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.