Immersed (in spirit): The coffee cup

Adapting traditional forms of baptism to enhance journeys of faith

By Ray Kipe

The coffee cup

The woman was not able to even sit up, but she was awake and alert enough to talk. So I pulled up a chair beside the bed and explained that I was there because her neighbors had said she wanted to speak to a minister. “Here I am,” I said. “What would you like to talk about?”

She told me she would like to be baptized. Because of my belief that baptism is, at least, a public profession of faith in Christ for salvation, I inquired about her relationship with Jesus. She told me that she had invited Jesus to be her Savior when she was younger but had never been baptized. After asking a few more questions, I felt assured that she had a genuine faith in Christ.

“I believe I can baptize you,” I said. “When would you like for it to happen?”

I was thinking, There is no way this lady can get into a baptismal pool, the way I’m used to baptizing people, and I am not sure she has the strength to be dunked under water three times.

“Can I be baptized now?” she asked.

I guess I was feeling a little bit like Philip in Acts 8:36, when the Ethiopian eunuch said, “Look, here is some water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” I could not think of any reason that the lady should not be baptized, except that the mode I was familiar with was not feasible. I remember looking around the room and spying a coffee cup on her bedside stand.

“I can sprinkle you with water to baptize you now, if you want to,” I offered.

She replied, “That would be okay.”

I poured water from a small pitcher into the mug, leaned over her bed, and said, “Because of your profession of faith and obedience to Christ, the head of the Church, I baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” I distinctly remember trying to fit my big fingers into the cup to get them wet enough to give her a legitimate sprinkle.

I then prayed for her, and she fell asleep during my prayer, even though it was not a long one. I learned from her neighbors that the woman died about a week later.

From time to time, I’ve found myself wondering about that baptism. Is it valid if the person falls asleep during the service”? Does a testimony count, even if it’s a series of “yes” and “no” responses to leading questions?

I don’t profess to have answered these questions completely. But I do know this: that if our Lord has power over sin and death, then He can certainly use water—whether it’s out of a lake, a baptismal font, a pool, or a coffee cup—to baptize someone with His Spirit.

This article originally appeared in the winter 2011 issue of In Part magazine.
Ray Kipe

Ray Kipe, who serves as a pastor at Five Forks BIC in Waynesboro, Pa., was baptized in a muddy river in Africa. He and his wife, Darlyss, live in Waynesboro.

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