Posts Tagged ‘baptism’

kellansbaptismDear Grandkids,

Mimi and I really love you guys! I think you know that!  For the last thirteen years (since Cassie was born), we have watched you grow out of your diapers, learn to walk, to talk, to sing and play. We’ve watched you lose teeth, get braces, be in musicals, play sports—so many great times together! And don’t forget Grandkids Camp!!

Now some of you are old enough to make your decision to be a disciple of Jesus—to be a Christian.  Just last Sunday, two of you boys were baptized—and that followed a happy Wednesday when one of you girls was baptized!

It’s not the right time yet for all of you. Some are still thinking and some are too young to even know what baptism is about.

Grandad would just like to write this letter to all of you, those baptized already and those who will be.  These are just a few things I really want you to know about your baptism that I’ve been thinking about.

First, never forget your baptism. Some people forget they were baptized and act like they weren’t. It doesn’t make any sense—like playing in the mud, then taking a bath and getting all clean, then putting on your muddy clothes again!  Jesus’ disciple Peter wrote that it is like—this is really gross—a dog that eats its own . . . vomit (2Peter 2:22). Don’t forget how great it is to be clean!

Second, don’t worry about what you don’t know. Some people might think you are too young to be a disciple of Jesus. They might think you have to know more about God.  Don’t worry about them. People in Jesus’ day didn’t understand either how much Jesus loved children.

But what’s even stranger is that in 5-10 years when you are older, you yourself will start to think, “I was so young; I really didn’t know very much about Jesus or about how to be a disciple. Maybe I was too young and did not know enough to become a disciple! Maybe I should be baptized again.”

Let me tell you something you won’t know for 50 years! When you are a Grandad or a Mimi, you will look back and think, “I really haven’t ever known much about God” because we always continue to learn and grow and figure things out until the day we die.  God and Jesus are so awesome that no one can learn everything about them, even if they studied every day of their whole life.

So it is not really about what you know, nor is it about how much you feel love and devotion towards Jesus—because both knowledge and love should continue to grow in you every day of your life.  Your baptism marks the beginning—a wonderful beginning!

Third, remember Who did what!  Yes, you learned about Jesus and you decided to be baptized, BUT, this isn’t what makes you a Christian.  It’s a good thing you did to be baptized, but if God had not loved you first and sent Jesus to die for you, you would have gotten all wet for nothing!  Your baptism is a happy day for you! It feels like your birthday and everybody is happy for you!  That’s why it is easy to forget that God, not you, is the One doing the most important thing—something you could never do! He is washing away your sins, giving you the BEST GIFT, and adopting you into His Family—forever!

Fourth, don’t forget the Gift you received. When I was a young boy, the preachers would talk about the Holy GHOST, and that sounded spooky. Now we say the Holy Spirit.  I didn’t know much about the Holy Spirit when I was baptized.  In fact, I’m still learning a lot, but I’ve never forgotten that when I was baptized, God promised to give me a special gift, something that is His. He gave me—and He gives you—his very own Spirit—which is VERY holy—to live in you.  I don’t know how He does this—but I know it’s true!

It is His Spirit in us who helps us pray and who makes us grow. The results (fruit) of the Holy Spirit that God gives you when you are baptized are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness.  You can have this beautiful fruit basket in your life because God’s Holy Spirit is His special gift to you at your baptism.

Fifth, don’t forget your Family. When you were baptized, God did some math on you! Yep, he “added” you.  The Bible says he “adds” everyone who is baptized to His family. On earth, this family we call the church. You may get the impression that people just join churches that they like, but that’s not really true with God’s church.  You can’t join God’s church without God’s writing your name down in His book.  This is what He does when He washes away your sins and He gives you His Spirit. Your name goes right into His family Book along with everyone else whom He adds to His family.

So don’t ever get the idea that Church is not that important! If it were not important, would He add you to it, would He give His life for it?  God’s family—and that is you when you are baptized and He writes your name down and adds you to all the other children of God, all of Jesus’ brothers and sisters–is very important!

