This morning, I had the honor of baptizing 6 adults; 2 woman from the diversion center across the street from our church, and two married couples. All with powerful stories that were shared publicly for all to hear.
And I stood next to each one, and listened to their story being read, I couldn’t help but notice the details that were quite clearly NOT left out. Details of drug abuse, addiction, and dealing. Details of alcoholism, depression, and deep pain. Details of rape, family dysfunctions, and even suicide attempts.
What, in heaven’s name would drive anyone to divulge their past in such certain, unmistakable terms? There they stood, truth told, unashamed. What was it? It was redemption.
When we are redeemed, we are set free. But not merely freedom from our past, but from the shame of our past. Freedom from caring any longer about what people think of where we came from, or what we’ve done. Freedom to, as the hymnist penned it, “the uttermost”.
I used to work in a boardwalk arcade in Cape May, New Jersey. It was one of several summer jobs I had as a teenager. One of the tasks I had was to stand behind the “redemption counter”. Kids would play the games; skee-ball, slot machines, and other things that would dispense tickets and tokens instead of money. Then, when they were done playing, they would bring their tickets and tokens to the redemption counter, turn them in to me, and I’d tell them how many points they had earned. They would then choose a prize that corresponded with that point amount.
My favorite moments were when a small child would come up to the redemption counter with their heart set on a particular prize in the glass case that separated us. Yet they’d be woefully short on points to “afford” the object of their desire. These moments were my favorite because I would take the points they had, give a quick look around to see if the manager were nearby, and give the child the thing they so wanted, yet were so far from being able to afford.
Redemption is a powerful thing. In fact, the only thing more powerful than redemption is unearned redemption. And that’s where we all stand. We are all woefully short on “points”, yet the Father takes all we have and all we are and dispenses to us grace, forgiveness, hope, and peace.