Friday, March 18, 2011

Letter to Benjamin on your baptism

Dear Benjamin,

On Sunday 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. Just as you will carry the name that 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. Your baptism 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 our understanding of 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 also believe baptism is primarily a demonstration of God’s action not our action. We’re thankful to be members of a church, and part of a faith tradition, that grants you the privilege of receiving this sacrament.

We also understand that baptism doesn't save anyone, child or adult, apart from faith in Christ. Though what will happen on Sunday 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 isn’t tied to the moment in time it happens. And so our passionate 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.

In a way your baptism day has “snuck up” on us. We vividly remember the day your big brother was baptized, and it's still hard to believe that only two years later we’ve been blessed with another son. You’re our little mystery man. We probably haven’t prayed for you as much as we should; since we’ve been so busy with your rambunctious brother and the challenges of our growing family. Nevertheless, we know that God has his hand on you.

Sunday morning mommy and I will stand before the church and make vows to set a godly example before you, teach you the doctrines of the Christian faith, and bring you up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. These are awesome responsibilities, but we intend to carry them out in God's strength. We'll have other helpers too. The members of our family of faith -- of which you will become the newest member -- will also take vows to share in the responsibility for your Christian nurture. You already have a biological family, but tomorrow you'll gain a spiritual family. Membership in that family has privileges, but it also comes with responsibilities. It will be up to us to explain the meaning of those privileges and responsibilities to you as you get older.

When we hand you to the minister it will be symbolic of our giving you back to the Heavenly Father who created you "to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." We pray that 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" (by the way I'll teach you Psalm 1 when you get older). Mommy and I have many hopes for you. We hope you never have to go to war. We hope you grow up to live in a more peaceful and just society. We hope you love Old Forge pizza. But our greatest hope is that you'll be counted righteous in Christ and make Heaven your eternal home. We feel unworthy to be your parents, little Ben. We love you more than words can say!

1 comment:

jessica said...

this is beautiful and wonderful and all sorts of "fulls." :) he will treasure this letter one day!