It’s a desolate place, the land good for nothing but hunting grouse and grazing sheep, and even those ruminant creatures have to be fairly resourceful to pick out the few blades of grass or heather which lie hidden among the craggy rocks. Very often in the winter the road which runs through it is closed due to the snow and high winds which over the centuries have carved out the harsh and forbidding features of the land, almost as though the millstone hills have simply aged and now–like many of us–show the passing time in our sags and wrinkles.
And yet there is a compelling beauty to those moors of West Yorkshire and none more so than when on a recent rare sunny day in those “wuthering heights,” there appeared almost out of nowhere a rainbow which stretched all the way down the hillside beneath us. Like a peacock spreading its plumage, its bright colors shimmered in the early morning light, cascading down to where–were one given to believing in such things—there could easily have been a pot of gold hidden in the hollows.
Better than what any leprechaun could grant you, however, the rainbow in the moors reminded me of the pledge which God made long ago, promises that I also thought of a few days earlier when we baptized our grandson at the little Methodist chapel in Wooldale. For at the age of just four months, Jedidiah is clearly too young to have realized why his Obi was throwing water on his head. Likewise he could hardly be expected to comprehend the reason for his family and godparents all solemnly making vows to live a life before him that becomes the gospel.
In the end, though, what baptism is all about is simply promises– those we make to God but even more importantly, the promises which He, rather inexplicably, is gracious enough to make to us. That is why when Jed is older, should he ask me one day, I will tell him that even if he can’t quite “remember his baptism and be thankful”–no matter how earnestly a pastor may cajole him to do so–that it’s still okay, for as the rainbow reminds us, God never forgets a promise, even when the circumstances of our lives may seem as bleak and foreboding as the moors themselves.
To be sure, neither Jed nor his family should be under any illusions that what happened in that Methodist chapel was about his salvation. He will still need to make that decision to put his trust in Jesus all by himself one day. But on a chilly Sunday morning in West Yorkshire, my grandson was clearly claimed both by and for God, with witnesses all around who also made a promise to help that claim grow into a reality in his heart when he is older.
Given the considerable distance from Texas to England, I told the Methodists there that we were going to depend on them to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to modeling what the life of discipleship really means. Somehow, though, I think they will be up to it, for they will surely have the help of Heaven in that regard, just as we prayed on Sunday.
After all, as that rainbow in the moors reminded me, God can turn even grit into gold if He likes, and there simply is no end to the wonder of His promises.