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Monday, June 29, 2015

WHO YOU WITH?!

Our society is in transition.  We face what some describe as unprecedented and unforeseeable shifts in behavior and cultural expectations. 

Only, according to the Bible, this turmoil isn’t unprecedented.  God foresaw all of it and He gave us a prophetic explanation of the problem and prescription of its resolution.  If you want to understand the root of our cultural upheaval, if you want to know why our communities live in fear of violence, if you want to know how things got to be in the state they’re in and what can turn it all around, then you need to turn to Isaiah chapter 59 and follow a message that poses the question: WHO YOU WITH?


Listen well.

If you can’t get the audio on your device, visit the main podcast page at http://revandersongraves.podomatic.com/

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves  #Awordtothewise 

You can help support this ministry with a donation to Miles Chapel CME Church.

You can help support Rev. Graves’ work by visiting his personal blog and clicking the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

OF BOTH KINDS. Blogging the Articles of Religion #19.

Article XIX - Of Both Kinds
The cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay people; for both the parts of the Lord's Supper, by Christ's ordinance and commandment, ought to be administered to all Christians alike.

  
See, what had happened was:  back in the Middle Ages, the church in northern Europe couldn’t get enough wine.  This was before globalization and chemical fertilizers and year round fruit supplies.  North of Mediterranean climes it became impossible to stock enough wine to give Communion to every Catholic in Europe (which at the time was every person in Europe), every day, at every Mass. 

Simple supply and demand. 

However, the Catholic Church had ruled that receiving  the Eucharist in Mass was necessary for salvation.  What to do?  What to do?

The medieval Catholicism promoted hierarchical holiness.  Each person of higher sociopolitical or ecclesiastical rank was holier than thou on lower rungs of the ladder.  In that system, ordained clergy were more worthy of God than regular lay peons.

And thus the solution to their wine shortage.

Catholic priests began reserving the Eucharist wine for themselves.  Regular folks could receive the bread, but only the purely pure clergy were worthy of the cup.  The Church even formulated doctrine to match the policy, maintaining that Jesus was fully present and transubstantiated in both elements, so if the priest keeps the wine for himself, no biggie.

Protestants protest this doctrine.  But not for any reasons that could be fixed by opening a new liquor store.

If you can’t get wine, or Welch’s grape juice, then you just can’t get any.  That is a purely secular problem.  It’s neither necessary nor honest to spin it into something deeper than it is, like Jesus’ mom did.

John chapter 2.

Read verses 1 and 2 very carefully.  Anyone’s who’s ever tried to shorten the guest list for a wedding reception with the family matriarch in the room saying, “Now you have to invite so-and-so” will understand.   Jesus and His friends only got invited to the wedding in Cana because Mary made somebody send for them after she’d arrived. 

After they got there, the wedding party ran out of wine, and when Mother Mary mentioned it to Jesus, the Lord responded, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

Translation:  “Mom, that is a purely secular problem. Don’t try to make this into something deep and theological.”

Sometimes our physical, financial, or relational deficits are NOT deeply spiritual states.  Sometimes being sick is just being sick, not  a demonic attack.  Sometimes being broke is because of our math not because of a witch’s curse.  Sometimes you’re alone because …(And I don’t want to be mean or insensitive).  Sometimes you’re just alone.  God isn’t testing you.  The devil isn’t afflicting you.  You’re just not with anybody right now, and that’s all there is to it.

The Lord is always present in your circumstances, but sometimes He’s present and asking, “What does your concern have to do with Me?”

Just take the antibiotics.   Just stop spending money you don’t have.  Just go home and don’t watch Lifetime or Oprah for a while.

Just admit:  we’re out of Communion wine but you aren’t going to Hell because of it.

After Mary told Jesus about the liquor situation in Cana, she submitted what was under her matriarchal authority (the wedding servants) to whatever Jesus decided to do or not do.  Ultimately, Jesus transformed the hand-washing water into high-quality wine. 

His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (John 2: 5)

The Lord could step into your situation with miraculous physical, financial, or relational provision.  The Lord could turn your water into wine.

But, that’s His call; not yours. 

“Whatever He says to you, do it.

He says share bread AND wine.  That’s what we do.

And if we ever run out of one or the other, then we won’t invent a theology to spiritualize the situation.  We’ll just admit that we ran out. 


---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 
#Awordtothewise

You can help support this ministry with a donation to Miles Chapel CME Church.

