Timmy dipped his toes into the warm waters of the baptismal. There were three short steps to descend, and then he would be waist deep, standing side-by-side with the pastor. He hesitated, looking out at the congregation before him.
His parents and friends sat in the front row, waiting patiently. Their faces were still and solemn. Their little Timmy was ten years old - finally old enough to make a public proclamation of his faith. All he had to do was step into the waters and cleanse himself of his sins. Timmy raised his eyes and met the expectant gaze of Pastor Hughes. He was always fair and just and had never done Timmy any wrong, but Timmy had seen the wrath of God in his eyes before, and that scared him.
As if seeing Timmy’s thoughts, Pastor Hughes nodded in affirmation and raised a hand, beckoning him to enter the holy waters. Timmy chided himself for his doubt, and thought, “A true believer doesn’t doubt. A true believer obeys.” He grimaced, wondering if God could hear him and if he could possibly forgive him for his sinful feelings.
Timmy splished into the water, and descended the steps, grasping Pastor Hughes’ hand. He looked at his parents’ waiting gaze and felt his gut tighten. They never smiled. No one ever smiled. He hated that about this place. Timmy winced as the thought invaded his mind, then left. He looked up at the pastor, hoping he couldn’t hear him thinking.
Pastor Hughes grasped Timmy’s hand in his, patting it gently, then began to speak, “Timothy Jethro Isaacs comes before us today to publicly announce his faith in our Lord and Savior. He offers himself as the Sacrificial Lamb for our sins, just as Jesus himself did almost 2000 years ago.”
Timmy’s mother Kiera seemed not to flinch, but his father Abraham immediately reacted, viscerally and violently. Jumping from his seat, he roared, “Not my son!”
Pastor Hughes waved his hand to the two hooded figures standing out front. The elders were still as statues until they were needed, and when they were needed, they readily became the fists of God. They exited from either side of the large stone altar before the baptismal and seized Abraham.
“Not Timmy! He’s one of us!” Abraham yelled. A wooden bat struck his head, silencing him immediately. The elders dragged his limp figure back to his seat and plopped him next to his wife. Kiera looked at her husband with a vacant stare, then returned her attention to the front of the church.
Timmy began to shake as the Pastor continued to speak, “Please repeat after me… I believe.”
“I believe,” Timmy said.
“That Jesus is the Christ.”
“That Jesus is the Christ.” Timmy breathed in deep. This was his chance. He could prove himself. He could show his family that he was one of them.
“The Sacrificial Lamb.”
“The Sacrificial Lamb.”
Pastor Hughes turned his gaze from the congregation to meet Timmy’s wide-eyed stare. “Timothy Jethro Isaacs, I now baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Sacrificial Lamb, and of the Holy Spirit, for the forgiveness of your sins.”
The Pastor placed one hand around Timmy’s neck and placed the other on the small of his back. Timmy instinctively placed his fingers on his nose, pinching his nostrils shut. Pastor Hughes shook his head and slapped Timmy’s fingers, then grabbed him forcefully. He shoved his body under the water and held him there. Timmy began to thrash as the Pastor held him down.
The two hooded figures up front turned to Kiera, as if waiting for her to react. She kept quiet and watched with polite reverence.
Pastor Hughes held Timmy down, counting the seconds in his head. A minute passed by and Timmy stopped fighting, struggling instead to breathe. His mouth opened and water flooded into his lungs. The Pastor felt the boy’s body shake as he tried to choke out the fluid, but there was no relief. Timmy’s quivering body sent ripples across the water’s surface.
Another minute passed and Timmy’s body fell limp and still. Pastor Hughes let go of the boy’s neck and waved the hooded figures over. One stood in front of the altar, holding a torch in his left hand, and the other headed to the baptismal to receive Timmy’s body.
The congregation was silent.
The elders placed Timmy on the altar, removing his wet garments and replacing them with a clean, dry white robe. They laid the torch on his chest and then took a step back, kneeling before the child.
Pastor Hughes raised his eyes and hands skyward. “Dear Lord, please accept this, our humble sacrifice.”
Abraham shifted in his seat, roused by the harsh scent of his smoldering son. He blinked, wiping the blood from his eyelids and looked up.
He was too late to do anything, except repent. Abraham fell prostrate on the ground, wailing and crying, “Father forgive me!”
Kiera placed a hand on her grieving husband’s shoulders, and whispered, “Sacrifices are not easy, but they are necessary, my love. Timothy sleeps with the angels now.”