I HAVE CALLED YOU BY NAME: Sunday morning, at the small Westchester Congregational church in rural Connecticut, Naomi and Craig Campbell presented their infant daughter, Rebekah Mae, for baptism.
To baptize a child is to enter into a covenant agreement that includes God, the parents, and the church. Baptism says that a family is committed to raising their baby as a child of the covenant, it means that the church promises to be an active witness to the love of God in the life of the family, and it means that both the family and the church claim God’s covenant promises on behalf of themselves and the child.
What made today even more special was that Rebekah got to do the baptism. The pastor of the church, Karl Ostberg, led the service; then he handed Rebekah Mae over to her grandmother.
Most of Craig’s extended family were present. His parents, sister, aunt & uncle, grandmother, and cousins. We all gathered at the church and then came home for a celebration party at the Campbell home.
Fun is good; but fun in the context of the covenant community and the shared understanding of faith, hope, and promise is more than fun, it is joy. The core understanding of faith was not necessarily shared by everyone present, but God was undoubtedly with us, and evident, and who knows what seeds were sown, and how much truth slipped its way into hungry hearts?
LIVING INTO HOPE: I don’t believe it’s a useful argument/tactic to tell people, “You’re going to hell if you don’t become a Christian…” but I do believe it is entirely accurate to say that there’s nothing else that I know, outside of following Jesus in the context of a loving community of faith, that can provide anyone with an opportunity to live this life-charged life that I’m always writing about.
We didn’t baptize Rebekah-Mae into a religion today, but into a covenant relationship with God. Not living into the love and the hope and the faithful promises of God is to miss out on the kind of life God intended for all of God’s children when we were created.
God doesn’t discard those who reject that love; it’s more that God grieves the lost relationship. It’s we who end up punishing ourselves, and the only long-term solution to despair, and disillusionment, and lack of hope is to make the decision to come home.
Here’s the verse from Isaiah that Naomi and Craig quoted on Rebekah-Mae’s celebration cake:
But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine.
“I have called you by name; you are mine.” We belong to God, it’s as simple as that; the heart of faith is to acknowledge that truth and then to live into it. Following Jesus is the best way that I know how. I’m going to recommend that to anyone, anytime, anywhere, as an alternative to being lost.
What do you have to lose?