A strange thing happened to a Priest serving in Chicago. It was discovered that when he was Baptized, an incorrect word had been used. The Priest presiding over the procedure said “We Baptize you” rather than “I Baptize you”. The fallout from that single syllable slip was staggering. In an instant, the Baptism was nullified. Since the Baptism was nullified, he was not member of the Roman Catholic Church. Since he was not a member of the Roman Catholic Church, he could not be a Priest. Since he was not a Priest, none of the Baptisms, or any thing he had done were legitimate. Since nothing he had done was legitimate, the souls, as well as legal and religious effects of all his actions were rendered null and void. What’s worse, all of the folks he had Baptized were now doomed to Hell.
True story. The Roman Catholic leaders and thinkers overseeing this unfortunate Priest’s ministry all believed that because the ritual had not been performed exactly as it was written, he was not actually Baptized, with all the resultant consequences. There was no grace, no mercy, no allowing for a mistake. The Priest had not been baptized, therefore nothing he had done counted, since he couldn’t be a Priest without being properly Baptized.
Thankfully, the leaders quickly performed the Baptism once again, perfectly correctly, then made him a member of the church, then re-ordained the unfortunate man as a fully fledged Priest, thus legitimizing everything he had done when we was not, according to Roman Catholic law, a real Priest.
Crazy, isn’t it? And yet it’s a true story. An unfortunate story. A story of pettiness, unkindness, small mindedness and an adherence to human rather than Godly standards. Rather than simply accept the first Priest’s mistake and carry on, the affected Priest was put through a legalistic Hell that caused him great pain, shame and embarrassment. Truly, there was nothing Christlike in the leadership that oversaw one of their own.
…a strange thing happens in the Bible, our one source for Godly behaviour. In the Bible stories are told in different ways. There are two different versions of the creation of Human beings. The books of Kings and the Chronicles tell the story of Israel in slightly different ways. The four Gospels have slightly different retellings of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection, not to mention that each has miracles and other events in His life the others don’t mention.
Strange as it may seem, the words within the Bible tell the story…
…but they are not the story itself. The story that matters is that of the Living Word, the Word made flesh, Jesus. How we tell that story doesn’t depend on the right words or rituals spoken perfectly. We tell Jesus’ story by how we follow Him, how we use our gifts, and how we love others as He loved us. What we say matters since the spoken word does have its own power, but what matters more is how our lives speak to Jesus, the Word made flesh.