On Sunday morning our family walked up and stood in front of the church I have been called to help lead. Me, I’m used to that. In fact, it’s expected. It is, despite my serious introversion, a job requirement.
My wife doesn’t enjoy being up front; she avoids it at almost all costs. My daughter, at least so far, is happy as long as there is somewhere to sleep and a pacifier nearby. And yet, there Erin and I were, standing with our daughter and our parents while everyone else stared at us as we prepared to answer some questions from a preacher.
They weren’t just any questions either, but questions about our faith. We were asked what we believe is most fundamentally true – about God and the world that God loves. We were asked about life – particularly the kind of life we believe is worth living, the life we want for ourselves and the one we want for our daughter. We were asked about our commitments – what we were willing to do and what we weren’t willing to do.
Question 1: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world and repent of your sin?
Question 2: Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
Question 3: Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations and races?
Question 4: Will you nurture your daughter in Christ’s holy Church, that by your teaching and example she may be guided to accept God’s grace for herself, to profess her faith openly and to lead a Christian life?
Serious questions these are, questions that require serious answers. There’s nothing that forces you to come to grips with what you really believe is important quite like trying to raise a child.
My wife and I were raised in two different church traditions, particularly when it comes to baptism. She grew up in a tradition that prefers adult baptism and infant dedication. I grew up in one that practices infant baptism and mostly teenage confirmation.
Before our daughter was born we had plenty of conversations about the sacrament– when and how it would be offered if we had a child, why each tradition made sense and what it all meant to receive the waters and blessing of being baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And so we made the walk from our seats to the front of the church Sunday not in respect to tradition or out of some ecclesial obligation, but because of what we have come to believe is true about the way God works in our lives and in the world.
We looked at each other and smiled as we heard a friend pronounce the words over our daughter:
I baptize you in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Because this we believe – these questions are impossible to truthfully answer yes to on our own.
Sin and evil lurk around every corner and find their way into our lives when we are looking and when we aren’t. How could we possibly reject them by ourselves?
Rejecting evil, injustice and oppression is a supersized task, even if the freedom does come from God. There isn’t a day that goes by when we aren’t aware – even as privileged and relatively comfortable people – of the injustices and evils and oppression that friends and neighbors face on a near constant basis. Rejecting these is God-sized work.
The very nature of faith is trust and yet we are keenly aware of how easy it is to place trust in other things – reputation, money, popularity, and comfort just to name a few. And while the Gospel breaks down every barrier, many of which we don’t name in the liturgy, I admit that I’m still pretty good at clinging to the old identities and ways of being.
And then there’s the real tough one – that our lives are to be examples to our daughter that will lead her to Christ. We’re supposed to live in such a way that she will reject the idolatries of the world and find freedom from the sins that bind us and might bind her. It isn’t our intellect or powers of persuasion that we are being asked to affirm, but the integrity of how we try to follow Jesus.
How could anyone say yes to these questions?
And yet there we were, declaring with boldness and confidence that we will resist evil and oppression, that we will live in the freedom of God, that we will put our whole trust in God’s grace and that our lives will bear witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We did it because we know that the same grace our daughter was receiving in the water – the power to resist sin and grow in grace – was at work in our lives. The same grace that was drawing her to God before she is even aware of it is the same grace that is sustaining and pulling us forward in our life with God as well. Our own strength and faith commitments announce a dreary No. But with God’s grace, working in our lives and the lives of our faithful friends and community we can shout a joy-filled Yes.
Christ is alive. Grace is ever-present. God is at work.
Will you follow Jesus and show your daughter how to do the same?
Without reservation – We Will!