I’ve also done a baptism privately this year and have a couple more of those coming up. I prefer and encourage folks to be baptized as a part of our worship service. However, recently I’ve had a change of heart about insisting on it. I understand that many adults are shy and apprehensive about being baptized as adults. It’s sort of like sitting at the kid’s table at a big family dinner. I mean who really wants to do that? And yet what baptism invites all of us to recognize is that we are all children of God. In a sense at any baptism, we are all sitting at the kids table together.
In the United Methodist Church, baptism is one of two sacraments. The other sacrament is Holy Communion, which is when we literally come to the Lord’s Table that does not have an age designation.
A sacrament is, we say, “An outward and visible sign of the inward grace of God.” The “outward and visible sign” of baptism is of course water. The “inward grace” is bit harder to describe. When I talk with people, I try to describe grace with words like acceptance and love. I think that it’s the inward grace that comes flowing out of some of us when we smile and cry at the same time at a baptism.
A couple of years ago at a baptism, I had been out and about carrying the baby around for everyone to see. When I turned to head back to the front, the mother of the child gave me a look that said, “Get back here with my baby! And be careful!” I think it was the first time that child had been more than an arm’s length from her mother. I became aware right there and then that baptism can also be if not frightening, than at least sobering.
Baptisms are sobering times, because if you are a parent who has spoken for a child, it reminds you that this child, who is so dependent upon you now, will one day soon need you to let go in order to be what God has created them to be. If you are old enough to know a bit about what’s going on when you are baptized, then you are likely to encounter the sobering idea that none of us gets through this life on our own.
Baptism calls us to trust God and each other. It invites us to remember that God has spoken to each and every one of us the words that Jesus heard, “You are my Son…my Daughter, chosen and marked by my love…delight of my life.”
-- (Matthew 3:12 The Message.)
Keep the Faith,