You can help support Rev. Graves’ work by visiting his personal blog and clicking the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064


MY CROSS, THEIR FLAG


I'm a born-again Christian.  I believe in Jesus Christ with all my heart.  That faith informs every decision I make.  That personal faith convicts me and draws me back when I deviate from it.  But I don't wear a cross. 

I'm a Methodist pastor, but I don't own a single cross necklace, or bracelet.  There are no crucifixes hanging in my house.  I've got couple of t-shirts with crosses embedded in other logos and symbols, but that's it.

Yesterday afternoon I spent an hour walking through a housing project in 90 degree heat, inviting people to the church I pastor and praying with them.  But I don’t wear a cross.  Does that mean I’m not a Christian?

I teach the teen class in our Vacation Bible School.  I teach two Bible studies on Tuesdays and I preach at least once a week.  But I don’t have a crucifix hanging on the door of my house.   Does that mean I’m not a Christian?

I pray ----- a lot. I obsessively study and think about Scripture.  I cry, literally shed physical tears, when I feel I missed the mark on a task God gave me.  But I don’t publicly display the cross--- the symbol of my Christian heritage.   Does that mean that I’m not a Christian? 

I “wear” my faith in my actions.  I explicitly use the name of Jesus when I talk about my core values and motivations.  If you talk to me for more than 3 ½ minutes you’ll hear about my God and my wife.   

If I bear my cross, do I still have to wear one?

If my heart, my actions, my thoughts, my intentions are focused on and directed by Jesus, do I need the public symbol?

Does wearing the cross make me a Christian, or does living for Christ?

I hear that South Carolina’s governor wants to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol’s grounds.  I hear that Walmart and other companies are going to stop carrying rebel flag paraphernalia.   I hear that some people are scraping the Confederate bumper stickers of their cars because they don’t want to look racist.

That’s cool.  I really think it’s a good thing.

But, if your heart, your actions, your thoughts, your intentions are focused on and directed by a belief that non-White people are inherently less intelligent, more violent, less ethical, more criminal, less worthy of compassion or citizenship----- does taking down a flag change who you are?  

Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer. (Deuteronomy 10: 16)

It's nice to see pro-Christian symbols in my community.  But I'd rather see more hearts and lives genuinely aligned with the gospel.

I want to see the symbol of the Confederacy come down from my Alabama’s and Mississippi’s flagpoles.  But I want even more to see the Confederacy die in my neighbors’ hearts.  

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 
#Awordtothewise

You can help support this ministry with a donation to Miles Chapel CME Church.

You can help support Rev. Graves’ work by visiting his personal blog and clicking the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064


Monday, June 22, 2015

YOU GOT A DADDY

A message for Father’s Day called: YOU GOTA DADDY.


Listen well.

If you can’t get the audio on your device, visit the main podcast page at http://revandersongraves.podomatic.com/

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves  #Awordtothewise 

You can help support this ministry with a donation to Miles Chapel CME Church.

You can help support Rev. Graves’ work by visiting his personal blog and clicking the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064


Saturday, June 20, 2015

CHARLESTON WHATEVER


“This scares me.”

My daughter had tears in her eyes as she looked up from her phone. 

We were on the last leg of a family vacation to the mountains.  She’d spent the week hanging out with her closest cousins, having all kinds of fun.  At that moment we were in the largest mall in Chattanooga, and my wife and I were buying her stuff.  It was the intersection of all good things for a teenager. 

But Kaitlin had been scanning social media reports and comments about the murder of 9 Black churchgoers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

When she spoke there was grief and fear in my daughter’s 16 year-old eyes. Grief for the families of the victims.  Fear for me.

The massacre happened in weekly Bible study at a historic Black Methodist church. I teach weekly evening Bible study at the historic Miles Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

The murderer was a young white male, a visitor who didn’t fit the typical demographic profile of the congregation. At my previous pastorate, I brought in the first all White family to join that historically Black church.

The dead included the pastor, a socially active preacher in his early 40’s. I’m the pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church.  I'm a community activist, and I’m 43.

My daughter was afraid that somebody might kill HER DADDY at Bible study.

I wanted to reassure her, to give her a word of comfort.  I told her not to worry about stupid people making stupid comments because they just wanted to start stupid argumetns.  My  comfort could've been summarized in one word:

“Whatever.”

To be a Christian pastor in the real world is to be a sheep who’s Shepherd has sent him to preach among wolves (Mathew 10: 16).  And you know what wolves do to sheep?

