Assembly Storytime

One of the sessions I attend at Spurgeon’s College is ‘chapel.’ This is basically an Assembly, just the same as every school used to hold at 10am each morning, the whole school gathered to sit on a cold hard floor for a bit of singing, a Bible-related talk and notices for the day. We don’t have to sit on the floor, and no one is glared at for whispering or removed for kicking the person in front, but other than that it’s identical.

One chapel service included a story, which is always my favourite thing. I believe the person leading chapel copied it from someone else, so you might know it already—but stories are meant to be copied and changed and passed on, so I will share it with you. Grab a coffee and settle back, and I will begin…

River Jordan near lake Kinneret Taken from Google Images, (c) copyright 2016 Land of the Bible

We are travelling way back in time, to where John the Baptist is baptising people in the river. Imagine a hot sun shining above, the waves lapping onto the beach, John up to his waist in water, busily baptising.

Hoards of people have come to see the weird-man-who-eats-locusts, they have heard him preach, they want to be dunked under the water to show that they believe what he has said, and they want to change, to be better people. Being baptised—dunked in the water—was not unusual in those days, it was a way to show you were changing something, ‘dying’ to the old way, and starting again. They were being baptised because they knew they were wrong. Try to imagine them, lounging against trees, some sitting on the ground watching, others jostling to a better position.

As I said, hoards of people had come, and there was a bit of pushing, a few mutterings of discontent, a bit of unfair queue-jumping. John is in the river, baptising, saying a few words to each person. The crowd of people waiting grows larger.

While we watch, a woman arrives. She’s an Human Resources manager, complete with clipboard and an officious attitude. She watches the chaos for a few minutes and decides to intervene. Marching to the front of the line, she waves her clipboard at John, and suggests a few changes. He’s a little taken aback, but he agrees she can try to improve things on the shore, while he gets on with baptising.

The woman sets up a table, and tells everyone to form an orderly queue. She then explains that before they are baptised, they will need to tell John they wish to repent of their sin, and it will speed things up considerably if instead of needing to ask, John can see their main sin clearly written on a badge. She places her badge-making kit on the table, and the first person approaches.

“What is your biggest sin?” asks Mrs H.R.

The man at the table hesitates, then confesses, “I had an affair.”

Mrs H.R. writes ADULTERER in large letters, hands him the badge, then calls the next person.

“What is your biggest sin?” she asks.

“I hate my mother-in-law,” whispers the woman in the queue.

Mrs H.R writes HATE on the badge, and the woman pins it to her clothes.

One after another, people arrive at the table, and their main sin is written on a badge, and they walk away, to await baptism. Some have ENVY, some have GOSSIP, some have SELFISH. When it’s their turn, they join John in the water, he checks the badge, asks if they want to repent, then baptises them. It is all very efficient.

Then Jesus arrives at the table.

“What is your biggest sin?” asks Mrs H.R.

“None,” says Jesus.

Mrs H.R. blinks, confused.

“Oh,” she says. “Then what is your smallest sin?”

“None,” says Jesus.

Mrs H.R. frowns, unsure how to proceed. She gestures for Jesus to pass her, and he goes to join the people waiting to be baptised.

“Here,” he says to a man wearing a badge saying MEANNESS. “Let me have your badge,” says Jesus. He takes the badge, and pins it to his tunic. Then he takes the badge saying THIEF from the woman next to him, and the badge saying CRUDE, and a badge saying CRITICAL. Jesus walks through the crowd, taking everyone’s badge, pinning them to his tunic.

Then Jesus walks down, into the water, and faces John, ready to be baptised.

John looks at Jesus. He looks at the badges that cover Jesus’ tunic, and then he says: “Behold, the Lamb of God…”

Anne E. Thompson
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