Sunday, June 15, 2008
This Sunday, Jess and I “dedicated” our daughter to God through the sacrament of baptism. Of course, many of you who have been Nazarenes for a very long time probably know that the Nazarene Manual allows parents to choose between dedicating or baptizing their children. Parents can choose to dedicate their child as an infant and then allow them to make a decision for baptism when they are old enough to claim faith in Christ for themselves. Parents can also choose to baptize their infant and then the child can confirm or claim the baptism they have already received when they are older. Although our manual allows for both, infant dedication has been a more common practice in the Church of the Nazarene than has infant baptism. It is for that reason that I want to say a few words here about why Jess and I have chosen to baptize Hannah rather than dedicate her.
First, infant baptism symbolizes the reality that God chooses us before we ever choose God. Often, adult baptisms emphasize that the person being baptized is making a public proclamation of their faith in God. This is certainly an important part of the Christian journey and at some point when she is older, Hannah will have to make this decision for herself as well. However, as an infant or young child is baptized we are all reminded of the way in which each and every one of us came to God: weak, helpless, unknowledgeable, unskilled, and entirely dependent. Hannah’s baptism is a symbol of the ways that God is already working in her life no matter how unaware of it she might be.
Second, infant baptism reminds us that baptism is an initiation and entrance into a family and community that has a peculiar way of life. When parents choose baptism for their children, it is a reminder of the vital and essential role that other people play in our faith. If most of us were to recount the story of how we came to be Christian, that story would include a long list of people who were influential in bringing us to Christ and helping us to mature in the faith: parents, grandparents, friends, and church family. Most often, God does not just “zap” people with grace in order to transform them. God chooses to work through people, through families, through the community of faith. Hannah’s baptism is her entrance into Christ’s Church and our local church family. It is a reminder that, at some level, her salvation is dependent upon all of us; upon Jess and I as her parents, upon those who have influenced us, and upon her church family. Infant baptism is a reminder that our salvation is not individual but communal. We are all bound up together in this journey toward Jesus and his kingdom. Jess and I could not be happier that Hannah has began this journey as a part of this particular church family.