One of the greatest commitments of the church is to provide for the formation of faith for our young people. At their Baptisms we promised, along with their parents and sponsors, that we would support and pray for each of the baptized in their “new life in Christ.” (ELW p. 228) Part of praying and supporting our children (and by “our” I mean every child who enters this church) is to share in the responsibilities given to us in the Liturgy of the Holy Sacrament:
- to live among God’s faithful people (that means coming to church, meeting them here, and being an active part of their lives)
- bring them to the Word of God and the Holy Supper (as the pastor, this is a major part of what I do – preach, teach, and administer the sacraments – God’s means of grace. But, as our Sunday School teachers, Youth Club teacher, church leaders, and catechism mentors, you also bring them to God’s Word and the table of grace.)
- teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments (not only what the words say in each of those things, but what each and every word means and how to apply it to our lives)
- place in their hands the Holy Scriptures (we do not just put a book in their hands and say, “Read it!” But we read it with them, explain it, entertain questions from them, and learn together)
- nurture them in faith and prayer (which means not just praying FOR them, but praying WITH them, talking about faith and what God is doing in their lives and in ours)
All of this is done so that they may:
- learn to trust God
- proclaim Jesus through word and action
- care for others and the world
- work for righteousness and peace
When you think about it, it’s really a tall order! But when we live up to our promises, God works mightily in the hearts and lives of our children! Faith is formed within them at every turn and they become well equipped to live a godly life in the name of Christ.
Martin Luther wrote copiously about Baptism and in 1523 he put the Order of Baptism into German so parents, sponsors, and the whole congregation would hear and know what they were getting in to as they brought their child (or themselves) to the font. As with other aspects of the faith, Luther was sorely disappointed at the lack of knowledge about Baptism and the lack of respect that people had for it. People were just going through the motions – nothing new under the sun about that, is there? He considered their lackadaisical attitude toward Baptism to be nothing but frivolity. He wanted people to be “stirred to a greater faith” through hearing the Word of God in the liturgy of Baptism, which is why he took great pains to put it into German from the Latin.
“In all Christian earnestness I would ask all those who administer baptism, who hold the children, or witness it, to take this wonderful work to heart in all its seriousness.”
Luther wanted believers to know, “this is no joke as far as the devil is concerned.” He wanted people to come to the font in all seriousness, in true faith, listening for God’s promises, and earnestly praying for the baptized. To do otherwise, according to the Reformer, would be an insult to God and a mockery for the devil to rejoice in. In this “new birth” through this “holy flood” of water, we are forgiven of sin, granted God’s comfort, and promised eternity and all of God’s gifts.
Baptism is just the start of the journey of faith. As a community of faith, and as their parents and sponsors, it is our job to ensure that our youngest disciples learn the faith. For them to have any chance of withstanding the wiles of the devil in this world, they need to know all they can know, and trust in the only one we can trust. It is our duty to help them learn more about Christ, be strengthened in the faith, learn to love God and serve their neighbors.
And this, is no joke!