Tomorrow evening, Jack will be baptized at our church, the Table at CPC. This is an important event for Jack and for us as parents, and we want to talk thoughtfully about why baptism matters to our family.
Baptism, the act of immersion in water, has been a Christian practice since Jesus was baptized by John. The symbolic nature of submerging a person below water and then bringing them back up is powerful. It represents new life. Transformation. Faith. The old is gone, the new has arrived.
Baptism has also been a dividing concept throughout church history. As a couple, we come from different baptism backgrounds. I, Jon, grew up the son of two Lutheran pastors and was baptized as a baby 26 years ago this Sunday. I grew up celebrating the day of my baptism until the day I confirmed my faith my freshman year of high school. I grew up hearing my dad begin his faith story with his baptism as an infant. I, too, begin my faith story with my baptism and being born into a household where I was raised to know and fear the Lord. My godmother, my Aunt Susan, has always been especially kind to me on my birthdays. 🙂
Maggie, on the other hand, grew up in a church that practiced believer’s baptism. She was dedicated to God when she was 6 or 7 months old, and publicly professed her faith through water baptism in early elementary school. The differing opinions on this topic boil down to a central question: Do we choose God or does He choose us? We have had several discussions about this topic, nothing heated, but with an open-mindedness on both sides. Every time we agree that we want to focus on our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and it’s okay if we do not always agree on the details. For us, baptism is one of those church practices we hold in an open hand. It’s far more important to us to affirm that baptism is God pursuing us long before we are able to respond.
Thirteen months ago, Maggie and I made a covenant before God and before our friends and family that we would love and care for each other for the rest of our lives. Theologically, covenant love has come to mean a great deal to us. The Old Testament covenant between God and Abraham and later renewed through Moses and the Law was a very exclusive covenant, but one which God held up his end without fail. Whether it was giving Abraham’s barren wife, Sarah, a child or guiding the Israelites through the wilderness, God fulfilled His promises to His people. The Israelites in turn performed a ritual circumcision on all of their newborn males on the eighth day, representing a covenant with God.
Jesus changed everything by creating a new covenant. Not a covenant through laws, or circumcision, or birthright, but one through faith. God sent Jesus to earth because we as God’s people were lost and broken. Jesus sacrificed himself in order to give all people new life. With this new covenant there was not just one symbol, but two. Jesus commanded his disciples to do two things: baptize all nations in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and partake of bread and the wine in the sacrament of what we now call Communion. We’ve written before about the way we participate in Communion at the Table. To us, communion is a sign of the new covenant–Christ’s sacrifice for us. Each week we come to the Table in varying emotional and spiritual states and each week we take communion to remember what Christ has done for us.
This Sunday, we will take part in both the sacrament of communion and the sacrament of baptism. Together as a couple, we will covenant to raise Jack to know and fear our Lord standing on the same altar where we made our marriage covenant. Jack will be put in water (or perhaps just a sprinkling) to symbolize the new life we all have in Jesus through the new covenant. God gave Jack to us and we are making a covenant to raise him as God’s child.
This covenant is not just between us, however, but with the Church as a whole. Maggie and I are submitting the whole of Jack’s life to God and requesting the help of our community to raise him in the knowledge of Christ as Savior. We do not believe that Jack will suddenly be saved by the act of baptism, for faith alone in God’s grace through Jesus Christ will save our son. Jack will one day have to profess his own faith and one day take his first communion with the understanding of what Christ did at the Last Supper. We do believe that God has given Jack to us, and as long as he is ours to raise, we will love and nurture him in this new covenant.
If you would like to join us in making this new covenant of baptism with Jack, God and our community, we invite you to the Table service this Sunday, November 25th at 6PM (6901 Normandale Rd, Edina, MN). Of course, we also welcome you to join us in spirit, too, by praying over Jack tomorrow (or at any time, really). We are grateful for all our friends and family and we thank you for the overwhelming support you have already shown us during the first two weeks of Jack’s life. We look forward to what God will do in Jack’s life in the months and years ahead.