It was a big day for my kindergarten Sunday school class as I marched them up on the platform at church. Our lesson last week had been about John the Baptist. I’d told them his story and they’d asked some questions about baptism. Though most of them had seen a baptism, they wondered what it was like to be baptized. So today, they were there to check out the baptismal font.
"It kinda looks like a swimming pool," said Mark.
"Yes, it kinda does," I agreed.
"Do you havta wear a bathing suit under those robes?" whispered Susan.
"No, Susan. You just wear shorts."
Nathan scooched down and dipped his hand into its depths. "Is it really cold?"
"I've heard that it is, sometimes." I reached down to pull Nathan up to a safer perch. "They try to heat the water, but sometimes it doesn't get heated enough."
"What if you drown?" quavered fearful Ruby.
"You dummy, the preacher holds you up," taunted Simon her.
"Simon, that was unkind. You can't drown, Ruby. The water isn't deep enough. And the pastor does hold you when you go into the water"
They stood quietly and looked. There really wasn't much to see: a narrow space in the back of the pulpit, with a hose leading inward and steps on either side. Each flight of steps led to a dressing room. The wall above the font was painted with a mural of a flowery field. After a few more minutes of staring, we started back to the classroom.
"Do we havta get baptized?" asked Carmen. "My mom says she got me sprinkletized when I was a baby."
I smiled at his word. "That was a good thing for your mom to do. Getting baptized this way will be a choice you can make; when you are a bit older and understand more about asking Jesus into your heart."
"I already got Jesus in my heart," Susan assured me. Mark and Nathan quickly chimed in to let me know that they had Jesus in theirs, too.
"That's great, kids. I’m really glad to hear that. It’s the most important thing you can do in your relationship with God.” We sat down, and I began to pass out cookies and juice.
“So why do we need to go into that pool?” asked Mark.
“It’s a font, Mark. And you do it when you’re old enough to understand what it stands for.”
“What about getting sprinkletized, like me? Doesn’t that count?”
”That was a good thing, Carmen. But that didn’t show your choice; it shows your parents’ choice. When you are old enough to make a choice that will last for life, you can get baptized in the font.”
“How will we know?” asked Simon.
“Listen, kids. Baptism is important, but asking Jesus to live inside your hearts is the most important thing. If you’ve done that, and do your best to follow Him every day, then one day your heart will let you know. That’s when you’ll be ready.”
“I’m glad I don’t have to get baptized right away,” said Ruby.
“I know you’re not ready yet, Ruby. That’s OK”
“No, it’s not that. It’s ‘cause we just ate, so we’d have to wait half an hour.”
I paused a moment, to pray for patience. “It’s not swimming, Ruby. So you wouldn’t have to wait half an hour.”
Mercifully, the bell rang to signal the end of class. As we straightened up the table before leaving, Susan asked me, “So, since I have Jesus in my heart already, if I get baptized it will say I want to be a gooder girl?”
“Well, Susan. It would say that you want to follow Jesus, so that’s sort of what it means. We’ll talk about this more next week, OK?”
Susan persisted. “Can it help Betsy to be good?”
I didn’t know Betsy. I guessed she might be a mean kid at school, but I believed that baptism was a good choice for any believer. “If Betsy has Jesus in her heart and then she makes the choice to be baptized, it can say that she’s ready to live a good life.”
Susan seemed satisfied with that answer, and I thought I was home free for this week, until I heard her parting words, which came as she rounded the hall toward her waiting parents: “Good. ’Cause that Betsy’s been a really bad kitty.”
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