If I (John) could only come to India for one day on these visits, I would insist that it be convention Sunday. There is so much rich and glorious worship, fellowship, love and encouragement packed into one day. It is the sweetest exhaustion that we go to rest with tonight.
Baptism: I will never get over the weight and joy of the baptism celebrations here. To describe it in writing would not do the experience justice. I imagine that watching a video even leaves something missing. The totality of the experience heralds authentic submission, elated union, and corporate sanctification.
Their were 20 who publicly confessed their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. The body of Christ moves from the meeting place down several paths to the next terrace below. Those being baptized are in a procession, a triumphant one of course, making their way to the pool while rejoicing with song in one voice with all the believers.
Another hiccup, which we have become accustomed to while the Indian church tries to introduce more and more technology, wireless microphones have range limitations. I am glad. The purity and sincerity of their spirit of worship comes through much louder with out the amplification.
As the procession goes, streams of believers come from every opening scampering to be in a place to watch. Children crowd past adult legs. Every step, ledge, and stone is used to leverage a better vantage point for the celebration. The nearby windows are a collage of faces maneuvering to behold this occasion.
There is excitement in the air. The women are baptized first. They come in wedding gowns to illustrate their union with Christ. They are anticipating the marriage supper of the lamb and it is hard to convey the emotions of watching.
As they come up from the water, prayer and song break out by one and all! It is a beautiful expression of faith! Witnessing this has consistently been the greatest enjoyment of each of my 3 trips to India.
Communion: During the Sunday morning church service that follows the baptism, a couple of very impassioned messages are delivered by Pastor Maddu and Pastor Babu. We have no idea what they are saying but the church is responding in exclamation. I imagine that Babu and Maddu are not talking about a small and powerless God.
This is followed by the Lord’s supper. They literally break bread as Babu rips apart several loaves to be distributed to hundreds in attendance. A single pitcher of grape juice fills a few cups. The pitcher is refilled with water but the residual color is effective in disguising the dilution but not the taste. It doesn’t matter. This is the clearest picture of our oneness in Christ and it hits each one of us as it has on my previous two trips the same way. We are separated by great distance, language, culture, appearance but we are brought together as one race, a Holy nation, a royal priesthood and a people for His own possession by the body and blood of the lamb. We take and eat today in remembrance of the only one that can secure our shared citizenship in the Lord’s kingdom.
Just as I was being introduced to give the closing message a young man among those who was baptized fell forward in his chair in a seizure. It created a bit of a localized response as they tried to protect him while he passed it. I had noticed the boy, maybe 17 years old, during the baptism as a particularly thin person. When I saw his exhausted body carried out I was struck by just how small his frame actually was. It looked like he was about 5’7″ and 80 pounds. It is hard to imagine what it would be like to have health challenges here. It appears to be another great way the church gives glory to God and affirmation to the Love of Christ in them in caring for this young man. He was prayed for and carried away and I thought to myself what else could happen in the service to make me feel less adequate to preach to the occasion.
Convention Sunday worship is breathtaking. The instruments are put away and the songs are the more familiar Sunday morning songs known the body. They are in engaged in worship together, every one, in heart, mind, body, and soul! It seems this is a shadow of what heaven will be like and it feels like what we were created for. Surely, His name was brought glory and honor in this place this morning.
I spoke briefly to convey our appreciation and affection for them as we will not again see this group together on our trip. This group will return to their village churches and we will set out on the road in Kerala tomorrow. I read from Psalms 2 to encourage the new believers that the Hindus can’t have them back. We read from 1 Peter 2:8-10 and focused on the purpose of our citizenship in the kingdom was to “proclaim.” They each one committed to proclaim. I trust them.
Following the nearly 4 hour service, not including the 1 hour baptismal service prior, we once again enjoyed the spectacle of feeding nearly 1000 people a fresh cooked meal of curry chicken and a mountain of rice. They are very efficient.
After the intense schedule of the convention the Samuel house is the perfect sanctuary for fellowship with their family and one another, relaxation, filling up on cury, naan, and cashews. We napped some, laughed some, played games, shared reflections, and enjoyed the bond that is increasingly forming among us.
Prayer: Father in heaven we give you thanks for this day. Give us kingdom purpose tomorrow with eyes to see it, faith to accept it, and power to do it. Do a work in and through us that brings You glory and honor.