How are you at keeping promises?
According to U.S. News approximately 80% of New Year resolutions fail by the second week of February. Hopefully we are better at keeping promises that have a greater impact on our lives than going to the gym or staying on the Keto diet. Parents make promises at their child’s baptism, and on January 12, when the Church celebrates the Baptism of Our Lord and we will be blessing the children baptized last year at Our Savior, I will also be baptizing Jack Angelone and Connor Glass. They are cousins and the third of three children in their respective families. Their moms are sisters and grew up in this church along with two other sisters, one who has also baptized and is raising her two children here. And like those previous baptisms I will be asking them and their spouses to make the same promise and accept the same responsibilities.
To LIVE WITH THEM among God’s faithful people, BRING THEM to the word of God and the holy supper, TEACH THEM the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments, PLACE IN THEIR HANDS, the holy scriptures, and NURTURE THEM in faith and prayer.
Keeping these promises is not always easy. In fact, at times it may seem impossible and certainly not convenient. But when we do we are sometimes surprised at how deeply our children’s faith life with God and the body of Christ can become.
At the marriage altar vows of faithfulness and love are exchanged. The couple makes a promise to each other for the rest of their lives. In November I had the honor of officiating the marriage of Spencer and Gina, and while I’m not a huge fan of personalized vows I was blown away when Spencer began his to Gina. Paraphrasing he said, “Gina, when I was born I lived in that house right outside that window. My parents used to pick me up and carry me around the corner and walk up those steps into this church. I was baptized in that font. I received my first communion at that rail. Some of my best memories are of VBS and Sunday school and youth group at this church. And today I get to have my dream come true as I stand at this altar on our wedding day and become your husband.”
The next day I baptized a baby who lives down the street and led his parents through the same promises. I hope and pray he has a similar experience of faith formation and sense of community with the body of Christ that gathers at The Lutheran Church of Our Savior. His parents will obviously play a big role in that, as Spencer’s parents did (his mom admitted at the reception it wasn’t always easy and their children didn’t always like it). Yet, they are not the only ones who get to be a part of keeping baptismal responsibilities. We do too, the people of God, whether we witnessed the baptism or not. There are a “cloud of witnesses” that are involved in a child’s faith formation and as we enter a new year and about five weeks in a row of baptisms on Sunday morning we would do well to be mindful of the implicit promises we make at a child’s baptism.
We promise to welcome them in worship; to help teach them the words of the liturgy when they are seated next to us as well as help them learn our hymns. We promise to nurture them in the faith when we volunteer for Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, confirmation Guides, youth advisors, or simply are willing to engage in conversation with them during Coffee Hour in listen to the ups and downs of their lives. We promise to pray for them and especially at those special times in their lives of faith; first communion, first Bible, during confirmation, and as they graduate from high school and enter the next big leg of their journey of life and faith.
Our New Year resolution may not make it past Groundhog Day, but I pray the promise and vow we make to each other in Baptism and Affirmation of Baptism be a vow we keep every day by the Holy Spirit’s power. Happy New Year!