by Ben Wright (Rosie’s Dad)
I want to thank everyone for Sunday. Servant church is a very special place for young children, as Milo and Everett are about to find out when they start crawling around! The baptism reminded me of words from the retreat from the Old Testament – that Samuel grew up in the Temple surrounded by the priests. (1 Samuel 1)
I feel like Servant Church, a place full of plain clothes priests, is going to be able to give Rosie, Milo and Everett, Audrey, Cooper and all the other kids we come across, the same love and attention that enabled Samuel to grow into the holy person he was.
I must admit, I’ve always been somewhat ambivalent about infant baptism. I was baptized as a baby and really found meaning in the sacrament of confirmation as a teenager. But I’ve always had a zealot-y streak (though it’s thinned out along with my hair) and part of me still asks if adult baptism is the preferred order of the day.
After all, did we take something from Rosie by baptizing her? Did we make a choice for her she might want to have made herself? Would it have been better to wait and let her make her own decision?
These are worthy questions. Here are some thoughts, if not answers.
If sacraments are ‘visible signs of invisible realities’ – like Eric said, part of God’s ‘body language’ – then Sunday’s baptism sevrive was most certainly sacramental. The word ‘reality’ sticks with me though, because of the Great Commission.
Jesus said, “go make disciples…baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” One way that has helped me to think about the Great Commission is to substitute the word “baptize” for “immerse” and “name” for “reality.” (After all, a ‘name’ the thing that signifies and represents the ‘reality’ of a person to others, whether they are present or not.)
On Sunday we visibly immersed Rosie. But by doing so we acknowledged that something invisible has happened, is happening and will continue to happen. (Because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.) Just like Samuel, Rosie, Milo, Everett, Audrey, Cooper, and everyone else at Servant Church are being intentionally immersed in the reality of God.
I think that is what were acknowledging on Sunday. I want Rosie to be soaked in meaning, surrounded by love, enveloped by community and found in Jesus. It’s already happening, but I want it to continue. It’ll be her decision at some point, but right now it’s ours.
But what does it mean to be ‘immersed’ in the realities of the Father, the Son and the Spirit? I’m sure it means many things, but a helpful way I’ve been shown to think about it is thanks to my Mum.
About ten years ago, we were at a Delirious (remember them?) concert – the closing line of the gig was, “you don’t have to believe to belong.” The zealot in me kicked in and I expressed by disappointment in their ‘lack of orthodoxy’ (wince, smile, guffaw…)
My mum gently but firmly put me straight.
They were right. You don’t have to believe to belong.
The process by which someone comes to God is “belong, believe behave,” she said.
That was a real epiphany for me. For the most part, me and my Christian friends acted like it was the other way round. But my Mum is right. It makes sense that you have feel like you belong before you can make the decision to believe. And (mostly) you have to believe in Jesus before you can begin to behave like him. (Why else would you want to mimic the life of some ancient dude who pee-ed off a whole bunch of people and got himself killed?)
I think we see the process of “belong, then believe, then behave” all the time in the Gospels. People belonged to Jesus before they believed in him. And they begun to behave the other side of belief. Zacchaeus was eating with Jesus while people like me muttered, before he gave his money to the poor and those he had ripped off. (Luke 19) The untouchables Jesus persisted in hanging out with all belonged to him before they believed. Many went on to confess and act, just like Zacchaeus.
Going back to the Great Commission, I think you could make a poetic argument that Jesus is talking about belonging, believing and behaving. We belong to the creator God. We believe in the Son of God who died for us. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to be(-have) as God created us to be. To be immersed in the reality of all three is to know that we belong to God, to understand that we are forgiven in Christ and to appreciate that we must allow the Holy Spirit to both strip and refurbish us as new creations.
That’s what I want for Rosie, Milo and Everett, Audrey, Cooper, all of you and myself. That is what I believe we were acknowledging in part on Sunday. I can’t wait to do it again for someone else, be they fully grown or in baby clothes! (Or both, this is Austin after all.)
I was so glad to see so many new faces at church on Sunday. A crowded church is a good problem to have – and one I hope we keep on having. I feel truly blessed that Servant Church is a place I feel I can bring my friends and family, many of whom aren’t yet intentionally following Jesus. Servant Church is a place I am proud to bring them and I hope they’ll come again.
Photos by Ashley Price