The Gift of Baptism


I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I've been baptized three times. 

The first time I was "sprinkled" in a Methodist church after a conversion experience at music camp.  The next time, the pastor of the Baptist church I attended led me down the "Roman Road" and convinced me of my need to be baptized.  A somewhat shy teenager, I didn't have the courage to tell the man that I had already been, I was baptized again.  "Dunked" this time.

After years of "doubting my salvation" (as folks in that tradition would say), I decided to be baptized again a couple of years after college.  I knew the second baptism hadn't been "real," which had made me feel like a fake.  So, on Easter Sunday in 1987, I was baptized for the third time in my new Baptist church.

Fast forward a decade to when I began exploring moving my ordination from the Baptists to the United Church of Christ.  As I explored this new denomination, the biggest theological difference seemed to be centered on practices of baptism.  While the UCC practices "believer's baptism" (baptism that occurs after a conversion experience) like the Baptists, Disciples, and others, it also practices infant baptism.

Initially, I thought infant baptism might be a deal-breaker for me.  Believer's baptism just made so much sense.  Why make infants' choice to be Christian for them before they can decide for themselves?

But then I read the baptism liturgy in our UCC Book of Worship.  It reads, in part:  "The sacrament of baptism is an outward and visible sign of the grace of God.  Inasmuch as the promise of the gospel is not only to us but also to our children, baptism with water and the Holy Spirit is the mark of their acceptance into the care of Christ's church, the sign and seal of their participation in God's forgiveness, and the beginning of their growth into full Christian faith and discipleship."

When I read that--that infant baptism is a sign of God's grace, a "mark of (children's) acceptance into the care of Christ's church"--I was struck by the beauty of infant baptism:  to be claimed in grace and love by God's family before you understand much of anything, much less anything of faith?  How beautiful is that?

In our church this Sunday, as we celebrate Jesus' baptism, we'll also celebrate our own.  We will remind ourselves of the responsibilities that attend our baptisms, but we'll also celebrate and give thanks that, by means of our baptisms-at whatever age they occurred-we are now part of God's family.  We are claimed by grace and love and forgiveness.  We belong.  Thanks be to God!

Peace for the journey,