One of the reasons we have baptisms during our service is because we believe that baptism is a sacrament that all of God’s people participate in. It is not required that baptisms take place during a worship service. The New Testament frequently mentions baptisms that apparently took place wherever there was water and whenever people were converted, and it might be good to get back to that somewhat. But wherever and whenever baptisms take place, all of God’s people participate, and this is particularly obvious during a service in a local church. This is because baptism is the official entrance into the covenant. In this sense, it is a birth, and we are the family. When a new child is born, all of the family is affected. You become a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, an aunt, uncle, grandfather, cousin, whatever. When a new person enters the world, you are changed by the mere fact of your relationship to that person. And this is even more true in the Church. Baptism isn’t just an empty sign. Baptism isn’t a participant’s ribbon. Yay, you showed up. Baptism is much more like a marriage. Every baptism of course is a sign and seal of an individual to Jesus Christ, but it is also that same individual’s incorporation into the Body of Christ. Just as a man and a woman become one flesh, so in baptism, individuals are joined to the Bride of Christ, to God’s people, and by the working of the Spirit joined to Christ.
And this is why it is not only the parents who take vows, but the congregation as well. We are being changed by every baptism, our family is growing, and we are becoming brothers and sisters and parents to these little ones. But this is even more obvious when we remember who the Father of this family is. Our Father, is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; our Father is God the Father. And this means that we are all adopted sons and daughters in His Son, our Lord Jesus. Jesus is our older brother, and therefore, we are all brothers and sisters. And just as older brothers and sisters get excited when a new child is added to the family, so too we rejoice together when we become brothers and sisters again and again and again in the covenant. But for this to mean what we say it means, we must take our baptismal vows seriously. The Lord entrusts particular parents with particular duties, but we all take vows to uphold these parents in assisting them to fulfill those vows. The Lord asks all of us to hold up certain parts of His Kingdom, and then we all promise to assist one another holding them up.
Paul says it’s like a Body, and the parts of the body cannot claim that they are better or more needful than other parts. The eyes need the hands, and the knees need the mouth. This translates directly to Christian Education. Every time a new covenant child is baptized, we are promising to assist parents in the Christian education of the child. This Christian education can take many different forms, but we are committing ourselves to it. We are saying together, that we will undertake to assist these parents to see that it happens. We will pray for that child, we will encourage those parents, we will help with babysitting and meals and showers, we will help teaching coop classes and volunteering and teaching at school, we will give to the Deacon’s Fund and Education Fund. We will see to it that our children grow up loving Jesus, hating sin, and charging the gates of Hell.
Ryan and Judith, every family pictures this ministry of the church in small ways, but your adoption of Bowden underlines this for us all. The brunt and burden of this ministry of Christian education always falls on families, but you aren’t taking up this responsibility in isolation. While you are taking particular vows today before us all, and we will hold you to them, we are also promising to stand with you in this high calling. Many of you know that Bowden’s mother was a client that was sheltered through Lavender House, the shelter ministry of Sabbath House. This really is what the church is all about, what the gospel is all about. Here, God has taken all of us: hurting, broken, homeless, fatherless, and He adopts us and clothes us and seats us at His table. Ryan and Judith, remember this grace today, remember it every day. Teach your son this grace, show him this grace in your home, and remind him as he grows up that he is not alone and his family is even larger than yours. His family includes vast multitudes of brothers and sisters.