I got to do one of my very, very favorite things yesterday: a baptism!
Seriously, ask my confirmation students. If the answer isn’t “Jesus”, it’s probably “baptism.” I love talking and teaching about it. I love remembering and celebrating it in worship and at home. I love welcoming a new person into the body of Christ with water and God’s word.
You know who does not always love baptism, though? The person being baptized!
Yesterday, the newly baptized was an eight month old baby. When, all of a sudden, some lady she didn’t know very well started pouring water on her head, this baby gave a startled cry. And then, she took matters into her own hands.
When I laid my hand on her forehead to pray, bless, and mark her with a cross, she glared. She reached up with her sweet little fingers and grabbed my wrist. She fought my hand and tried to pry my fingers away from her head. She would not be caught off guard again.
We laughed. I moved my hand to the back of her head as I blessed her. I gently fought her fingers with mine as I traced a cross on her dripping forehead and said, “You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”
It was a perfect illustration of what baptism is: God’s action, not ours.
Baptism is not something we earn or choose or deserve. It’s God’s gift of grace to us. When we baptize an infant–whether she’s cooing sweetly or screaming her head off–we are reminded that it’s God’s goodness, not ours, that is at the heart of baptism.
Think about it:
An infant has served on no committees, has done no great work, and is helpless, needy, dependent and unemployed. In fact, an infant brought to the water for baptism is a sign of how we all come to God–with nothing, absolutely nothing!
–Dan Erlander, Let the Children Come
It’s not because of who we are; it’s because of who God is: gracious, generous, loving, forgiving. Sealing us with the Spirit and marking us with the cross of Christ. So we are named and claimed, loved and held, precious children of God.
Tears and shouts and all. No matter what.
Do you have a story or a memory from your baptism?