Baptisms and Faith Formation

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I've tried to do a good bit of objective thinking lately about the events that best form faith in the lives of children and youth. Maybe I think about it more objectively now than when I was in the pastorate. I was too close to it all then. And every once in a while, I come across a very special event that captures the heart of faith-forming experiences.

Recently, my friend’s grandson was to be baptized. His two "older" sisters, who were four and three, became a very large part of this event. At the baptism service the baptism water was carried into church by grandfather and the two girls, Grace and Lily. They poured the pitcher of water into the baptism basin. The parents had carefully explained to the girls that they should watch closely during the baptism because the pastor would be putting that water on John's forehead in the sign of the cross. It meant that John belonged to Jesus who had died on the cross. The baptism went as planned.

But, after church, when his parents had fastened John in the car seat and were ready to leave the building, Grace looked at John and with alarm exclaimed, "Oh, Mommy, the cross is gone! What happened?"

I'm thinking that Grace's faith took a healthy step forward that morning.

What do you think? What do you see parents doing that captured these teaching moments for children’s faith? Do you have stories that would benefit others? 

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 Howard,

This is a good story! I don't have strong positive examples in mind, but I do know that I've appreciated times when pastors have addressed small children warmly and personnally, while I've felt very uncomfortable with some baptisms I've witnessed where the older siblings are "up front" but essentially ignored. It's a small but powerful thing just to treat them as people.

I think Neil makes a very significant point when he suggests that a pastor's personal contact with siblings or other children is key to making a baptism memorable. Let me expand on it....

We had many baptism in our congregation on a regular basis (a lot of children!) and there were a number of non-negotiable considerations we always observed:

-siblings are always to be included in the baptism event (located in a position so they could see the actual baptism clearly) and they were  personally addressed by the pastor at the time of their siblings baptism.

-all the children of the congregation were welcomed to the front for the entire baptism. The pastor addressed them to help them understand what was happening here.

-When the baptized child was presented to the congregation so they could promise their "love, encouragement and prayers", the child was always introduced to the gathered children FIRST. The new child is their peer, and they were to give the first welcome.

-We resolved that we would not be annoyed by noise, rustling, cries, etc. After all, if children are valuable before the Lord, then we ought not to have the right to say "SHHHH".  If we have a problem with a little noise, the problem is ours not those who are doing what children normally do.

Any other ideas?

I love the ideas of talking "to" & "with" the children/siblings up front and not "at" them so that we do not preach down to them with a sermon, but I still struggle with what we should be telling/showing them about this event in a way they can grow to understand and celebrate what God has said or done for them in their baptisms, while still making it clear that they need to confirm & profess their own faith.  What things have you said to the kids watching or what questions have you asked of them at varying ages to help them understand what's happening?  As cute as the story about the lost/disappearing cross on a brother's forehead is, what should a parent or pastor be saying to this concerned sister about her brother's being signed and sealed as God's child?  I'd love to hear more...   

I was looking for something specific concerning the Holy spirit and came across this RC Church handout 

I would love to see a similar CRC Baptism handout specific for parents and Children

Handout: Romans Chapter 7

BIBLICAL EVENTS WHICH PREFIGURE BAPTISM BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

Christ himself died once and for all for sins, the upright for the sake of the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and, in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison. They refused to believer long ago, while God patiently waited to receive them, in Noah’s time when the ark was being built. In it only a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water. It is the baptism corresponding to this water which saves you now…

 

 

1 Peter 3:18-21

 

Biblical events that prefigured our baptism in Christ:

SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

EVENT

 

 

 

Genesis 1:1-2

 

1. Creation: when the Holy Sprit brought life and order to the waters of chaos.

 

Genesis 6:9-18

1 Peter 3:20-21

 

2. Noah and his family were saved from the waters of the flood that cleansed the earth of sin, which St. Peter tells us prefigures our baptism in 1 Peter 3: 20-21.

 

Exodus 14:1

1 Corinthians 10:1-2

 

3. The children of Israel, fleeing from the Egyptians, passed through the waters of the Red Sea—passing from the old life of slavery into their new life as God’s Covenant people; which St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 is a form of baptism.

 

Exodus 30:17-21

Numbers 19:11-13

 

4. The water purification rites of the Old Covenant:

-When the priests cleansed themselves with the water from the laver so that they were ritually cleansed and able to enter the Holy Place of the desert Tabernacle and later the Temple in Jerusalem.

-The ritual purification for coming in contact with the dead.

 

2 Kings 5:1-19

 

5. When the prophet Elisha told the Syrian general Naaman to dip himself 7 times in the waters of the Jordan River to be healed.

 

Ezekiel 36:24-27

 

6. Ezekiel’s prophecy that Yahweh will pour clean water over His people and they will be cleansed and filled with a new heart and a new spirit when God places His very spirit within them.

 

Joshua 3:14-17

 

7. The crossing of the Jordan River when God parted the waters and the priests stood midway across the River with the Ark of the Covenant as the children of Israel passed through the waters of the Jordan, leaving their old lives behind to become citizens of the Promised Land.

 

Mathew 3:4-5; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:3-4; John 1:31

 

8. The baptism of John the Baptist which called the faithful of Israel into the baptismal waters of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah’s ministry proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

 

later than 120AD records:

Regarding baptism. Baptize as follows: after first explaining all these points, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in running water. But if you have no running water, baptize in other water; and if you cannot in cold, then in warm. But if you have neither, pour water on the head three times in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Before the baptism, let the baptizer and the candidate for baptism fast, as well as any others that are able. Require the candidate to fast one or two days previously." [ Didache, 7. 1-4 ].

Please notice that no where in these instructions is it permitted to baptize without water!

 Jesus taught that no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through "water and the Spirit." In Titus 3:4-8 St. Paul instructs St. Titus: "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior for humanity were revealed, it was not because of any upright actions we had done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own faithful love that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our Savior; so that, justified by his grace, we should become heirs in hope of eternal life. This is doctrine that you can rely on." Paul’s statement reaffirms Jesus’ instruction to Nicodemus in John 3:3-3-6: "In all truth [amen, amen] I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above. […]. In all truth [amen, amen] I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit; what is born of human nature is human, what is born of the Spirit is spirit."

A profession of faith does not replace water baptism as the spiritual rebirth into the family of God [see John 3:5 and for more information see the study on the Gospel of St. John chapter 3]. Faith is the first step in the process of salvation and baptism is the second step in what is a life long journey toward eternal salvation.

The necessity of water in the Sacrament of Baptism: CCC # 694; 1213-17; 1228; 1238-39; Infant baptism = CCC# 1252

Michal Hunt © 2006

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