The death of more good Christian preachers at the hands of people who are motivated by hate and guided by evil is not just possible.  It is inevitable. 

Jesus prophesied that, “Yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” (Luke 16: 2, 4)

And the racial component isn’t new either.  America’s current racial system is color-coded, but remember that less than 100 years ago Italian and Irish were considered distinct minority racial designations.  In 1st century Judaea, being Samaritan or Galilean was a lot like being Irish or Italian in early 19th century America.

When the Jewish elite got really frustrated with Jesus they used the racial language of the day to attack Him.

Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8: 48)  Notice how the accusation of Samaritan-ness is presented as equal to the accusation of demonism.  To be the wrong race was to be inherently evil.

Even among Jesus’ fellow Galileans, there was intra-bigotry. When the future apostle Nathanael heard about Jesus, his first reaction was, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)  And Nathanael was from Cana in Galilee. 

When I was a kid in Mississippi, we would’ve said that Nathanael was colorstruck.  He was superficially prejudiced against his own racial group.

Racial division and hatred within the “promised” nation is neither new nor exclusively American.  Since at least the Tower of Babel, humans have transformed our differences into divisions.    And when one group of us wanted to prove themselves spiritually superior but couldn’t, they pulled the race card as if ethnicity defined the value of one’s soul.

You’re a Samaritan which means that you have a demon.
He’s from Nazareth which means He’s just no good.

To that, Jesus was like, “Whatever.”

He told the Jews, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.” (John 8: 49)  He didn’t even deal with the (inaccurate) racial designation.

He turned Nathanael’s focus back onto Nathanael, forcing the “good” Galilean to consider whether he really was what he considered himself to be, “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1: 47)  Jesus didn’t address the question of whether Cana-skinned Galileans were better than Nazareth-skinned Galileans.

Jesus knew that all that the racialized language was a channel from which deeper things flowed: self-hate and spiritual evil.

Dylan Roof, a twenty-something year-old White man murdered 9 Black people in their church after sitting with them for an hour of Bible study and prayer. 

According to a survivor of the massacre, he told them, “I have to do it. You’re [Black people] raping our women and taking over the country. You have to go.”  Then he shot the pastor.

That is 21st century racism.  That is historic American bigotry.  But underlying that prejudice is the same primal self-hate, the same ancient evil that has always grasped at ethnic straws to justify itself.

The martyrs of Emanuel AME Church had not raped Dylan’s women.  And Jesus wasn’t from Samaria, but that didn’t really matter. 

The citizens of Nazareth were no less Galilean than the residents of Cana.  And the martyrs of Emanuel AME Church were equal citizens of the same nation as Dylan Roof.  But that didn’t really matter.

Dylan Roof didn’t walk into into Emanuel AME Church to solve a racial problem.  He came only to steal, kill, and destroy. 

Racism is a cover and conduit for deep, spiritual evil.  The Confederate flag might as well be an inverted pentagram with a goat’s head painted in it.   As long as racism, including the more insidious and covert form of racism that’s now practiced,  continues then my daughter’s fears will continue to be justified.

Some other evil person might walk into my church and shoot me because the prince of the power of the air in America has convinced him that I’m the Samaritan with the demon.

Some other agent of the spirit of this age might shoot me because I fit the profile of a no-good Galilean and that makes him “feel in fear for his life.”

It’s happened before.  It’s happened before that.  And it will happen again because we still don’t see the personal evil behind our racism.

I do. 

But it doesn’t scare me because I know that God saw it coming.

“But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” (Luke 16: 4)

I’m not afraid because I know that God has my back.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”(John 16:3)

I fear not because I’ve made up my mind that for Jesus I live and for Jesus I will, if necessary, die.

As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” (Romans 8: 36)

I’m going to continue welcoming visitors of all races.  I’m going to keep encouraging hospitality above suspicion.  I ain’t gonna stop teaching Bible study because my conduct is also a channel for something spiritually deeper:  the love and grace of Jesus Christ.

I am a Black sheep among wolves.  And Dylan Roof is not the only wolf out there.  But the Lord is my shepherd.

So, you know.  Whatever.

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 
#Awordtothewise 

You can help support this ministry with a donation to Miles Chapel CME Church.

You can help support Rev. Graves’ work by visiting his personal blog and clicking the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064

Thursday, June 11, 2015

EAT ME! : #18, Blogging through the Articles of Religion



Article XVIII - Of the Lord's Supper
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death; insomuch that, to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation, or the change of the substance of bread and wine in the Supper of our Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith.
The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshiped.

