"Do you promise… to be Christ's disciple, to follow the way of our Savior, to resist oppression and evil, to show love and justice, and to witness to the work and word of Christ?" - Baptismal Promise, Book of Worship
At a recent baptism, somebody forgot the water.
The sexton who normally filled the font hadn't done it because he was calming the assistant who'd found dead mice in the restroom and was terrified not of the mice but of the head of the property committee who was a tyrant, and this was bad.
The deacon hadn't checked because she'd arrived late after spending 20 minutes ransacking the hamper to find something that didn't stink for the kids to wear so they could get to church.
The pastor hadn't checked because she'd been tied up with a parishioner who needed to talk to her right now because someone removed a parlor chair and didn't return it and would she announce it from the pulpit?
The family hadn't checked because they were the family and it wasn't their job but when they brought the baby up into the chancel they saw. "No water," they said.
The congregation tittered, the pastor faked a non-anxious presence, the associate went for a pitcher, the organist started a hymn. By verse 3 the associate was back and behold there was water, promises were made, and a child of God became a disciple of Christ.
And right then, I don't know why, I thought of all the places in the world where dead mice and committee tyrants and stinky clothes and parishioners sweating the small stuff would be the least of your worries, and where forgetting the water would be a total non-thing because there's no water to forget and you have to walk miles and miles to find some and sometimes it's too little or too polluted to do you much good. And I doubled over in wonder at this, in prayer and sorrow, in gratitude and shame.
In water we made promises, dear Christ. Hold us to them.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.