883) Sermon at My Grandson’s Baptism (b)

     (…continued)  God delights in us, yes, but there are also conflicts galore in the Bible between God and everyone, just as there are between parents and teenagers.  Yet, the over-whelming message of the Bible is that we are indeed God’s children, and you know how attached we get to our children. The whole Bible can be seen as the story of a loving Father dealing with a whole bunch of rebellious children that He can’t help but love, and will not abandon.

     Parents know how hard it can be to deal with disobedient children.  Everybody has their ideas on what method works best with the little rebels.  I did not raise my children exactly the way I was raised, and my children are not raising their children exactly the way they were raised.  I have seen all sorts of methods work and not work to varying degrees.  Children, just like the rest of us, do have a will of their own, and the Bible makes it clear that not even God’s methods always worked with his rebellious children.  God, of course, has the power to make anything work, but in creating us in His image, God chose to limit his power to carry out his will by giving us a will of our own.  Although some child-raising ideas are definitely better than others, whatever is done may, or may not, ‘work.’  But one of the best and wisest things I ever heard about child-raising is this one line: “What every child needs most of all is at least two people who are just crazy about them.”  There are no guarantees in any of this, but that kind of love will go a long way.

     It was a wonderful privilege to be able to baptize my grandson Caleb earlier in this service.  Nancy and I, and his parents, and his other grandparents, and a whole bunch of other people are just crazy about that little guy.  I could go and on about how he is starting to smile, how he sleeps a lot and takes his time eating, how he furrows his brow and can look so deep in thought, and how he already seems to have all the makings of a good president.

     But I am here to talk about God and not Caleb.  One way to summarize all the theology about baptism is to simply say, ‘Baptism is God’s way of saying HE is crazy about us.’  That’s what is behind all those Biblical words I was telling you about earlier and a few more:  precious, honored, delightful, cherished, wonderful, loved, blessed, and so on.  We baptize babies not because the Bible specifies a certain age for baptism, but because of the order of salvation outlined in the Bible.  I John 4:19 says, “We love God because he first loved us,” and we see that in all the Bible stories, as God is calling people out of nowhere, sometimes those who seem to deserve it least; and freely giving them his love and promises.

     Therefore, if God’s love is what comes first, then that love can certainly come to a baby even before he or she asks for it.  God is so crazy about us that he is willing to make the first move, in baptism; and from then on God is always calling, waiting, sustaining, forgiving, promising, and blessing.  Caleb did not know what happened to him this morning, but he was baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and now, no matter how long Caleb lives or what he does, nothing more important will ever happen to him.  For in that baptism (Jesus said in Matthew 28) comes the promise that Jesus will be with us always and forever.  What could ever happen to anyone that would be more important than to receive such an eternal promise?  God, you see, is crazy about Caleb and about each of us; he would have to be in order to love us first like he does, and then to keep on loving us in spite of those many ways we disobey him.  Such love should indeed lead to our loving and obedient and attentive response.  

     But be warned, God’s Word is quick to add, if anyone insists on ignoring and disregarding God, God will, in the end, let them have their way, and they will enter eternity without him.  And why would anyone want that?

     Mike’s world has shrunk to a 14 by 14 foot private room at the nursing home.  His mind is as alert as ever, but ALS has all but destroyed his 64 year old body.  He cannot move himself, so he spends all of his life in that bed, getting lifted out of it with a sling only for his weekly bath.  The doctor estimates that he has less than a year to live.  It doesn’t matter anymore to Mike that he made the All-Conference football team three years in a row in high school.  Nor does it matter that he received a full scholarship to play football at Ohio State, where he also excelled at his studies.  Then, when he finished college Mike got just the job he wanted at more money than he ever imagined; but that doesn’t matter either anymore.  No amount of money can help him now.  It also doesn’t matter that he was so successful that he was able to retire at age 53 and then travel all over the world.  He and his wife loved to travel, but he won’t be traveling anymore.  It does still matter to Mike that he had a good marriage and three children and that they are doing well.  They all do come to see him, but he cannot say or even write anything to them anymore, so visits are difficult.  Before long, there will be that final good-bye, and life for the rest of them will go on without Mike.  He is not bitter and he cherishes his memories, but he knows that not one of his many accomplishments can help him now.

     However, one thing still matters most of all. Sixty-four years ago in a little country church in western North Dakota, Mike was baptized, and there received a promise from God that would last beyond his death and on into eternity.  And now, even though almost everything has been taken away from Mike, he takes comfort in the promise that all of that and more will one day be restored.  The hymn Borning Cry begins with God’s presence at baptism, sings of God’s presence throughout life, and then ends with God saying to us at the end of life; “When the evening gently closes in and you shut your weary eyes, I’ll be there as I have always been, with just one more surprise.”  In such a promise, even one like Mike still has hope, as do all who will believe it.

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Matthew 28:18-20  —  Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Luke 18:15-16  —  People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them.  When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

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I WAS THERE TO HEAR YOUR BORNING CRY by John Ylvisaker

Listen at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSIjIpkVrk0

I was there to hear your borning cry,
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.
I was there when you were but a child,
with a faith to suit you well;
In a blaze of light you wandered off
to find where demons dwell.

When you heard the wonder of the Word
I was there to cheer you on;
You were raised to praise the living Lord,
to whom you now belong.
If you find someone to share your time
and you join your hearts as one,
I’ll be there to make your verses rhyme
from dusk ’till rising sun.

In the middle ages of your life,
not too old, no longer young,
I’ll be there to guide you through the night,
complete what I’ve begun.
When the evening gently closes in,
and you shut your weary eyes,
I’ll be there as I have always been
with just one more surprise.

I was there to hear your borning cry,
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.

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