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Over the years, I’ve developed a little tradition of writing a letter to the child or children being baptized as the sermon on that Sunday. I’ve been sharing some of these letters here for the past few Sundays. Today, I conclude this series. This letter was preached in May of 2022.
Dear Arie and Hattie,
Today, we celebrate your baptism! What a beautiful day it is!
Someone said “Baptism is a collage of images and promises that revolve around the gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.” Images like initiation, cleansing, dying and rising. Whatever the image, the focus is on God’s promises and God’s activity. It is always by the work of the Holy Spirit that God calls us into relationship.
Today, I thought we’d reflect on another baptismal image that expresses God’s initiative and action. That is the image of adoption. In baptism, we are adopted as God’s children.
Yes, Arie and Hattie, in baptism we are adopted. We are adopted as God’s children forever. You two, probably more than many of us, will know the gift that adoption is. Just as you were chosen by your parents, to be theirs forever, in baptism, we are chosen by God to be God’s forever.
Being a family always involves a risk. But being a family of adoption brings special challenges and maybe even greater adjustments, along with special blessings and rewards. There are mysteries surrounding nature and nurture, inherited or learned, past and future, attachment and belonging — mysteries we may never fully understand. It involves incredible patience and tenacity. It takes courage and curiosity.
I don’t claim to understand all the profound questions that adoption brings. Still, I can say this — if adoption is one of the images that the Bible uses to describe God’s love for all of us, then Arie and Hattie, you never need to wonder or worry about whether you are loved. You never need to wonder if you belong, or where you belong, and whether the bond of adoption is real and forever.
If God has adopted all of us, then the answer to all these questions is a clear and simple “Yes!” Yes, now, Yes, then. Yes, when you feel it. Yes, when you don’t. Yes when you feel secure. Yes when you don’t. Yes, always. Yes, forever. That is the Good News of the Gospel.
When Jesus was talking to his disciples at the end of his life, he comforted them in their fear and anxiety by reminding them that he would never leave them orphaned. We will never be abandoned. We will never be lost. God sent the Holy Spirit, our comforter, advocate, defender. And because the Holy Spirit has been given to us, we are able to call God “Abba” (daddy), as Jesus did.
We don’t want to minimize or overlook the wonderfully special circumstances surrounding adoptions, Arie and Hattie. But by the Spirit, none of us is ever alone, and in Jesus Christ, each one of us is adopted by and belongs to God forever — may you always know that comfort and trust. May you always have an unshakeable sense of your identity, about who you are and whose you are — a child of God, an heir with Christ.
Arie John and Hattie Ann, you are children of the covenant. In baptism you are sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked as Christ’s own forever.