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Pastor’s viewpoint: Jan.13, 2018

In 2013, Mary Ella and I were in Hollywood with Rox and Vicky Johnson and took the tour. We drove past Mel Gibson’s house and the driver told us about a time when Mel was working in his yard as they drove past. They stopped and a passenger shouted, “Why is your house so small?” He lives across from the Playboy Mansion and behind Jennifer Lopez’ antebellum mansion … in a relatively small house.
Mel stopped what he was doing and walked over to the van, “I’m single, what do I need with a big house?”
I remembered that story when I noticed this scripture focused on baptism. Baptism is about a new birth; it’s about new beginnings. The philosopher Mel Gibson once said, “It’s a wise man who understands that every day is a new beginning, because boy, how many mistakes do you make in a day? I don’t know about you, but I make plenty. You can’t turn the clock back, so you have to look ahead.”
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’” Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)
After the Reformation, when the Protestants separated from the Catholics, they chose to keep two of their sacraments, which only ordained clergy can administer. There is some question about whether they did that because they thought those were only valid if administered by ordained clergy or whether they didn’t want to leave the ordained clergy with nothing to do. In any case, baptism and holy communion are the two official sacraments of the Protestant movement and only ordained clergy can administer them.
There are also questions about both sacraments; can grape juice be substituted for wine in holy communion? Or can the youth group use a soft drink instead? Do we really have to use a common cup or can we use the small individual cups? And should we be “dunked” or is it acceptable to “sprinkle?” The early church only used “running water;” so can we immerse in a pool of still water?
Sometimes our religious questions get in the way of our faith; the real question is can we take advantage of the new birth we receive by faith in Jesus? Can we really make a new beginning? Can we leave the past behind and, as Mel Gibson says, “Look ahead?”

Charles ‘Buddy’ Whatley is a retired United Methodist pastor and, with Mary Ella, a missionary to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.