Kids crowd around the baptismal font, while a little boy runs down the aisle squealing, “Where is the water? I want to see the baby get wet!” Muffled laughter comes from the pews. He’s found his place in baptism—a sacrament that speaks of identity and community. “Wouldn’t it be amazing,” says the pastor, “if we all ran into church with that excitement?” Baby Christina wiggles as water drips down her forehead and the pastor prays:
Loving God, we thank you that in this sacrament you assure us that Christina is now adopted as your own child in Jesus Christ. We pray that by your Spirit you will enable her family and this whole congregation to nurture her in faith, enfold her in love, and be models for her of faithful Christian living. And may the grace expressed in the splashing, cleansing waters of baptism refresh all of us in love and faith today, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Our kids have a way of helping us embrace what it means to belong to the family of God. They invite us to experience Jesus’ words—“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.” Belonging is more than a term of endearment, or a way to suggest that we like, or even love, each other. So what does it really look like when a child like Christina knows that she belongs to something bigger, wider, messier, louder, and holier than she could ever imagine?
The baptismal prayer for Christina offers a clue as it glorifies God the creator, who lovingly designs each child. Psalm 139 announces, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” The kids at home and the ones next to us in the pew should know that we value each of them as gifts from God—the squirmy ones, the noisy ones, the shy and the outgoing one, and both the complainers and optimists. Each is eager to be included and enfolded into the loving arms of parents, teachers, and fellow members of God’s family.
This prayer also reminds us that in belonging we find a way of believing. When we belong to God’s family, a covenant community nurtures our faith. We aren’t alone! The church promises to disciple our kids by word and deed, with prayer and encouragement, so that they’ll discover what it means to follow Christ and be members of his church.
Belonging begins at baptism, but it continues as the promises of baptism are embraced. The faith family is available in times of wondering and wandering, in tears and fears, through celebrations and separations, in worship and in ritual, in fellowship and friendship, in teaching, reaching, and sharing. We are called to value one another—embracing our differences of age, gender, ethnicity, personality, and experience. We walk together, learn together, live together, and love together as we experience the grace of Jesus Christ within community.
First Published in Nurture by Faith Alive.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra