by Vicar Allison Johnson
I am by no means a liturgical nerd. Church is amazing, but growing up in Wisconsin, I never really got into anything “high” church—incense, fancy vestments, beautiful paraments, etc. None of it mattered much to me because I didn’t know much about it all.
My enjoyment and appreciation for all of these things has grown immensely, but I am still no liturgical nerd.
So, when our worship professor at Gettysburg announced that there would be a worship conference in Atlanta, GA, where seminarians could earn scholarships to attend, I was only mildly interested. My two best friends and I talked about going. What’s better than a week in Atlanta with your two best friends and other church people? They had convinced me, and the closer it came, the more I actually got excited.
July came, and I was ready to be educated, to meet other seminarians from various schools, and to experience great worship. There were amazing scholars, musicians, pastors, students, and lay people from all over gathered for this conference. I heard talks about different ways to “do” sermons, different ways to think about Scripture, and so much more.
Our last worship service was the most memorable part for me. Not only did I hear Nadia Bolz-Weber preach in person, help distribute communion with other seminary students, but after the sermon we were all invited to take part in the various prayer stations set up in the room.
Icons. Candles. Coloring. Art. Anointing. Forgiveness. Charities. And more.
But my favorite station of all was the HUGE baptismal font in the middle of the floor. There was someone constantly at this station pouring water back into the font. I patiently worked my way toward the font, staring intensely at the guy pouring water.
When I finally made it to the font, I stretched out my hands and felt the water being poured generously onto my hands. I closed my eyes for a second and felt the tears welling in my eyes. I made the sign of the cross on my forehead and walked back to my seat.
Never before in my life had I ever been so moved by the baptismal waters. There are moments when the gravity of the story of Jesus crucified and risen just hits you, and that was one of them.
The abundance of water being poured all over my arms, an undeserving sinner, was beautiful. Washed clean. Forgiven. Redeemed. Saved. Loved. Valued.
I didn’t feel as if I deserved to be any of those things, and yet I realized so strongly in that moment that it was all given to me anyway.
“In baptism our gracious heavenly Father frees us from our sin and death…” the ELW says to us in the opening of the baptismal liturgy. Those words felt so real to me that day, and I pray that I remain thankful for this precious gift given to me freely by God.
I pray that whoever touches water is reminded of that beautiful gift given to us—new life in Christ Jesus, who was crucified and raised for us. A gift that reminds us who God is and that we belong to this generous God.