Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 9, 2005


Baptism stories are some of best stories preachers tell


          Everybody loves a good baptism story. Tell one and you get to listen to a dozen more. It is like showing someone pictures of your grandchildren. Do it and you get to look at pictures of their grandkids.

          Every preacher has a baptism account more exciting than your own. My friend Paul Duffey, now a retired Methodist bishop, told the first baptism story I ever heard. He spoke at a religious emphasis meeting when I was a student at Auburn, back when the school was still API.

          Paul had us in stitches as he told about his attempt to baptize a rather large woman in a creek somewhere in Tennessee. When he pushed her head under the water, the swift water in the creek snatched her away from him. Moments later she burst up to the surface, gasping for air, 20 feet downstream.

          Of course there are baptism stories and then there are baptism jokes. One of the best is about the drunk who came upon a warm Sunday afternoon baptizing in a creek. The preacher, standing waist deep in the water, called out to the drunk, “Brother, do you want to find Jesus?”

          “Sure,” the drunk replied, and waded out into the water. The holy man promptly put him under for a few seconds. When he raised him up, he asked, “Did you find Jesus?”

          “No sir,” he responded.

          So the preacher put him under the water again, holding him down a little longer than before. Raising him up, the preacher asked the same question, “Did you find Jesus?” Again the drunk replied, “No sir.”

          A third time the preacher pushed him all the way under. This time he held him down for at least a full minute, all the while praying aloud for the brother to find Jesus.

          Asked a third time if he had found Jesus, the man struggled to breathe, broke loose from the preacher’s grasp, and said, “No, I didn’t find him and I don’t think Jesus is down there!”

          A friend told me that her new church has a fountain outside the church. When they have a baptism, the bottom can be removed so that it is deep enough for a baptizing. She remembers with a smile an elderly woman wearing a shower cap on her head when she was baptized. The preacher was wise enough not to remove the cap and baptized her, cap and all.

          The baptism of children is risky business. Their innocence can generate unexpected laughter. One little fellow came up out of the water and exclaimed loudly, “I tooted!” The pastor smiled and moved on. There is no response in the ritual for such a comment.

          One woman shared with me that her husband was baptized in the Atlantic Ocean while he was in the Marine Corp. “The water was so cold that the preacher beat him out of the water,” she recalled.

          My friend Betty Cates told me perhaps the funniest baptism story of all. She heard a Methodist preacher tell this for the truth. The preacher, who has two artificial legs, was wearing chest waders while baptizing a young girl.

          To his great surprise the waders had holes in them. As the waders filled with water, he found it impossible to keep one of his legs from floating up. The girl being baptized knew about his legs and, trying to help, she pushed the leg down only to have the other leg pop up and hit her in the chin.

          Capsized and helpless, the preacher almost drowned before someone jumped into the baptistry to save him. It took three people to drag the preacher out of the water.

          I can’t stop laughing so I will stop with that. + + + +