Last evening my grandson, Jack Keller, was baptized. My son and daughter-in-law come from different faith traditions regarding baptism and my son wrote about this on their blog. I plan this week to write on the various perspectives of baptism and how it can be a vital touchstone of faith. Baptism is a beautiful collage of images and promises that revolve around this gift of God. Each image has value, worthy of reflection.
In baptism, therefore, every Christian has enough to study and practice all his or her life. Christians always have enough to do to believe firmly what baptism promises and brings – victory over death and the devil, forgiveness of sin, God’s grace, the entire Christ, and the Holy Spirit with his gifts. In short, the blessings of baptism are so boundless that if our timid nature considers them, it may well doubt whether they could all be true.” (Martin Luther’s Large Catechism, BOC 461)
In the Lutheran tradition, the focus is on God’s promise and God’s initiative in creating the covenant relationship. I cannot come to God on my own, but the Holy Spirit calls me through the Gospel. Baptism is a tangible expression of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. One baptismal image that expresses God’s initiative is adoption with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was baptized by John prior to beginning his ministry.
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17).
Though Jesus was God incarnate, God the Father sent the Holy Spirit as a sign affirming Jesus’ authority as God’s Son. God did this prior to Jesus starting his ministry, before he preached or healed. The same Holy Spirit is given in our baptism and we are “adopted” as God’s children.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:14-16).
One of the ways this is enacted with an infant baptism is that the infant is normally held by the Christian sponsors or the pastor during the baptism. The pastor or sponsor represents God’s claim and blessing upon the child. After the baptism the child is given back to the parents as a gift from God with the understanding that the child will be raised in faith.
Baptism is a powerful reminder of who I am: I am a child of God. I am God’s child, not because of my actions or inactions, but because of God’s tangible grace given to me in baptism.
Next post: B is for Belonging.
Lord Jesus, Thank you for claiming me as your child.