The most important day of my life

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Very early in my relationship with Julie, she told me something that left me wondering, “What???” She said, “You’re the second-best thing ever to happen to me.” I was afraid to bite, but still I asked, “What’s the best?” She replied, “My baptism into Christ.”

It’s kinda hard to beat the Lord.

On May 19, 1957, the best thing ever to happen to me took place when I was baptized into Christ. Even Julie comes in second to Him.

There is no question about it, no debate, no polls to take. May 19, 1957, was and will remain the most important day of my earthly life, because here is what happened when my parents brought their nineteen-day-old son to the brand new St. James Catholic Church in Montague, Michigan.

I was united with Jesus Christ in His death and His resurrection. (Romans 6:3-5, Colossians 2:12)

I was washed and cleansed. (1 Corinthians 6:11, Ephesians 5:27)

I was sanctified (made holy). (1 Corinthians 6:11)

I was made an heir with Christ having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:7)

I was forgiven all my sins. (Acts 2:38)

I was justified (made righteous) in the eyes of God the Father. (Titus 3:7)

I was clothed with Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:27)

I was given the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

I was made a member of the one Christian Church. (Ephesians 4:4-6)

I was saved. (Mark 16:16, Titus 3:4, 1 Peter 3:21)

I was renewed. (Titus 3:4)

I was reborn. (Titus 3:4, John 3:5-7)

I was given the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)

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All of this happened when the water was poured over me and the priest said, “Gregory John Eilers, I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” May 19, 1957, became my rebirthday, the day I went from being dead in trespasses and sins to being alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:2-5), when Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice (1 Peter 3:18, Hebrews 10:10) became the gift which I have carried with me, and will carry with me, all the days of my earthly pilgrimage.

As with being physically born, I had nothing to do with being spiritually born (John 1:13). Just as I did not understand—and often didn’t know they were even happening—any of the gifts my parents gave me in my infant days, yet those things worked for my benefit—being fed and clothed and inoculated and the like, especially being given their name—I did not need to understand what was happening at the baptismal font. Just as my physical life was pure gift, so was my spiritual life a gift.

Whether being born, or being born again, it’s all grace, all gift, nothing we do, all done for us, first by our parents, then by our Father in heaven, through the work of His Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

On the date I am posting this, sixty years ago today was, and shall remain, the most important day in my life, the best thing ever to happen to me. I received all of the gifts which I need in order to walk my pilgrimage to eternal life, to the day of the resurrection of all flesh, to the day when Jesus Christ will make everything right (1 Corinthians 15:42-44) by making right all that has gone wrong because of the sin I inherited from Adam, through my parents (Psalm 51:5).

Happy rebirthday to me! Alleluia!

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My most unusual baptism

With my turning sixty this year, I have been posting on Facebook what I hope are interesting things from my life.  Generally, they are fairly short bits.  The piece which follows is longer and, because it is, and because of its nature, I found it worthy to place on my blog.

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I did not keep track of how many baptisms I performed during my eighteen years of ministry. My best guess is that it was around one hundred. Using that as my number, 99% of them were done the usual, Lutheran way, in church, at the baptismal font.

One was not in church. No baptismal font was in view. But we had water at our disposal when Roland nodded his head that, yes, he wanted to be baptized.

Roland was known by all as Slim—and, I kid you not, his slimmer twin brother was called Fat—was in his seventies, had suffered a stroke, and found himself in a nursing home. His sister, Ann, was one of my congregation’s faithful members and, with her husband, Barney, a woman with whom I was very close.

Ann called me, concerned for her brother. Slim had never become a Christian. He’d never been baptized. Would I visit him?

Gladly!

A day or two later, I found Slim in his room. He was unable to speak much, but for basic communication. I can’t recall whether Ann met me in his room the first time. She likely did. I told Slim why I was there and of his sister’s concern. He reacted positively. Because of his stroke, I sort of had him cornered, but if he were not interested in my being there I would not have forced myself on him.

I asked if I might speak to him of the Christian faith. He nodded. That first day, I explained the very basics. A week or two later, I returned to cover some more. On my third visit, Ann and Barney planned to be there, along with Slim’s wife, Helen.

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I wonder how many hundreds of times I visited this place.

We were visiting in one of the day rooms at Huron County Medical Care Facility, next door to the hospital in the curiously named town of Bad Axe. (The tale goes that, back in the day, to mark a crossroads, someone stuck a broken axe into a tree. When the spot turned into the town, what else would anyone name it but Bad Axe?)

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See?  I wasn’t kidding!

I had covered the vital aspects of the faith. I now rehearsed them with Slim so that I might ask him if he believed, if he recognized his sinfulness and His need for the Lord Jesus. Finally, I asked Slim if he wanted to be baptized.

To each question, Slim nodded in the affirmative. Ann beamed.

We were in need of water.

I spied a sink across the room. I said, “I’ve never done a baptism like this, but that spigot is just the right height so that, if we back up Slim’s wheelchair to it and have him tip his head back, I can baptize him right here. I know that it might not seem very holy, but because the Lord will work His promises of forgiveness, life, and salvation in His Word and the water, it will be just as holy as any baptism.”

Smiles abounded, so I went into action.

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It was a tap like this which provided the perfect flow of water for our unique baptism.

We got Slim backed up, lined up, and head back. Turning on the water so that I had a gentle flow, I dipped my hand into it and poured the water onto Slim, first speaking his proper full name, and then the familiar words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father (splash of water on his forehead, and of the Son (splash), and of the Holy Spirit (splash). Amen.”

That was in the spring of 2004. The next Christmas Eve, Slim fell asleep in Jesus.

At the funeral home in Kinde, I officiated Slim’s funeral, burying him as a Christian as if he’d been one his entire life, and joyously telling all of his family and friends the fun and happy story of how Ann took action on her brother’s behalf, and how Slim had been washed in Christ in a most unusual way.

Over the ten more years I was in Port Hope, on occasion Ann and I would reminisce about those days. Always with smiles on our faces. Always with joy in our hearts.