There’s a rhythm to a church service.
Each church is a little different, but overall, there is a schedule for singing, a time for the message, an intentional break for communion and meditation. Each component has its time and its place. People like consistency and church is one of the places that obliges.
In the majority of churches, you don’t interrupt the sermon to demand to be baptized. It’s not the appointed time. It’s not on the schedule. It’s unexpected.
But that’s exactly what my grandpa did.
I wasn’t there. It wasn’t at my church. I didn’t even know this story existed until after my grandpa had passed away. My aunt told me.
My paternal grandparents weren’t church people. They didn’t go to church on Sundays, didn’t make an effort to show up for Easter and Christmas to get their obligatory church in. They weren’t interested. They didn’t put much stock in God or Jesus or Christians. It seemed unnecessary, too fussy, too many rules.
But in their seventies they bought Bibles, put on some fancy clothes, and started going to church with my aunt. I don’t know if it was fear of death and the unknown, resignation after a life of quietly protesting Jesus, or a butt-kicking from the Holy Spirit (I’d be willing to guess it was a good mix of all three), but they wanted Jesus in their old age. I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t a little shocked when I heard they were going to church, that they owned Bibles, that they were reading them.
It seemed out of character.
One of my favorite things about Jesus is the absolutely crazy, over-the-top ways He shows Himself. The way He surprises those who think they can’t be surprised, those who think they have things figured out. I love that my God is creative, loving, and writes the best stories. He is the Author of All and loves the unexpected thrill of a plot twist better than anyone.
My grandparents loving Jesus was a major plot twist.
When I was younger, my grandma made Easter dresses and Christmas dresses for me, my sister, and all my cousins. She helped us get ready for Christian holidays with ruffles and lace, poofy dresses and matching hats. But she never joined us at church. She never celebrated with us. My grandparents never (to me, at least…) said church and God was wrong, but they were not interested.
But seventy-something years in, they decided they were.
They had been going to church for a while one Sunday when my grandpa, in the middle of listening to the sermon, decided he needed to be baptized. I don’t know what the message was about or what he heard that made him react so strongly, but my grandpa realized suddenly he needed Jesus and he wanted to be baptized.
So he stood up in the middle of the minister’s message, interrupted the lesson, and demanded to be baptized right then.
Demanded is the absolute best word for the above sentence. He demanded to be baptized. He didn’t ask. He didn’t quietly talk to the minister after service. He didn’t go home to consult friends and family. He didn’t wait for the appropriate time in the schedule. He didn’t fill out a comment card asking for someone to call him. He didn’t wait for the invitation hymn at the end of the service. He needed Jesus right at that moment.
He could not wait to be baptized.
After seventy-odd years, his need was urgent and immediate.
I want Jesus like that. I want to hear His stories, see His grace, and understand His mercy in such an overwhelming way there is not even time to think what would be socially acceptable. I want to react before I worry who might see or what someone might think. I want eyes on Jesus and no one else in my periphery.
I demand Jesus.
I am desperate for Jesus.
Sorry if that seems pushy, but I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I need Jesus. I need Him to interrupt my schedule, get in the middle of my plan, and prompt movement and reaction to His love in inappropriate times, when it’s not on the agenda, when it seems like bad timing, when it’s not convenient.
My grandpa was sinful and flawed. He hurt people, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not intentionally. He was selfish and mean. He was not always honest. He was sad and angry and hurting. He was demanding in lots of areas of his life.
He was exactly like me.
He was exactly like you.
But the difference–where things changed for him–was when he realized he needed help. Help from the Ultimate Helper, the Redeemer of Broken Things, the Healer of All Wounds. My grandpa realized doing it alone wasn’t working for him anymore, and he demanded help. Immediate, live-giving help.
And so they baptized him.
My grandpa became a Christ follower, a son of the Living God in a small brick church on a Sunday morning when it wasn’t convenient, planned, or appropriately-timed.
I bet God wishes we were more like my grandpa in that way. More Holy Spirit spontaneous. More Jesus-reactionary. More God-led than schedule-led.
Can you imagine what church and life and our world would look like if we stopped paying so much attention to what’s next on the plan and started being more Spirit-prompted?
I think there would be more dancing in the streets like David.
I think there would be more feasts and celebrations like the Israelites had when they finally made it to the Promise Land.
I think there would be more people in our homes and less loneliness.
I think there would be more Rahabs taking in strangers not even sure why other than because God told us to.
I think there would be more Isaiahs speaking out against destructive living.
I think there would be more honest conversations and better understanding.
I guarantee there would be more Jesus followers.