This Sunday, we will celebrate the Baptism of Aspen Sweigart. Many people in our congregation have not grown up in a Reformed Christian tradition, so I thought it might be a good idea to share just why we baptize babies in the Presbyterian Church.
Baptism is one of two sacraments recognized by the Presbyterian Church. Communion is the other. Jesus commanded that every believer be baptized and that all disciples should participate in the breaking of the bread and the passing of the cup.
The Presbyterian Church recognizes one baptism and one body of Christ. So whether you were baptized as an infant or an adult, whether you were immersed or sprinkled, the church affirms your baptism.
Those of you who know your Bible know that there is no example of infant baptism in the New Testament. Our commitment to infant baptism is actually rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures (or Old Testament).
Baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible reality. I love that phrase. An outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible reality. The reality is the covenant of grace between God and God’s people which goes all the way back to Abraham.
Check out these words from God in Genesis 17:7: I’m establishing my covenant between me and you, a covenant that includes your descendants, a covenant that goes on and on and on, a covenant that commits me to be your God and the God of your descendants. (The Message)
For Presbyterians, baptism is not a sign of faith, nor a mark of salvation, but a sign of entrance. A sign that a child is part of a covenant community. It’s also a seal of God’s promise to us that we belong to God now and forever. As we say every Sunday in worship, “We remember our baptism. God’s claim on us that can never be broken.”
When we baptize an infant, we recognize that child as a child of God. The parents of the child commit to raising and nurturing that child in the faith. And (in my favorite part), the entire congregation pledges their commitment to the child as well. We cannot affirm God’s promises without making some of our own.
As Aspen grows, she will learn Jesus Loves Me and the Lord’s Prayer and stories of the Bible. She may come to a gradual realization and understanding about what it means to be a child of God and a follower of Jesus Christ, or she may have a moment of revelation in which everything comes together at once. When she is ready, she will have the opportunity to publically profess her faith and become an official member of the congregation. Aspen will make good choices and, sometimes, she will make bad ones. But throughout her journey, her community of faith will be there to support her and encourage her, to teach her and learn from her all along the way.
Baptism may be my favorite thing we ever do in worship. Remembering who and whose we are. Re-affirming our faith. Pledging our support. Welcoming a new member of the community. Be sure to join us this Sunday as we celebrate the sacrament of Baptism.