In John chapter 6, Jesus was being stalked by a crowd of fans, and followed by a handful of disciples.  They followed Him from one side of the sea/lake to the other. 

And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him [all innocent-like], “Rabbi, when did You come here?” (John 6: 25)

Jesus was like, “You know good and doggone well the only reason you’re following me  is because yesterday I gave 5,000 of you free food.” (John 6: 26, slightly paraphrased)

Then, almost as if to purposely mess with the dinner-stalkers’ heads, Jesus launched into a lecture on redemptive theology, the thesis of which could be summarized by the following suggestion:

“Eat Me!”

Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. (John 6: 53-57)

“Eat Me.”

The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” (John 6: 52)

Christians have been having the same argument since Jesus went back to Heaven.  In the sacrament of Communion (also known as the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist), we receive bread and wine and call it receiving the body and blood of Christ.  But what does that mean?

How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”

Jesus explained it to His disciples like this:
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (John 6: 63)

Get it, now? 

Spirit and life.

Jesus’ words (His lecture about body and blood) were ALIVE.  The concept was real. He wanted to be taken literally.

At the same time, the whole speech was spiritual.  

It’s hard for us to see a concept as both literal and spiritual. 

When we speak of a concept that truly exists we say use the word literally.  But when we talk about spiritual concepts we say that they are NOT to taken “literally,” which is like saying that spiritual things don’t exist.

Which crazy for Christians who worship God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy SPIRIT.

Jesus said, “God is Spirit.” (John 4: 24). 

The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

We receive the body and blood of Christ in a way that is LITERALLY SPIRITUAL.

In Communion, Jesus literally offers us His spiritual body and blood; but He does not, in any way, give us his physical skin and bodily fluids.  

Remember that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper as the fulfillment of Passover (Luke 22: 15-20).  The point of the original Passover was not the mutton that the Hebrews ate during the 10th plague (Exodus 12). The point was that God used a literal angelic spirit to literally change Israel’s status from slave to free!

In the same way, the body and blood of the Lamb of God in the sacrament of Communion is about changing us not changing the chemical composition of the Communion bread.

The elements of Communion are meant to transform us not for us to transform the elements of Communion.

Our participation in the Lord’s Supper is a kind of collective prayer.  We remember Jesus’ death and resurrection until His coming again.  We recall His suffering for the sake of our salvation.  In our liturgical responses, we tell God that we are still and again wholly committed to His plan.

You don’t change the bread.  The bread changes you.

Or rather, Jesus changes you. 

I am the bread of life. (John 6: 48)

The physical elements, though holy via consecration, are not little physical pieces of Jesus.  The elements are not little Jesus-es to be adored or worshipped or treated as talismans to ward off bad luck.

Physically they are still just baked flour and aged grape juice.

Spiritually though, they are literally something so special that treating the sacrament lightly was the reason many Corinthians Christians were sick, weak, or dead (1 Corinthians 11: 30).

The brea and wine are not transubstantiated, but by faith they are transformative.
Not physical but spiritual.
Not material but absolutely literal.
Not to be worshipped but to be taken seriously.

That may be a hard saying, but it is what Jesus literally said.

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves 
#Awordtothewise

You can help support this ministry with a donation to Miles Chapel CME Church.

You can help support Rev. Graves’ work by visiting his personal blog and clicking the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132

Fairfield, Al 35064

Sunday, June 7, 2015

IN REMEBRANCE OF ---- WHAT?

Have you ever found yourself trying to remember why you were trying to remember something?  This problem of remembrance isn’t just a problem for those of us of a certain age.  It is also a problem of the church and Christian of any age.  So much so that Jesus addressed the problem of remembrance in His instructions to the disciples at the Last Supper

Remembering what we’re supposed to can be the difference between life and death, between joy and anxiety.  Hear from the Lord, how to keep your memory right.  The message is called: IN REMEBRANCE OF ---- WHAT?


Listen well.

If you can’t get the audio on your device, visit the main podcast page at http://revandersongraves.podomatic.com/

---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

Email atgravestwo2@aol.com
Follow me on twitter @AndersonTGraves  #Awordtothewise 

You can help support this ministry with a donation to Miles Chapel CME Church.

You can help support Rev. Graves’ work by visiting his personal blog and clicking the DONATE button on the right-hand sidebar.

