Tuesday, March 13, 2012

To Avery on Her Baptism

Through the Sacrament of Baptism we are
initiated into Christ’s holy Church.
We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts
of salvation and given new birth through
water and the Spirit.
All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.
- from The United Methodist Baptismal Liturgy

People often ask why some churches baptize babies and others wait for a profession of faith.  Your father was baptized as a baby, while I was baptized later, when I was nine years old.  I don't think it matters either way, really, but a pastor I worked for once always included an explanation when he was performing baptisms that struck a cord with me. 

He asked the parents when exactly they started to love their children.  Was it when the child was able to tell them that he / she loved them?  The answer was always no, they loved the child from the time that they were no more than a glimmer in the parent's eye, they loved the very idea of that child, and that love only deepened over time.  So it is with God, but so many times over, without price.  The baptism is a way to formally welcome that child to the family of faith.

As part of the ceremony the pastor asked us, "Will you nurture this child in Christ’s holy Church,
that by your teaching and example they may be guided to accept God’s grace for themselves, to profess their faith openly, and to lead a Christian life?"  Your dad and I responded confidently, "We will!" but inside I trembled a bit at the weight of that responsibility. 

For now, it is easy.  We say your prayers every night before I put you to bed.  You go to church with us.  But mostly, we love you, unconditionally, without cost.  Someday (soon) things will get trickier.  I'm sure my words and example with fail us both.  But, just like God, I will always love you, unconditionally, without cost.

The gown you wore was older than anyone that was in the sanctuary.  It represented a line of faith, unbroken, for over 100 years... 115 years of the joy of babies being born, prayers recited at bedtime, whispered pleas for a fever to break or a broken heart to mend, silent invocations thrown up for patience and grace, 115 years of thanks given and struggles laid out and comfort sought. 

When your great-great-great grandmother, Caroline S. Jaeckle sewed the delicate lace and tiny puckered shoulders onto the gown for her daughter Charlotte, do you think she knew that she was sewing a legacy of faith as well?  It is my hope that in another 115 years even if that gown is long gone, that legacy remains.  It is my prayer that you will grow into the fullness of a life of faith, that you own the promise of being part of God's work here on earth, and that you share the love you have with those around you unconditionally, without cost.

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