Friday, October 19, 2012

I do not say it often enough...

Baptism has become an event to us.  An unimportant event as a nod to tradition to some.  An important event to others but not the trigger of a completely new identity.  Even the stranger to the Lutheran service will note the seriousness and profound character of baptism from its liturgy or rite.  Unfortunately, too often the depth of the words is lost in a sea of tearful Kodak moments in which the flash of cameras and phones trivializes the timeless event in time which is baptism.

I am more and more convinced that the problems in Lutheran piety and church growth stem from our failure to take seriously the Word of the Lord that does what it promises.  No where is that Word more central to what happens than in the baptism of an infant.  With nothing to comment the child to the Lord, nothing to bring, nothing to offer, and no promises to make, we are left only with the promise of the Lord which He has kindly attached to this water.  For this reason Luther found the most apt demonstration of grace hidden right there in the obvious of the baptismal event.  It is truly an event but one which has lasting and life-changing consequence for the baptized.  Unless, of course, we cede that event merely to the past and treat it as merely an event in time.

Lutheran piety is meant to be profoundly baptismal.  Lutheran faith is rooted in the Word that keeps its promise, the efficacious Word.  I do not mean to take away from the devotional reading of Scripture or the regular weekly reception of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.  These also powerfully shape and define our Lutheran identity in the practical realm of "me."  But it seems to me that each day it is both test and opportunity to speak, confess, and live the promise of that watery death and resurrection called baptism.  That each day we struggle to believe and say, to say and believe, "God's own child gladly say it!"

We could do worse than to content ourselves with the Our Father and Luther's morning and evening prayers as the basis for our daily devotion.  I might add only one thing that we learn to know and to pray as well as say -- God's own child I gladly say it!

1    God’s own child, I gladly say it:
    I am baptized into Christ!
He, because I could not pay it,
    Gave my full redemption price.
Do I need earth’s treasures many?
I have one worth more than any
    That brought me salvation free
    Lasting to eternity!

2    Sin, disturb my soul no longer:
    I am baptized into Christ!
I have comfort even stronger:
    Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.
Should a guilty conscience seize me
Since my Baptism did release me
    In a dear forgiving flood,
    Sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

3    Satan, hear this proclamation:
    I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation,
    I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I’ve traveled,
All your might has come unraveled,
    And, against your tyranny,
    God, my Lord, unites with me!

4    Death, you cannot end my gladness:
    I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness
    To inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes
Faith’s assurance brightly flashes:
    Baptism has the strength divine
    To make life immortal mine.

5    There is nothing worth comparing
    To this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring:
    Even there I’ll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising,
Still my soul continues praising:
    I am baptized into Christ;
    I’m a child of paradise!

© 1991 Robert E. Voelker

Or just sing it along with this assembly:


evc said...

Love that hymn. Heard you on Issues Etc. a couple of days ago and really enjoyed what you had to say.

Mark Beitz said...

Thank you for sharing your comments and the hymn "God's Own Child I Gladly Say It" today. A reminder that I am baptized into Christ to be claimed and protected as God's own child brings baptism from a long distant event to a gift from God for assurance and protection all of the days I am granted in this world. I keep this hymn text on a bookmark in my Bible as a reminder of God's grace to us.

Anonymous said...

What do you think of the trend among our churches of having baptisms after the service, or even on a Saturday afternoon?


Anonymous said...

We have families getting up and moving around DURING the baptism to get just the right pictures or videos. To maintain the sanctity of this sacrament, I think this distraction is just wrong but when I mentioned it to our pastors, I got brushed off. So it continues.

Joe Herl said...

Here's another recording of "God's own child, I gladly say it," made yesterday, October 18, during a service at St. John in Seward, Nebraska. The organist is Paul Soulek, the church's music director.

Janis Williams said...

A hymn I have come to love.

I was not baptized till age seven in the Baptist church. Since my husband and I have been brought to Lutheranism, our baptisms really mean something. No longer events to be recorded. Not our "public identification" with Christ after conversion. Our entry into Christ's Kingdom, even though we were not aware of it, any more than an infant is.

How blessed we are that our God and Savior Jesus Christ baptized us into Himself! We gladly say it!

Anonymous said...

Though I am firmly Lutheran now I was raised in a Baptist Church. I was also baptized at a young age and I can assure you that I understood fully what I was doing. Baptism has always been important to me.
We have to be very careful when we single out another group as not all teach the same (just as in the Lutheran church). There are many break offs. My grandmother showed God to me more than any other person.