The title is jarring, but it is the only one that comes to mind. The certificate is sitting right here - a baptism certificate for Andre. He had been visiting Spirit of Hope with his best friend for some time when they both declared their intention to join the church and be baptized. As the day came closer, Andre was less consistent in his attendance. Time passed and his friend was baptized, but Andre dropped out of sight. The certificate was prepared and ready. He would come back, right? It was set aside.
A few months later, two years ago January 7th, we learned that Andre had died. He had been baptized into a different life. In a day of poor decision making, he tagged along on a robbery with an older acquaintance with great influence on him. It was the house of a police officer, and Andre was shot as they tried to enter. And he was gone.
Andre is gone, but his baptism certificate remains, never baptized. At least once or twice a month I look at it on the shelf in my office. In a world as intense as
it is easy to lose track of a sister or a brother. We lost track of Andre. Damn it. Detroit
Tomorrow, on the day of the year when the church recognizes the baptism of Jesus, we are going to burn that certificate at Spirit Farm, along with prayer cloth and other sacred items. As the prayers turn from cloth and marker into dust, ash and smoke, they will be put into the universe. So will the potential of the life of Andre and his baptism.
With time, ash and smoke turns into hope. Part of Andre’s name is in the name of one of the babies in our congregation. It does not feel like a lot of power, but it is something. Baptism of the Spirit, by the fire of the Spirit, will live past the few minutes of the fire we start tomorrow.
May the fire of the Spirit lead us to watch out for one another, bother and cajole one another. May the fire of the Spirit teach us. May it open our ears and our hearts. May it burn in us the memories of the failures and the victories.
Teach us, Spirit. Baptize us every day. Grab us. Hold on to us. Do not let go.