“As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’ He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.”
Excerpt from Acts 8:26-40
Today, if someone wants to get a baby baptized, they first call our church and check some dates against the church calendar. Then they may call around to family, godparents and friends to see who might be available for the brunch. Perhaps next they see if the baby fits into the pre-purchased little baptismal outfit, and if he suddenly looks like a ten-pound sausage in a five-pound bag, they might choose that earlier date. But it all takes a lot of planning.
Unlike the early church leader, Phillip, I have never been stopped by a eunuch and gotten myself talked into performing a baptism on the side of the road. But I think it might be good for me.
Churches are complex institutions. They have rules and procedures and calendars, and we don’t need to apologize for that. That’s how we weave together the fabric of community, and make possible our communal worship of God.
But we must never let the rules and regulations become the object of our worship. If the winds of the Holy Spirit can’t blow through them, the fabric is knit too tight.
Healthy churches have room for the question: “What is to prevent me?” And their leaders are careful not to answer that question too quickly with a list of things like the bylaws, our tradition or the schedule.
If we can hold our tongues when the newcomer asks “What is to prevent me?” we might find ourselves realizing that indeed, the Holy Spirit is trying to blow through us with a little spiritual spontaneity. And we might say, “Well, why not?”
God, what is to prevent me? What is to prevent me from doing the thing I have not yet imagined? Well, why not? Amen.
Grace and Peace