do a much better job than I can of showing the breathtaking beauty into which we descended as we made our way down to the falls. Walking down the path, next to the running stream, and seeing it widen out until it fell some fifty feet into the valley below was a powerful baptismal reminder as we headed into worship on Sunday.
On Sunday, after hearing a great sermon from the Parish Associate Ann Pettit, including a profound children’s sermon on the sign of baptism, we moved to the font of the beautiful sanctuary at Massanutten Church. John and Alayne, along with their delightful daughters Rachel and Sarah (with whom Chandler loved spending a large portion of the weekend playing wii and other games), came forward and presented Aaron for baptism. Throughout the service I was struck by the palpable presence not only of the Spirit of God, but of all the saints of every time and place, who seemed to take their place around the font as Aaron stepped into this ancient baptismal stream. The reality of the covenant was strong in that place as we remembered the faithfulness of generations that culminated in this scene. Fathers and mothers, grandparents and great-grandparents, Sunday school teachers and pastors stretching back countless generations, each taking their place in front of this universal font of deliverance, declaring their faith in Christ and in a God who pursues us in love through the power of the Spirit.
Aaron is so very young, and he cannot yet even speak, but we know, even now, that he is not alone, and that he has been spoken to and spoken for by a God who summons us and claims us before we are able to respond. He will be raised, I have no doubt, to live into this baptismal identity. The world may call him many things, some laudable, and some not so much, but his core identity will always be baptized, beautiful child of God.
We all left that place drenched in these covenantal waters, rejoicing along with the writer of 1 John: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are” (1 John 3:1). I was also hearing the words of the Hymn, Borning Cry:
I was there to hear your borning cry
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
To see your life unfold.
May Aaron’s life unfold with the constant awareness of the One who has called him by name in baptism and who will never leave him or forsake him.
Fast forward one day….I open the paper to discover that one of the fastest growing groups in religious affiliation polling are known as “Nones.” Seemed an interesting juxtaposition. More on that later…