We baptized a new Christian yesterday, in church--young man who has had a rough go it up till two or three months ago, made a lot of bad choices and had things turn out unhappily. If I'd wanted to engage in some nefarious and shadowy activity, he could have been my guide. In the gray light of day, on the feast of presentation of Jesus in the temple, he stood on the step facing the congregation renouncing Satan and all his works and turning to Jesus and embracing him as Lord. Then he turned around to face the altar and Matt called the congregation forward to lay hands on and pray for him. There was a sort of rush out of the pews and nearly everyone who could stand and walk seemed propelled towards him. Elphine, standing next to me in her bright red acolyte robe, turned red in the face and her eyes got teary and she looked like she was going to cry. Then he went up to the font and was baptized and handed and candle and anointed with oil and then Matt said, as he always does because it is written in the bulletin, "Let us welcome the newly baptized". There was a great corporate shout and whistling and applause and I think someone banged on a pew. And then the peace took forever because everyone. Everyone. came out to greet him. Later he stood around in the parish hall holding an enormous cake and being photographed with lots of people who were meeting him for the first time.
The picture of him standing on the step, holding a candle and grinning broadly, came back to me as I watched what seemed like endless footage of poor Peyton Manning and his woebegone team in the third and fourth quarters of yesterday's game. It was no contest, really. The Broncos ran out onto the field and were suddenly and completely defeated. They stood no chance. But nobody knew before the game. People made predictions on both sides. It seemed like any outcome was possible. The complete routing, as I got more and more foggy because these games are so so long, worked itself into an icon in my mind of this young man's new life in Jesus. Evil, crowding in on him, has no chance. He looks vulnerable, holding his thin small flame, his grin and the expression of life in his eyes the only mark that a new great force dwells within, that he cannot be defeated, that evil has been vanquished. There will be attacks on all sides. But there won't really be any contest.
And then the total and overwhelming rejoicing. I think those laboring on in the kingdom of heaven, like me, get so discouraged. It seems like we just work and work and pray and evil is so big and God doesn't choose to do what we want him to. He could solve the Syrian crisis in a moment. He could break Pastor Saeed out of prison. He could get that house sold or heal that person. To the world, and sometimes to me on the inside, it seems like it could go either way. Maybe evil will prevail after all. Predictions are made on both sides. The eyes full of life, the grin, the thin vanquishing light, the cake, the church full of rejoicing came at the right moment. A super day, a day of presentation and joy, a clear picture of how the battle will ultimately play out.