MY FIRST GRANDCHILD is on the church calendar. He’s going to get baptized this month.
He won’t be quite seven months old when the water splashes on his head—and when we all hope he doesn’t show the congregation how to hit the high notes.
He might not be able to break glass, but he can scare a 70-pound Labrador Retriever into running for the backyard, out the doggie hole in the patio door.
His mom and I had a short discussion about whether to have my grandson dedicated or baptized.
We had our kids dedicated, mainly because that was the practice in the church we attended. And it made sense to let the kids decide for themselves, later, if they wanted to become Christians and get baptized.
But the church we attend now prefers to baptize.
My daughter and I talked about what the difference is between infant baptism and dedication.
I’m fairly simple about things. So I told her the difference is water.
My theology prof would roll over in his grave if he were still there and had the capacity to roll.
He was a big advocate for infant baptism. Theologians are in the business of studying details of faith that often escape the rest of us. They see big headlines in what we read as footnotes.
Baptism is a church ritual, called a sacrament. It’s a physical expression of something invisible. In this case, it’s an expression of God’s gracious welcome into his spiritual kingdom.
Scholars call the sacrament of baptism a:
- visible sign of an inward grace
- sign and a seal of saving grace
But try to picture either one of those in your head.
Pastors often call baptism a:
- symbol that God has washed away a person’s sins
- sign that the person is now a member of the Christian community
But does that really apply to a goo-goo baby whose worst sin is a blown up diaper and whose idea of joining anything is to latch onto Momma?
When we dedicate something to God, we’re giving it to him. We’re saying it belongs to him.
People dedicate churches, houses, and kids—among other things important to them.
When we dedicate a house, we might be saying we want what goes on in there to please God…for the most part, anyhow. There will be those occasional episodes that will end up in someone’s journal.
When we dedicate a child to God, we’re making a commitment about how we’re going to raise that child.
We won’t teach our kid how to bully on the playground, dump trash in someone’s front yard, or cheat old folks out of their pension. Other people will teach them that in spite of us.
We’ll do the best we can to encourage our kid to become a Jesus-like person: someone gentle, kind, and loving.
Whether it’s baptism or dedication, I think that for practical purposes we’re saying pretty much the same thing.
When my daughter and her husband stand in front of the congregation and have their son baptized, I don’t know what they’ll be thinking.
I’ll probably be videotaping. I’m famous in the family for that.
But once I press the “record” button, I’ll be quietly praying some version of:
“This boy is yours, God. You gave him that smile. You gave him that Scream of the Banshee, too. Like his mom, he’s the best of you and the best of me. You and I both know it. Take care of him. When I get to watch him from time to time, help me be a grandfather fit for the job of looking after your little boy. So here he is, Lord. When he needs you, be there for him. I’m counting on you. I know you love him at least as much as I do. It’s hard to imagine that you love him more.”
Whether it’s baptism or dedication, we’re putting the ball and the baby in God’s Court.
I’ll try to remember that next time I see my grandson dribble.
I know. I know.
It’s just too hard to resist.
I’m like that with peanut butter cookies, too.
What do you think about it?
I’m curious about those of you who have either had your baby baptized or dedicated in church.
What did you think you were doing?
Really. What did you feel you were doing in those moments?
Blog subscribers who win books this week
- Barb Brooks
- Robert Bassman
I give away free books every week to randomly selected subscribers to my free blog or my quarterly newsletter.
Note to the two winners: send me an email and I’ll give you the full list of books from which you can choose.
The deal’s good for a month, or for as long as I have giveaway books available.