My grandson Luke Edward Bedingfield is being baptized tomorrow/today.
I am unable to be there but it is all good.
In fact, it is very good. Let me tell you why.
Luke is my fifth grandchild and the second one I did not baptize.
Over a decade ago when the first grandchild came along,
his parents asked if I would baptize him. Of course, I agreed.
Having a minister in your family is a lot like having a lawyer or doctor.
You get free legal, medical, or spiritual advice. Or in this case, baptisms.
Anthony was baptized in the home congregation of his grandparents
with the assumption that the new baptized and family
would join the congregation. They did not.
Two years later when Michael was born another request for a baptism
was made to the pastor grandfather. Without a good reason to say “no”,
Michael was also baptized in the family church
where his immediate family was still not attending.
At this point it may be helpful to share
a couple of Lutheran understandings about baptism.
First, baptism makes you a member of the church,
the holy, apostolic, catholic church, AND the local Christian congregation
where the baptism takes place.
(The word “catholic” here, as in the Apostles creed, means “universal,”
not “Roman Catholic”. )
So when Anthony and Michael were baptized they were welcomed
into God’s universal church of all time and place,
and became members of Emanuel Lutheran Church, Manchester, CT.
In this case, as in many baptisms here at Trinity,
the baptized are church members but the parents are not.
And as the children grow some are brought to the services of God’s house;
taught the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments; given a bible or
instructed in the Christian faith. Others, not so much.
Although, their parents promised to do so when their child is baptized.
How will these children know what God has done for them?
Their parents, family, friends, and we, the church,
have the responsibility of teaching them,
so that they grow to understand what God has done for them.
You see, Lutherans believe that in baptism we receive
the gift of the Holy Spirit and that God claims and names us.
We receive a new identity as children of God and disciples of Christ.
We are marked with the sign of the cross,
and even though life continues right along, we are forever changed.
Living into that change, well — that takes a lifetime
nd is a process rather than a destination.1
Another thing to say about baptism at this point in my story is,
that baptizing infants is a powerful way to show the grace of God.
It is not the only way but consider…before Luke Edward can say anything,
promise anything, do anything to deserve it, God comes to him
in the waters of baptism and makes him a disciple of Jesus,
a member of the church, and promises him abundant life.
The same is true for you…because of baptism you are Christian.
Never does your status before God depend on how you feel,
having a certain experience, being free of doubt, what you accomplish,
your success and position in life.
We are Christian because God surprised us in baptism.
Coming in water God washed us and grafted us into Christ.
Our identity for all of our days is set!
We are children of God, a servant people, the communion of saints.2
Wow! All of that happened to you in your baptism.
All of that will happen tomorrow/today in Luke’s baptism.
Consider the free and undeserved grace in those words again.
In baptism, we become part of a people, God’s people, God’s tribe.
And here is why in my story of baptizing grandchildren
it is fine that I am not baptizing Luke .
Luke will get to experience something the grandchildren I baptized have not,
at least so far.
Luke will get to experience God’s people – in worship, faith formation,
fellowship and service to others – as he grows in the church.
Each January he will get to hear the church tell the story
about the baptism of our Lord.
He will be invited to remember the community he shares
with all of God’s people.
A people who believe that when the heavens open in the beginning of Mark,
God is doing something new,
by splitting the heavens, God is going back to Genesis, to creation
when the earth was separated into day and night, form and void,
and laying claim to Jesus within that new thing. 3
And by virtue of our dying and rising in baptism
we too experience a new thing, the creation of our baptismal identity
as a beloved child of God called to walk wet in this world.
You may recall that I said earlier that Luke was one of two grandchildren
I did not baptism. Angela is the other.
She is the younger sister of the two grandsons I did baptize.
Her parents didn’t ask and I didn’t volunteer to baptize her.
I was still encouraging the family to connect with a local faith community.
see while I am all for baptizing babies I am not for promiscuous baptism.
By that I mean we are not free to baptize children for whom there appears
to be little or no possibility of responsible nurture into the faith –
no faith formation, no worship, no calls to generosity,
no reflection on what it means to be a baptized Christian
in the tribe of baptized Christians.
Baptism is most effective where there is a community of faith
which is capable of the kind of long-term, lifelong conversion
and nurture of those who washed in its waters. 4
Now that flip side of this baptism perspective is that
such a postponement of baptism is more a judgement
upon the unfaithfulness of the church then upon the unfitness of the child.
It is not Angela’s fault she is not baptized.
And she is not loved less by God because the church – her grandfather,
her parents , her brothers and extended family members – have not been able
to bring her to the waters of the new birth.
But today we are reminded of what she is missing,
what she can’t claim for herself as something that has happened in her life,
as all of the baptized can, Luke Edward soon will.
How in your Baptism, God the Father was well pleased to give you
the full benefits of His Son Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins,
the gift of the Holy Spirit, and new life now and
in the Resurrection from the dead.
How God has spoken a Word of promise to you in Baptism
that you can trust throughout your life, even in the midst of your guilt,
sorrows, sufferings, losses, weaknesses, and death.
Though all the world be against you, though your situation seem hopeless,
though you be betrayed, abandoned, mocked, assailed, and persecuted,
though you are depressed and think terribly of yourself,
remember God’s true Word spoken at your baptism,
For Christ Jesus’ sake, I am will pleased with you,
My son, My daughter.”5
2Baptized We Live
5 Remember Who You Are: Baptism, a Model for Christian Life, William H. Willimon