Who doesn’t like baptisms in church? Regardless of your tradition, it’s one of those things that pulls on the heartstrings. If it’s a baby, everybody coos over the baby. Some might even remember presenting their own children for baptism. If it’s a new believer, everybody celebrates the person who has found new life in Christ.
At St. Paul’s, Nobleton, we’re celebrating a baptism this Sunday, and I’m beginning a new preaching series on the meaning of baptism. As I’ve read and researched for this topic – not the easiest topic – one of the things I’ve learned about the baptism of infants under the covenant is the concept of promise. That is, baptism is the sign of a promise.
This helps us understand the meaning behind baptizing people who are unable to verbalize their own faith in Christ, because the baptism becomes a sign and seal of a promise from God: a promise to forgive and redeem us. But a promise is only effective if we believe it!
As my colleague, Victor Shepherd, has pointed out, this promise is like a cheque for vast riches, written out to the child, but kept in trust by the parents until the child is old enough to be able to avail himself or herself of those riches. But for riches to be accessed, the cheque must be endorsed. When the child decides to follow Jesus himself or herself, and believe the promise that was sealed at baptism, the cheque is endorsed and can be cashed.
When we baptize a child, the parents present the child in faith, and promise – with the help of the whole congregation – to raise that child to know the riches of Christ, so that, when old enough to begin to understand the meaning of those riches, he or she will say ‘yes’ to the Lord and follow him in faith.
In that sense, the baptism of infants under the covenant is very much an Orange thing when it is taken seriously by parents and churches alike.
Someone said that it takes a village to raise a child. I think it takes a church to raise a child into a Christ-follower – a church committed to sharing the riches of Jesus with parents, and with kids, so that the family and the church work together to build spiritual giants for the next generation.
As I baptize this Sunday, that will weigh heavily in my mind and on my heart, that the grace of God extended through this mystery, this sacrament, will result in an outpouring of grace from church to parents to child, all to the glory of God.
“Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28.18-20, NLT).
Is your church using every opportunity – even baptisms – to partner with parents?