>Christians around the world who follow the calendar of the Christian Year have celebrated today as the Baptism of the Lord. On this day, we remember Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist, and in doing so, today millions of Christians around the planet have reaffirmed their baptismal covenants. Thankfully, our church was one where this was celebrated this morning, and I was moved to watch hundreds of adults come forward to reaffirm their faith in Christ, renew their commitments to walk and grow in Christ's ways, and to celebrate God's faithfulness to them by remembering their own baptism with gratitude.
Since we are part of one of the many Christian traditions that practice infant baptism, our son was baptized when he was six months old. Because he was so young, we want to be intentional about helping him to develop a sense of remembrance about that day as he grows older. We were delighted that our church recorded his baptism on video, so that we will have a copy to show him as he grows, and I also wrote him the following letter that I try to re-read on days like today.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Today is a very important day for you: the day of your baptism. Since you aren’t old enough to remember it or understand its significance, I wanted to write you this letter today to help you have a way to remember your baptism when you are older.
Today, you were welcomed into Jesus’ church, and the water used for your baptism marked you as having entered into God’s covenant people. There will be days as you grow that you are unfaithful to God, but for your entire life you will be able to look back upon today and know that God has been faithful to you.
Your Mom and I were there with you this morning, as were Pop & Nana Kate and PawPaw and Nana, and Kathryn Tyra, who with her husband, Chester, have been like grandparents to me throughout my life. When I was born, we went to church at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Midland, which is where Pop & Nana Kate got to know Chester & Kathryn. They were probably there at my baptism when I was a baby, and so it was important to me to invite them to be a part of your baptism too.
I want to help you know what happened today, and a big part was vows that your Mom and I made, along with our whole church, to teach you Jesus’ ways. So that you will always know our commitment to the Lord and to you, this is the liturgy that was part of your baptism:
As we all stood in front of the church together, our Pastor, Dr. Tim Walker, said:
“Baptism is an outward and visible sign
of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
through which grace
we became partakers of his righteousness
and heirs of life eternal.
Those receiving the Sacrament
are thereby marked as Christian disciples,
and initiated into the fellowship of Christ’s holy Church...”
It is a wonderful thing that you are now officially part of Jesus’ church. You are a part of the most wonderful, most influential, most giving, and yet most persecuted group of people in the last 2,000 years. It is through us that Almighty God has chosen to carry on his loving work of redemption for the whole world. I pray that you will always love the church, even though there will be times that it will disappoint you and possibly even cause you pain, Jesus intensely loves this church of which you are now a part and is always working to purify her.
As you have been initiated into Jesus’ church, you have also become a “partaker of God’s righteousness and heir of life eternal.” God, in his grace, is working long before you know anything about it to bring you into a close friendship with him and he has provided everything that you need to know and serve him, to become like Jesus and be a man with his character, leading an abundantly-lived life for as long as you live. It will be your decision when you are older whether or not you want to cooperate with God in this. He has left you free to reject him, but as part of our family and as part of Jesus’ church, you are in the midst of a family and community of God’s grace, which I pray will take a deep hold of your heart.
This is the centuries-old covenant that your Mom and I made before the entire church, because we love you so deeply and are so grateful that God has entrusted you to us as a wonderful gift:
We accept as our bounden duty and privilege to live before you, Ethan,
a life that becomes the gospel;
to exercise all godly care
that you may be brought up in the Christian faith,
that you may be taught the Holy Scriptures,
and that you learn to give reverent attendance
upon the private and public worship of God.
We will endeavor to keep you
under the ministry and guidance of the Church
until you by the power of God
shall accept for yourself the gift of salvation,
and be confirmed
as a full and responsible member of Christ’s holy Church.
Then, Dr. Walker said your full name and baptized you, David Ethan Harris, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
It was a wonderful day for us. I will always be thankful for you, proud of you, and love you more than you may ever know. I will not be a perfect father to you, but I will always try to show you the kind of unconditional, sacrificial love that I have experienced from my Dad and from God. It does not matter what your future holds; you are my son, and my love for you will never end.
That is what today is about, because you have also entered into this kind of covenant with God. As much as I love you, God loves you much more. As much as I will always try to be faithful to you and provide for your good, God will do so much more. I am a sinful man, yet I love you so deeply that I cannot put it into words, and that love will never end. How much more, then, does God, our Father, love you! You entered into a covenant with God today; you did not choose it, but God has chosen you. Through your entire life, God will always be faithful to you, just as he has always been faithful to me.
May you always look back on today, and know that you are loved.