Grace Notes

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Shine, Jesus, shine

By Nancy Kennedy

My usual church time is the Saturday night service. If I do go to church on Sunday, I prefer going at 9 a.m.

A few weeks ago, however, I went to the later Sunday morning service because I was meeting someone afterward for a newspaper story I was working on.

On Saturday nights, I like to watch the sky through the giant arched window above the stage area in the sanctuary. At this time of year, the sun sets while church is going on and dusk is gorgeous, with the sky changing from blue to amber to black.

But at 11 a.m., with the window facing east-ish, the sky through the big window remains a brilliant azure, at least it was on that Sunday morning.

During the opening song time, we stood and sang the 332-year-old hymn "Fairest Lord Jesus."

As we sang, a bright beam of sunlight streamed through, not the big arched window, but one of the windows way up near the top of the massively tall cathedral ceiling.

My church is not a cathedral, but what an appropriate name for a type of ceiling that draws the eye upward.

Those who regularly attend the Sunday morning service know about the streaming sunbeam and its near-blinding light, and they adjust their seating to get out of its way.

But since I didn't know about it, I got caught in its ray, and so did the bouncy, kicky 3-year-old little boy sitting next to me.

He was there, waiting to be baptized, although not waiting patiently. The more his mother whispered frustrated threats for him to behave himself just a little while longer or else, the more he didn't want to behave himself.

I felt for the kid. It's not easy when you're 3 and you want to run and squirm and kick the lady next to you.

I felt for the mom. It's not easy raising a sinner when you're one yourself.

"This is a good day for a baptism," I told her. She was in the sunbeam, too.

At my church, we believe baptism is about presenting oneself or one's child to God in front of a host of witnesses and saying, "I'm foul and dirty and kicky and squirmy and part of me wants to run, but I acknowledge that I'm in desperate need of the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus."

We believe baptism isn't so much that we're promising to be good from now on and follow Jesus and be obedient so his light will shine on us. Rather, we believe that in baptism God makes the promises. He shines his light on his people and promises to go with them in the darkness and in the deep waters and the fog.

He promises to go with us in our sin and weakness and in our victory and triumphs, when we do the wrong thing and when we do the right thing.

He promises to be faithful even if and when we're not and to bring us safely through life and death and unto life again. He promises never to remove his light from us once we are his.

We sang, "Fair is the sunshine, fair is the moonlight, and all the twinkling starry host," and "Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer than all the angels heav'n can boast" as the sun shone down through the window to where the little boy and I stood.

In the light, the blond in his hair glistened and I reached over to touch it. He looked so angelic - and then he squirmed and pouted and hit his mother, and I tried hard not to laugh.

Another song we sang went: "I heard the voice of Jesus say, 'I am this dark world's Light. Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise and all thy day be bright."

The little boy was baptized and eventually the sunbeam moved away, as all sunbeams do, and Jesus continued and continues to shine on those he loves and came to save - brighter and purer than all the angels heav'n can boast.