Sunday, November 2, 2008

Baptismal Ruminations...Coming Full Circle

My thoughts on the meaning and importance of baptism as well as the mode and timing of one's baptism have changed significantly over the years. I was baptized as an infant into a family that did not participate in the life of the church.

As a teenager I had a religious experience that some would refer to as being "born again." After some time, I was baptized again, as a believer by immersion. I then, saw no validity in my infant baptism.

I have now been a Lutheran since the late 1980s. Lutherans primarily baptize infants. This is something I have struggled with for a long time. Was it really valid if the recipient was not exercising faith? What if the parents of the child did not believe? What if it was being done simply for "fire insurance," just in case there might be something to this God thing? Or, what if the baby is baptized because the parents have caved into pressure from other family members?

My appreciation of infant baptism, including my own, began with studying church history in undergrad. I was amazed at how far back in the history of the Christian faith this practice goes! In studying Luther's Large Catechism with Rural Pastor, I have come to a better understanding of why we do the things we do as Lutherans. Luther's wrote this concerning baptism:
...We do not put the main emphasis on whether the person baptized believes or not, for in the latter case baptism does not become invalid. Everything depends upon the Word and commandment of God...baptism is simply water and God's Word in and with each other...when the Word accompanies the water, baptism is valid, even though faith is lacking. For my faith does not make baptism; rather, it receives baptism...for it is not bound to our faith but to the Word.

"Misuse does not destroy the substance, but confirms its existence." Gold remains no less gold if a harlot wears it in sin and shame. (pp 463-464, "The Large Catechism," The Book of Concord)
At the time of baptism, God comes and works and does what God wants to do in spite of us. It is all about God, not about us. As Carl Jung wrote, "Bidden or not, God is present."

So, the questions for me really end up being, "How do I walk in my baptism? How do I live this out to the glory of God? How do I in my daily life incarnate God's presence?" May God gives us all the ears to listen for that still small voice of direction and guidance as we seek to live in service to God and neighbor.

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steve martin said...

Excellent post, Ivy!

Rightly understood, baptism is something that God does, a promise that God makes, a death (to our old sinful self) that God inflicts, and a resurrection to new life that God performs.

It is all centered on the work of God. That's what makes it so great and that is what makes infant baptism valid and so wonderful.

We'll baptise anyone, regardless of age, but we especially love to baptise babies!

It proclaims God's grace BEFORE faith. God's action and will must always come first...before our response. Faith really isn't even our response, because it too is a gift of God.

God is always the One who does the baptising. His promises are always valid and always good.

Ivy said...

Thanks be to God. Blessings Steve.

imngrace said...

I've preached on a number of occasions, "It's not about us!" and it's all about God's graciousness toward us in Jesus.

Sometimes it shatters the world of those in the congregation who feel the world does actually revolve around them!

God will guide you in the ways to live out this baptismal calling, I'm sure. It's not always easy to the still small voice amidst the loud clanging of the world, but if you sit still long enough, it comes through--loud and clear. I sense you are already living it out just by being where you are.

You are in my prayers, Ivy.

Ivy said...

Thank you for your encouragement, imngrace. Blessings.