Isn't it amazing how you can go through what seems like a typical day and end up meeting a very special new friend and experience God in a new way?
This happened to me today. It's a Thursday. A day of church staff meetings, preparing last minute changes to the sermon, doing some administrative work, and making a few visits. But this Thursday was very different. I met a new friend who taught this pastor about faith.
His name is Brayden Tacket, a seven year old. Brayden is like most every other seven year old. He loves video games, watching tv, making jokes, and putting puzzles together. But there is one big difference. Brayden has terminal cancer. And he knows that he's going to die.
Brayden told his family that he wanted to be baptized because in his words, if he's going to die, he wants to know for sure that he will be going to heaven. A member of my church who has been working closely with Brayden called me on the phone to see if I could come and baptize him.
And so I went to Brayden's house. Brayden was playing a video game when I arrived. I could tell he was a little unsure of who this strange man was who came to visit him. Even after I explained that I was a pastor of a United Methodist Church and came to get to know him, he seemed a little cautious of this man of the cloth.
But that all changed quickly when he started putting a puzzle together on the floor. "Hey, do you want to help me with this Spiderman puzzle?" It was that puzzle that began a new special friendship between the two of us.
After one puzzle, we began work on another one. And then it was time. Family and friends had moved into the room. The bowl was filled with warm water. And I asked Brayden if he was ready to be baptized. All of the sudden, this talkative, quick-humored seven year old was speechless. A serious look came upon his face and he nodded his head in agreement. Yes, he was ready. Oh how he was ready!
I told Brayden a little about Jesus, how he had lived on this earth a long time ago calling people to follow him and how he helped people come to know God. And I said that he then died on a cross so that we can live with God forever and three days later God helped him to become alive again. I concluded the briefest sermon I have probably ever given by saying that Jesus is alive and is present with us for his baptism.
"Brayden, the reason we use this water for baptism, is to remind you that just as water helps us to get clean in a bath, God cleans us so that we can be with him forever." After this brief baptism instruction, I felt ready to ask Brayden the big question, "Do you have any questions you want to ask me?"
By the way he was concentrating on my every word and knowing he was a very outgoing seven year old, I had a hunch that he probably had something to tell me. As he looked intently into my eyes, and after a long 5 to 10 seconds had elapsed, he finally said to me,
"I have to pee first."
I didn't expect that particular comment in that particular moment but you have to know my new friend, Brayden. Brayden is beyond his years. He knows to cut to the chase and how to dispense with long conversations. When he's ready, he's ready.
Brayden came back from the bathroom with a family member guiding him and after stumbling to the floor since he has some paralysis on one side, he sat back down and said, "I'm ready."
"Brayden, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." We all laid hands on young Brayden and I offered a prayer that he would always know that Jesus loves him and will always be there for him.
For the rest of my time in Brayden's home, he stared intently at his lit baptism candle which included his name on it. He then spent time looking at a large cross which was another gift. And then he sat on my lap and we enjoyed each other's company.
Depending on his health, he might be able to attend church some Sunday. That would be great. All I know is that in the middle of this typical Thursday, I got to attend church in the living room of my new friend, Brayden Tackett.