Support by check or money order may be mailed to 
Miles Chapel CME Church
P O Box 132
Fairfield, Al 35064


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

YOU BAPTIZE HOW? (Methodist Modes of Baptism)


John chapter 3 is the “God so loved the world…” chapter.  This is the part of the gospel where, during a late night of one-on-one pastoral counseling, Jesus famously told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.”    

We usually cut off our discussion of this passage somewhere between verses 17 and 21, while Jesus is talking about the certainty God’s love and of salvation but before Jesus, in the same conversation, starts talking about the certainty of God’s judgment and condemnation and the eternal implications of our personal moral choices.  But keep reading.

Jesus had met with Nicodemus in Jerusalem where they were celebrating Passover (John 2: 23-3:1), but in John 3:22 Christ and the Christians left the city to set up camp on the banks of the Jordan River.  Jesus preached and the disciples, as assistant pastors often do, baptized the new believers (John 3: 22; 4: 1-2).  It was church. 

Meanwhile on the west side (of the Jordan), Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist was having church, too. 

And John’s first the Baptist church was flourishing.  The traveling congregation had upgraded from river baptisms to the natural baptismal springs  of Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there (John 3: 23).   Soon though, as often happens when a church upgrades, there was an argument.

Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. (John 3: 25)

Purification is kind of a broad concept in Jewish religion, but given the context, the question centered on the proper use of water as a means of spiritual or ritual cleansing.

John chapter 3 provides the first recorded church argument over the “right” way to baptize.

We’re still having that argument.

In the Methodist church we use 3 methods (or modes) in the sacrament of baptism:
1)      We baptize by immersing people under water, like John did when he baptized his Cousin (Mark 1: 6-10).

2)      A Methodist preacher may also take water in his/her hand and sprinkle it upon the head of the baptisee.  This is a throwback to how the Old Testament priests would purify the altar, the holy items, and the people by sprinkling blood on them (Leviticus 1; Hebrews 9: 19-21)

 And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar.
Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient.”
Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.” (Exodus 24: 6-8)
  
3)      And sometimes, we take water in our cupped hands or a  vessel and pour it over the head, as God Himself “poured out the Holy Spirit on the disciples on Pentecost (Acts 2:3-4, 17-18)

In my experience, most adults ask for full immersion, especially if the church has upgraded to a location with its own baptismal pool.  Pouring and sprinkling are usually performed for small children and infants.

Yes, Methodist believe in baptizing babies.   

In Acts 16, the Apostle Paul preached to a Thyatiran matriarch named Lydia. Lydia received Christ and then had her entire family baptized (Acts 16: 14-15).  No, scripture doesn’t explicitly state that there were babies among Lydia’s household, though that is a reasonable assumption.  Scripture does make it clear that the family baptisms were all arranged by Lydia.

Way back in the day, parents arranged marriages for their children, sometimes while the fianc├ęs were still babies.  An arranged marriage, i.e. betrothal, not only obligates the children, betrothal also obligates the parents and community to prepare the children for each other and to reinforce the vows that the parents had made on their behalf until the children grew up and made the vows for themselves.

For adults, baptism is the ring publicly declaring their relationship with Jesus.  For babies, baptism is the betrothal contract marking the same at a future date TBA.

Infants don’t have the ability to say “Yes” to being the Bride of Christ.  But parents can arrange their spiritual betrothal.  

In John’s first the Baptist church, the people of God argued over the “right” way to do baptisms.  Then as now (cause human nature doesn’t change), the theology got personal.

And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” (John 3: 26)

In other words, “These two different churches are doing baptism different ways and one of us is losing the competition.”

Rev. John THE Baptist didn’t care.  He didn’t indulge their sifting of modalities.  He didn’t take sides in their methodological factions.  John the Baptiser said: I am not the Christ. (John 3: 28). 

Translation:  I don’t have a Heaven or a Hell to put you in based on what I do with the water in this baptismal pool.

Baptism is the ring the bride wears, but what really matters is the Groom who gives it to her.
So whether your relationship with Jesus Christ is marked with full immersion, sprinkling, or pouring; whether the token is given as an adult or as a baby, whether you taken the mark of baptism at the church over here or the church over there---- just make sure that you have a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Over here on the Methodist side of the Jordan, we will rejoice not in the way you’re baptized but in the fact that you’ve found Jesus.

He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. (John 3: 29)


---Anderson T. Graves II   is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama;  executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO);  and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).

Subscribe to my personal blog  www.andersontgraves.blogspot.com .

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P O Box 132

Fairfield, Al 35064