Our darling Amelia was baptized last Sunday, becoming a new covenant member. She was able to wear her great great grandfather's baptismal gown (hand made by her great great great grandmother) ... more on that in a future blog. Both Clay's family and mine were able to attend the church service and be witnesses (all except her Uncle Austin, who was missed). We lived too far away from family for that to be possible for Margaret and William so that was very special. She took the baptism like a champ and never murmured, or even stirred. Her Uncle Ben videotaped the ceremony for us and I jotted down the words Pastor Sauder spoke. I like to have them written down so I can share them with the children as they grow older and learn more about their own personal baptisms. I can't vouch that I accurately recorded every word, but this is hopefully a fairly correct version of her baptism ceremony:
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
Ezekiel, the prophet, speaks here the word of the Lord as He gives His covenant promises. And that promise is the promise of transformation. Transformation, not of the outer man simply, but the inner man, the heart. That's what he's speaking of here. Our problem, the heart of our problem, is our heart. And their hearts, as the Lord says in Ezekiel, had become stone, they had become hard, they had become rocky. And how was this? Earlier in Ezekiel's book, in chapter 14, God speaks to the prophet: He says "Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts". Idols are made of stone, the people made themselves these idols and those idols became entrenched in their hearts. They became like what they were worshiping. Their hearts became hard.
The Lord must do a work of transformation in every one of us because at heart we are all worshipers of idols, we are all rebellious against Him. And how does God do this, how does the Lord do this transformation? It mentions two things here. He says "I will sprinkle clean water on you" and then He says "I will give you a new heart and a new spirit". Those things go together, they run together in the Bible. The water shows us what it is God's doing, the outward evidence, the outward sign of what is happening.
And water itself is kind of a complex symbol in the Bible. On one hand the Bible teaches, and we know from other means, that water is essential to life. Without water plants dry up and die, without water there's no crops. Human life is going to wither and fade away. And of course the Biblical picture of an ideal world is Eden. It's a well watered place. It's a garden. And the Lord is frequently seen as the one who pours out water to make places like this. Water is life in the scripture. But as I said, the symbol is somewhat complex because water is also death in the Bible. Think of the days of Noah when the entire human race, except for Noah and his family, had hearts of stone. And God sent water, he drowned the whole world in water. In the exodus Pharaoh and his armies were drowned in the sea. David, in his psalms, often describes his hordes of enemies and prays that the Lord would surround them with water as they are trying to surround him with water and drown him. And of course we know the story of Jonah who was thrown into the water. He's tossed out and goes down to the very depths of the sea....
Water is life but you see water is also death. And it's in baptism that really these two meanings come together. This is how scripture treats baptism. Because those same waters that drown the wicked of the world are called by Peter a baptism that saved Noah and his household. And the waters that drown Pharaoh and his armies were also a baptism for Moses, for the people of Israel, who were baptized in the cloud and in the sea. And even Jonah, who went down into the very depths of the sea, was rescued by the Lord, swallowed by a fish and deposited on dry ground. The waters of death in baptism become the waters of life. Death becomes a passage to life. And in that way baptism points us to the work of our Lord Jesus Christ who underwent just that. He underwent, as Paul calls, his baptism on the cross. He went through death, he went through the drowning waters, and came out on the other side.
Clay and Elissa, as you bring Amelia today that's also what's happening to her. As she passes under these waters she is, in a sense, passing through the red sea. She's going through the flood. She is going under the waters but being rescued from them by the Lord Jesus Christ. She's being brought into abundant new life. It's a transformation, and that's what's happening here today in front of these witnesses. Amelia passes through baptism, through these waters to the other side. And once she gets to the other side there's no fear of destruction.There's no fear of condemnation. This event today is God's promise to her, and to you, of what He has promised to her, what He will do in her life. And that's something that you as her parents will need to instruct her and tell her and remind her as she goes throughout her life.
Do you acknowledge your child's need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?
And do you claim God's covenant promises on her behalf and do you look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for her salvation as you do for your own?
And do you now unreservedly commit this child to God, and promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before her a godly example, that you will teach her the doctrines of our holy faith, and that you will strive, by all the means of God's appointment, to bring her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
Congregational vow: Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of supporting and assisting these parents in the Christian nurture of this child?
As a minister of Jesus Christ I now baptize you, Amelia Louise Dodson, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The PrayerOur Father and our God, we thank you for your grace and your mercy and your kindness. We thank you today for Amelia, that you have given her life and that you have made her a part of your covenant people. And the promise, as a part of that people, that you are transforming her, that you have given her a heart of flesh and have given her life in Jesus Christ your son. We pray that you would continue to work in her by the gift of your Holy Spirit. We pray that she would daily die more and more to sin and live more and more to righteousness. That you would be with Clay and Elissa, her parents, that you would help teach them to teach her faithfully and consistently throughout her life. And we pray she would have the power and strength to triumph over the world, the flesh, and the devil. In Jesus name we pray.