We had a baptism at church this morning. Three things stood out to me.
1. The pastor was pointing out that there are differences between Jesus’ baptism and the baptism that was about to take place. Jesus was an adult when he was baptized, whereas the person who was about to be baptized at our church was an infant. Jesus was dunked, whereas the baby would be sprinkled. The pastor also said that the liturgy encourages us to remember the time of our own baptism, but that many of us can’t do that, since a number of us were babies when we were baptized?
So is our method of baptism non-biblical? Well, believers in infant baptism refer to Scriptures to support their position—-passages about baptizing all nations, the baptism of entire households, and the fact that ancient Israelites were initiated into the covenant when they were babies, through circumcision. Is there a disadvantage to infant baptism? I can see value in being baptized as an adult, when I am in a position to make a commitment to God. And yet, I honor the values that have been associated with infant baptism, such as the importance of the community instructing and nurturing the child to follow God’s ways. That brings me to my second point.
2. I’ve been to who-knows-how-many baptisms since I started attending my church. And what I’ve noticed is that, with all of the talk about the church community guiding the child in God’s ways, we almost never see the families whose child is being baptized after the baptism. Usually, they come back to church for the next baptism, and that’s it. There have been some exceptions, though. I saw one couple who used to come to services more regularly.
I wonder some things. Are we taking the baptism seriously, or is it just a rote? I’m hesitant to be judgmental. Perhaps the families choose to raise their children in the faith informally, apart from the church. And the fact that so many people show up for the baptism shows that they take baptism seriously, on some level.
3. The pastor’s sermon was good. It was about baptism. The pastor said that Jesus was baptized because, in a sense, Jesus was repenting, or changing direction: he was going from being a carpenter to becoming one who was performing God’s mission. The pastor also noted that Jesus’ baptism was a time when Jesus was affirmed as God’s son. Similarly, the pastor said, those who are baptized become God’s children. The difference between them and Jesus, however, is that they have been orphaned by sin, whereas Jesus did not know sin. That may be true, but I think that even Jesus felt more at home when he was reminded that he was God’s son, for, while he was not orphaned by sin, he was physically away from his Father.