This week I managed to sit down and listen to the recording of Susannah's baptism. It was nice to be able to listen to it again without the distraction of holding a squirmy toddler in front of the whole church (not naming any names here...). In an effort to help me teach my children about their baptisms I have written out the messages and prayers for each of their services. Amelia's baptism is posted here. And now Susannah is our newest covenant member:
For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. – Exodus 12:12-13
This is God’s promise of His Passover, where He expresses His redeeming love for His people, Israel. His love for each household, as the blood was put on the door of each household, His love for each one, for each member of those households. Pharaoh of course would not let the people of God go, and yet he did try to, at times, negotiate with Moses. Remember he said, “You can go out but you can’t go very far” or, “You can go out but you can’t take your cattle or your livestock with you”. And the final time he said, “You can go out but you can’t take your little ones with you. May your God help you if you try to take your little ones with you.” And yet these conditions were refused because God claims children for His own, and they also were to worship, and they also were a part God’s promise. God’s promise belonged to all the people young and old, infant and child. His promise was to be their God, and they would be His children. They would be sealed with the right of circumcision.
Now, of course, after Christ has shed his blood, and after He has risen again, there is no blood shedding rights in the church. Blood has been shed once, atonement has been made once, for the forgiveness of sins. The promise now is the promise of baptism. The apostle Peter says that promise, that sign, is for you and for your children. Just as those Israelite households were spared from the destroying angel by the blood on the door protecting all inside. Not just the adults, not just those old enough to know what was happening, not just the ones who were old enough to drive or who had gotten to some age of accountability that is undefined. God claims them all. He claims them all within the household as His own: to protect them, to keep them, to save them from the destroyer. Baptism is a promise of safety. Baptism says that the Lord in heaven and earth, He is our kind father, He is our protective father. In fact, He is so near to us in baptism that He actually engraves His name upon us. Baptism is our Father’s pledge that He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.
Clay and Elissa, today God’s promise to you is to guide and to guard your daughter Susannah Ruth. Your daughter is a daughter of the covenant. And she has a special name. Susannah is a Biblical name, it is a Hebrew name. We are told that one of the women that followed Jesus and supported him from her own livelihood was a woman named Susannah, one of the first disciples. In Hebrew Susannah means “lily”, it is the flower, the lily. In the Song of Songs the scripture beautifully describes the lily as the bridegroom’s beloved, the one who is the lily among the thorns. She is the one that he loves especially. It indicates the beauty that she has, the favor that she has found with her lord, her bridegroom. In the temple lilies were carved on the laver of cleansing, they were associated with holiness with being clean, with being able to be standing in the presence of God. Lilies have their place in the garden, which is God’s presence. And Susannah, your daughter, has been granted a place in God’s presence, she has been granted a place as a daughter of the Most High. So teach her to remember her baptism, because it is her baptism that signifies her cleansing by God Himself, the living God is her God. Teach her to trust in Jesus as a beloved daughter of the covenant. Teach her to walk in newness of life that is the path for all of Jesus’ disciples. And discipline her patiently when she goes astray, or when she disobeys. Teach her that rebellion is the way of sorrow and death, and faithfulness is the way to life.
- Do you acknowledge your child’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?
- 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?
- 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 pray with and for her, 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?
Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of supporting and assisting these parents in the Christian nurture of this child?
Father, we give you thanks for your grace to the last and to the least, and that you did not send your son to save the healthy and the strong, but the weak and those who are in sin. We thank you for all you have done for your saints, and for little Susannah. We thank you that for her, Jesus Christ has come. He has fought, and He has suffered, and He has entered into the shadow of death and the horror of the cross, and for her He uttered the cry: “It is finished”. For Susannah He rose from the dead. We thank you that for her He ascended into heaven and intercedes there for her, even though she does not yet know Him. But you show that your word is true by doing this. We love Him because He first loved us. Father, may this daughter of the covenant walk in faith all the days of her life. Give faithfulness and wisdom to Clay and Elissa to teach her your ways, to raise her to believe and to live the gospel. May we, as a congregation, pray for them and encourage them in this holy work. In Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.
Susannah was able to continue the tradition of wearing the family baptism gown and here she is posing in it with her Granny and Auntie Laurel Susannah.