Sixth, don’t stop talking about what God has done for you. When Mimi and I got home from our trip last week, the first thing you told us was that you were going to be baptized! I heard that some of you told your teachers at school and your friends as well. Of course you did! It’s such a happy time!

And when you were standing in the water, just before your baptism, I heard you say in front of lots and lots of people, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”   You’ve already started talking about Jesus! Don’t ever stop!

Last, remember that your baptism is a death, a burial, and a resurrection. Jesus died for you because He loved you. When you are baptized, you choose to let the part of you die that wants to be selfish and just do whatever you want to do. You let that part die.

Then someone buries you in the water just like Jesus was buried. If you had been left under the water, it would have been bad just like if Jesus had been left buried, it would have been bad for us.

When you come up out of the water, it is like the moment when Jesus came out of his grave! Wow! He was alive again! He was never going to die again. The same is true for you! It’s like being born again as a new person, one that will live forever with God.

The Very Last Thing: As you grow older, you’ll start shaving and then you’ll need glasses someday, and then a long time from now your hair turns gray and you might even be a Mimi or Grandad yourself.  Don’t ever forget your baptism—and don’t ever stop telling people what God did for you on that very special day!

Read Full Post »

Sherrylee and I are taking a week of vacation, so I am going to use the opportunity to post some of my early blogs that many of you have not seen.  I hope you find them helpful and interesting.

From August 24, 2010

As I was writing, I was reminded of my sister-in-law Janet, who lived with her family in a pretty rough part of New Jersey for many years. Her children grew up walking and riding public transportation through city parts that would frighten lots of parents in more suburban settings.

She made it a practice as they walked out the door into the challenges of their world to arm her children with these words: “Remember your baptism!”

I was talking to a very good Christian friend recently, who was describing to me moments of doubt, doubt about whether he was good enough, doubt if he was the example he wanted to be to others, even a hint of doubt about his salvation.  He is sometimes angry about how his parents raised him to believe, and he is definitely angry about the great sense of guilt and eternal uncertainty that he received from the church he grew up in.

In an attempt to help this friend, I found Janet’s words to be perhaps the most appropriate thing I could say: “Remember your baptism.”

If you don’t really connect with these words, I suspect you grew up in the same kind of church I did, where baptism was unintentionally perverted.  Without impugning what was taught because we don’t always hear what was intended, here is what I learned about baptism:

  • The ritual act of baptism is what is most important.  This had to be because our preaching was all about immersion over any other form, about the age to be baptized, and occasionally about the words that were spoken by the baptizer. If any of these ritual elements were tainted, then most likely, the baptism was not effective. I have seen people baptized again because their arm did not go under the water with the rest of their body, because they were too young to understand everything they needed to understand, and because the person who baptized them did use the triune formula, rather just baptized in the name of Jesus.
  • Baptism was a rite of passage. You had to be 11-12 years old—anything younger and you were suspect. At baptism, you became a member of the church—which, if you were a boy, meant you could not only take communion, but serve communion and lead public prayers.  Girls could only take communion.
  • Baptism separated the saved from the unsaved.

At this point, you may be surprised to hear me say that I still have a very high view of baptism. I might even say I still believe the above—just much differently. Let me explain:

  • The biggest change in my theology of baptism is an understanding that it is all about what God does in baptism and less about what we do. Rather than “getting baptized” which is how it is generally described where I go to church, I wish we would talk about “receiving baptism” as I’ve heard in other churches. The first emphasizes the initiative and activity of the person, the second is more passive. The person is the recipient of the grace, created and extended by God through Jesus, separate and apart from anything we might do to earn it.
  • The symbol of burial and resurrection inherent in immersion is indisputably connected to the meaning of the sacrament. If you mess with the symbolism, you start opening doors to new understandings of the rite.
  • I still believe baptism is a rite of passage, but of passage from darkness to light, from blindness to sight, from carnal to spiritual, from the old man to the new, from the old creature to the new creation, from death to life.

