Saturday, April 18, 2009

Letter to Samuel on your baptism

Dear Samuel,

Tomorrow you will be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Ancient words will be spoken over you, words that signify entrance into an eternal Kingdom, a Kingdom based on love and mercy, qualities expressed in the sacrament of holy baptism. Just as you will carry the name mommy and I gave you for the rest of your life even though you had nothing to do with choosing it, so you will carry the mark of baptism even though you didn't have anything to do with the decision to be baptized. In fact, you won't even remember it! By presenting you for baptism, mommy and I are publicly affirming that it's God who has the first word as to your eternal destiny. Tomorrow marks a beginning, not an end.

There are some who sincerely believe, based on their understanding of the Bible, that you shouldn't be baptized because you're too young to make a profession of faith. Others misunderstand baptism as being a guarantee of salvation. Mommy and I believe, based on Scripture, that the infant children of Christian parents have a special status, are set apart, and should be welcomed into the visible covenant community called the church (what the Apostle Paul called "the Israel of God") by the sign and seal of baptism. We are blessed to be members of a church, and part of a faith tradition, that grants you this privilege. We also understand that baptism doesn't save anyone, child or adult, apart from faith in Christ.

Though what will happen tomorrow is not a guarantee of your salvation, it's more than symbolic, and it's more than merely a rite of dedication. Just as our Lord and Savior promises grace through the common elements of bread and wine at his table, so the grace of baptism is tied to the common element of water by the promises of God's Word. Our church's confession of faith tells us that the effectiveness of baptism is not tied to the moment in time it happens. And so our fervent prayer is that you will turn to Christ in faith and repentance as soon as you're old enough to understand your need for a Savior, and that you'll grow up never remembering a time when you didn't believe in him. That's why we sing you songs about Jesus even though you're too young to understand the words. Your baptism will remind us that the God whose steadfast love reaches from generation to generation often works through families to carry out his saving purposes. Baptism is about God's doing, not our's.

Tomorrow is a joyful day for mommy and I. We've been looking forward to this day since before you were born. As we stand in front of the church there will probably be tears in daddy's eyes, just as there were when I stood in front of the church and married your wonderful mommy. It's also a solemn day. We will stand before God and make vows to set a godly example before you, teach you the doctrines of our faith, and strive to bring you up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Not only that, but the members of the family of faith of which you will become the newest member, will promise to take responsibility for your Christian nurture. You already have a biological family, tomorrow you'll gain a spiritual family, with all the privileges and responsibilities that come with it. It will be up to mommy and I to explain the meaning of those privileges and responsibilities to you as you get older.

When I hand you to the minister tomorrow, I'll be committing you to the care of our Heavenly Father, who created you "to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." May you grow up to seek him early like young Samuel in the Bible, who said, "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening." May you grow up to be "like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither." And above all, may you finally be counted righteous in Christ. Mommy and I feel unworthy to be your parents, little Sam. Your potential is limitless. We love you more than words can say!


Emily said...

Love this, Stephen. I'm so thrilled for you and Shannon. What a blessing for little Samuel to have such a wonderful community of faith. :)

Tara said...

I read your letter with tears in my eyes. Many blessings on you, your wife, and little Samuel tomorrow. It is a special day that you will always remember!

redeyespy said...

Many thanks for inviting us to share in this blessing!