Our little Hattie became our newest covenant member just over a month ago. She followed in the footsteps of all of her older siblings and didn't even flinch as she had water poured over her sweet head. She also continued the tradition of wearing the family baptism gown, just like William, Amelia & Susannah.
I finally sat down last night and transcribed Pastor Sauder's words from the baptism:
In Matthew chapter 19 we read that little children were brought to Jesus...
“...that He might lay His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.”
This might seem a strange passage to read at a baptism, because baptism is not mentioned in this passage. And yet everything that is said here, everything that is told to us really gives us the reason why baptism has been instituted for us, and also for the children of covenant members.
What is said here is a lot about who these children are that are brought to Jesus. Notice that in this circumstance, where believing Jewish parents bring their children, they are brought and presented to Christ. That, in itself, is significant, because you can't bring anything to God that He does not accept. You can't bring something that is defiled to Him and offer it to Him and expect Him to receive it. But Jesus does receive it. Like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:14, children of believers are holy, so God looks upon them that way and receives them.
So it's not presumptuous to bring a little child for baptism, as Clay and Elissa do today, it's actually an act of faith, it's an act of trust in the Lord Jesus. And notice, too, that there are those who try to prevent these children from being brought to Jesus, and Jesus actually becomes angry with them. The Lord doesn't get angry very often, but when He does it's pretty serious. So the issue of bringing these children to Jesus is not a light thing, it's not an unimportant thing.
And also we might wonder, who are these children? Surely these are maybe teenagers, or something like that. Matthew and Mark both say that these are little children. Mark actually says Jesus took them up in his arms -- which I wouldn't advise you try on teenagers. And Luke actually tells us that these were babies, these were nursing babies, little children. And Jesus lays His hands on them. What does that mean? It's a blessing. Jesus is not just playing with these kids, He's not just patting them on the head, He is blessing them. They received the covenant blessing. The laying on of hands in the Bible is something that goes along with ordination, with receiving a particular office, and it goes along with blessing too. Remember that Jacob put his hands on the heads of his grandsons and blessed them, and prayed that God would make their name great. That's what Jesus does here, and then He says that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.
Really what He's saying is that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them, these little ones, and to those like them. Some people will say: “Well that just means that Jesus will give the Kingdom to adults who act like children, who have the faith of a child”. And there is truth in that, Jesus does teach that other places. But that's not what He teaches here. Here He says these little ones, of such as them who receive the Kingdom of Heaven. And what does that mean, to receive the Kingdom of Heaven? It means to be an heir, it means to be a son of God. And we are told that all of us who are in Christ are heirs of all things that we find in Christ. And that's exactly the point. Then they may say “This is wrong, really, this has to be wrong, because these little children haven't done anything, they haven't done anything for Christ, they haven't brought anything to Him”. Of course not. That's what salvation is, it's not about what you bring, it's not about what you have, it's not about what you can offer. We like to say that salvation is by grace through faith, but sometimes when we actually see it it makes us uncomfortable. It doesn't seem like it's sufficient, it doesn't seem like it's enough, it's a very different thing to see it in action. We might want to say “Wait, God, you can't do that, not til they're older, not til they've done something, you have to wait”. But that's not what Jesus says, He says “Don't stand between Me and My children, these children”.
Clay & Elissa, God has graciously given you another beautiful child. And she is now a part of your household, your family, and of course you will treat her as a member of the family. You will give her privileges of being a member of the family, of being a Dodson -- living in your home. And, as she grows, she will have responsibilities as well, she will have things she needs to be in charge of. In just that way, the Lord Jesus receives Harriet today. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to her, we will see that in a moment as she is baptized. That means that she is a member of the church, it means that she is a part of the family of God. And she is given the privileges, and, as she grows, the responsibilities of being a part of God's family. And God has charged you, as her parents, to teach her, by your words and by your lives, what life in the Kingdom of God is to look like. To believe that the Father loves her in Christ, to give glad and thankful obedience to Him all the days of her life, to live always as a child of God, a Christian. So, as her parents, I ask you to acknowledge these things:
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 Harriet 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 Clay and Elissa in the Christian nurture of this child?
Now, as a minister of Jesus Christ, and in obedience of the command of Christ, I baptize you, Harriet Frances Dodson, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Father, we give You thanks for Your grace to the last and to the least. That You did not send Your Son to save the healthy and the strong, but the weak and the sinful. We thank You for all that You have done for Your saints, and for little Harriet, who is one of those saints. We thank You for her, and Your grace upon her. We thank You that Jesus Christ has come, that we celebrate His coming at this advent season. And we celebrate the Good News that He has fought, He has suffered and died, and entered into the shadow of death, and come out of the tomb. He has done that for all of us here who confess the name of Christ, who have received baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, and He has done that for Harriet. And so, Father, we pray for her, that You would be with her all the days of her life. May this precious child walk in faith. Give her wisdom and faith all the days of her life, help her to grow in these things. Give wisdom to her mother and father to teach her Your ways, and to raise her to believe and live the gospel. May we as a congregation pray for them and encourage them in this holy work. We ask for this in Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.