So, here’s the BIG question: does baptism separate the saved from the unsaved? The real answer is that the blood of Jesus separates the saved from the unsaved. He died to destroy Sin and was raised to bring Life.  As Paul said in Romans 6, those who participate in His death will share in His resurrection. Paul says, “Remember your baptism!”

  • Remember that you have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus.
  • Remember that your old life was buried in the tomb with Jesus.
  • Remember that you are new—not old or refurbished–resurrected!
  • Remember that you are not your own. You were bought with a price.
  • Remember that on the day of your baptism, God worked the miracle of salvation on you.

God says in baptism that He is for you!

And if God is for you, who can be against you?

That should be enough to get you through your day!

Read Full Post »

We don’t labor on Labor Day! We can’t remember when Memorial Day is! No presidents were born on President’s Day!  Most of us celebrated the Fourth of July on July 3rd this year!

Several holidays have disappeared completely from our calendars since I was a boy. We celebrated Arbor Day, Columbus Day, and Armistice Day as national holidays.

We Americans have become pretty pragmatic about our holidays, putting all on weekends so that we can be both more productive and have more days in a block for recreation.

Symbolism is not very important to us anymore. 

We still think the flag is a pretty sacred symbol. We don’t like people burning it! When I was a boy, we had a ceremony at school every morning when the flag was raised. We had to learn how to properly handle the flag, never letting it touch the ground, and folding it properly for overnight storage. It was an honor to be chosen to raise and lower the flag at school.

The other place where symbols used to be very important was at church. Not so much anymore.

Sunday was the Lord’s Day. Some people called it the Christian Sabbath, but we knew that wasn’t exactly right. Sunday was the day Christians had gathered since the first century to celebrate the Sunday resurrection of Jesus. Sunday became the first day of the week.  You wore your best clothes—whether they were your best overalls or your best suit or your one dress—you wore your best clothes on Sunday because it was the Lord’s day.

But things have changed! Some calendars even have moved Sunday to the last day of the week. Churches don’t care whether you come Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, just so you come. You can’t tell anyone to wear Sunday clothes because Sunday clothes aren’t any different from Monday clothes. In fact, they are often more casual than Monday clothes.

The same change is happening with what we used to always call “the Lord’s Supper” and other churches called the Eucharist and/or Communion.  The symbolism around this moment on Sunday was heavy!  First, there was a table in front center of the sanctuary that said “This Do In Remembrance of Me” so that everyone knew why we were gathered.

Unleavened bread was distributed by solemn men—and while you broke a piece off to symbolize the broken body of Jesus, it was quiet so you could remember why you were participating.  Cups were distributed after a prayer that reminded you that this was “Jesus’ blood, poured out on the cross for our sins”—you had to say those words somewhere in the prayer!

It’s different now at many churches! No central table anymore and no silence—ever! The bread is cooked into little squares, so there is no need to break it any more. The audience is instructed that the crackers and juice are about to be distributed—absolutely correct, but somehow an uninspiring, pedestrian use of language for such important symbols.

Just like with our holidays, we have communion efficiently managed down to a seven-minute exercise where, hopefully, nobody prays too long or makes any extra comments because that will make the service run over!

I hope you don’t hear just maudlin moaning about Then and Now! This is not a nostalgic longing for the way we used to do things!

Let me ask you this:  Do you know why Labor Day is a holiday? Most people will not mention organized Labor and Workers Unions in their answer because the meaning has been forgotten.

Is it possible that the symbolic meaning of Sunday’s celebration of the resurrection by Christians around the world for 2000 years could ever be forgotten?  Is it possible that the symbols of bread and wine could lose their meaning? Is it possible that the symbol of immersion baptism could lose its meaning?

I’m not talking about legalism that makes the symbols into Law!  I’m saying that symbols have a valuable place in every community.  And perhaps we should be extra cautious about messing with symbols that have a biblical genesis and have been recognized by Christians for two millennia.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: