First Lesson: Acts 16: 9-15
Responsive Reading: Psalm 67
Second Lesson: Revelation 21: 10, 22 - 22:5
Gospel Lesson: John 14: 23-29
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I was in Middle School when I attended a family wedding in Kansas City. The day after the wedding , my parents wanted to make the trip educational, so we journeyed to nearby Independence, Missouri.
The first stop was to the Presidential Library of Harry Truman, who my Dad had met when he was a young boy. The second stop was to the Independence Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My family was given a tour of the temple by a young woman on her two-year Mormon mission.
As a Confirmation student at the time, I was allowed to ask a question. I asked her, “What was the difference between Lutherans and Mormons?”
Her answer which I still remember was, “Lutherans believe in the salvation of the individual, whereas we believe in the salvation of the family.”
Latter Day Saints emphasis on the family’s salvation can be seen in their focus on collecting genealogy records. The Mormons own the largest database of family trees in the world. Collecting family trees also ties into the Mormon beliefs of needing to “baptize the dead”. Latter Day Saints take seriously their calling of seeing that the dead family members, along with themselves may enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Now while differences between Lutherans and Latter Day Saints go beyond the understanding of the family, the role of the family in one’s faith brings us to our lesson Today from the 16th Chapter of the Book of Acts.
Let me give a rundown of our lesson. Paul is on a missionary journey to Phillipi in modern-day Greece. Paul journeys with his companions Timothy and Silas to the river just outside the city where they meet a woman named Lydia.
Lydia was a wealthy woman who made her money as a dealer of purple cloth. Purple cloth was known as royal cloth and came from the most expensive of all dyes. Sea Snails were the source of purple cloth so that further explains its expense. When Lydia meets Paul, it is evident that she is open to things of faith: Our lesson says before their meeting, “She was a worshiper of God.
Paul began preaching to her about how Jesus is God made known upon a cross. So, therefore: “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” Lydia, being Greek, is described as the first European Christian.
So after Lydia’s conversion, Paul, Timothy and Silas journey to her home where: “she and the members of her household were baptized.” Was Lydia married or single? The scriptures don’t say. How many children did Lydia have? What were their ages? Again, we don’t know the answer.
Here’s what we do know stories of whole households being baptized occur in multiple places within the New Testament.
Acts 16:33- Paul and Silas visit the Home of a Philippian jailer when: “the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately, he and all his household were baptized.”
1st Corinthians 1:16- The Apostle Paul declares: “ And I baptized also the household of Stephanas."
So what we can say for sure about this information is that when the head of household converted in Lydia, the Philippian Jailer, or Stephanas a family baptism would soon follow. Such baptisms appear to be common in the New Testament church.
What we can’t say is whether very young children or infants were present or included within these family baptisms. There is no evidence that any member of the family (regardless of age or level of understanding) was excluded from these households baptisms.
What we also know is that in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is brought little children to pray for, the Disciples rebuke those who brought forth the little children, Jesus then rebukes the Disciples by declaring: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Now our Baptism friends will often declare: “There are no “specific” examples of babies being baptized within the New Testament.” Now even if you believe based on no evidence that the households’ baptisms didn’t contain any very young children. You also can’t find an example of where it is said someone for any reason (age included) shouldn’t be baptized.
The most dramatic Baptismal command takes place at the end of Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus declares: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
All nations would seem to include all people, both young and old alike.
Baptism for many doesn’t quite work this way. Baptism for many serves as the final spiritual exam, the great test that we need to pass. Being judged on evidence not grace is the typical way the world works, so it makes sense.
Digging deeper within the scriptures Baptism seems to be something entirely different. Baptism is described as the act of being born again through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the act which saves by the washing us of our sin and joining us to the promises given by God to his children no matter what twists and turns their lives ahead might have in-store. The witness of the scriptures is to describe Baptism as an act where God is active, whereas we are passive. If this is the case, then we are in no position to deny someone baptism because we think they might be too young.
So why baptize entire households?
Let me close Today with the following story. If you were the ask anyone to name the most prominent family in American history. The Adams Family of Massachusetts would probably be at the top of the list. John Adams was a delegate to the Continental Congress. He signed the Declaration of Independence. He eventually was elected the Second President of the United States of America.
His wife Abigail was also a remarkable woman. Abigail was self-taught, but was such a constant reader, that her husband consulted her on political matters like no other First Lady in the country’s early history. Abigail was a rare spokeswoman in the 18th Century for expanding woman’s education opportunities of which she had been deprived.
Their son John Quincy Adams was a successful lawyer, U.S. Senator, Ambassador, and Secretary of State. John Quincy would serve as the sixth President of the United States. If this were all you knew about the Adams Family, you would think they were the perfect American family.
Here’s what you maybe don’t know about the Adams family’. The oldest daughter also named Abigail married a man named William Stephens Smith. Smith’s parents thought the courtship to be too short and that created tension among the in-laws. Smith was reckless with his money and ended up in deep debt due to failed land speculation in the early 1800's. Abigail and William Stephens Smith spent their remaining days living on a farm in Upstate New York. Both husband and wife died young, so therefore John and Abigail Adams were forced to assume care for their grandchildren.
Charles Adams became a lawyer, he engaged in affairs outside his marriage, he wasn’t on speaking terms with his father for long periods of times, and he was such a drinker that he died young of cirrhosis of the liver.
Thomas Adams, like his brother, was also an alcoholic who died in 1832 deeply in debt.
Further down the family tree, Louisa Adams wife of John Quincy Adams was a sickly woman most of her adult life. She suffered from migraines, and fainting spells. John Quincy and Louisa did not have what historians consider to be a “happy” marriage. Historians describe her as deeply depressed upon moving into the White House. John Quincy describes her marriage as having “It’s share of trials.” As she found the men of the Adams Family, both “cold” and “insensitive.”
Their first two sons were both alcoholics who died young. The second son, John Adams II was expelled from college for leading a student rebellion at Harvard. All three sons quarreled over the same woman in Mary Catherine Hellen. Their third son, Charles wrote the following of his family tree: “The history of my family is not a pleasant one to remember.” The Adams Family despite it’s holding of the Presidency is more similar to families we know that at first, than they may appear.
In Today’s Lesson, we talk about the Baptism of Lydia’s entire household. Like the Adams Family or many of our families, I don’t imagine Lydia’s family to be perfect. Lydia’s family reminds us, though, why we baptize? We baptize babies because we all need Baptism. We’re imperfect in this life, so we all need to be uplifted within the waters of Baptism to God’s continual care. Baptism is the greatest possible testimony that the only thing that we can bring to our salvation is our sin that is need of saving.
In Acts 2, Peter declares on the Day of Pentecost: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children.”
The day I spent at the Independence, Missouri temple did show to me how Lutherans can be different from others. We are not saved because we come from perfect families, or are perfect ourselves. We are saved because, in the waters of baptism, God declares us to be a member of his household through faith for all of eternity. Amen
 “Baptism for the dead.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 3.May.2019. Web. May.20.2019.
 Acts 16:9-15
 “Tyrian Purple.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 12.May.2019. Web. May.20.2019.
 Bratt, Doug. “Acts 16:9-15.” Center for Excellence in Preaching. Calvin Seminary. Grand Rapids,MI. 25.Apr.2016. Web. May.20.2019.
 Acts 16:14.
 Acts 16:14.
 Acts 16:14.
 Matthew 19:13-14.
 Matthew 28:19.
 Cooper, Jordan. “Outline for a Bible Study on Infant Baptism.” Just & Sinner (Pathoes Blog Network).
 John 3:5.
 Romans 6:1-4
 “John Adams.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 18.May.2019. Web. May.20.2019.
 “Abigail Adams.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 18.May.2019. Web. May.20.2019.
 “John Quincy Adams.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 18.May.2019. Web. May.20.2019.
 Sermon Illustrations. Com “Family.” Found in US News &World Report on Dec.12.1998. Web. May.20.2019.
 “Abigail “Nabby” Adams Smith.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 5.Mar.2019. Web. May.20.2019.
 “William Stephens Smith.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 9.May.2019. Web. May.20.2019.
 “Charles Adams (1770-1800)” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 10.May.2019. Web. May.20.2019.
 “Thomas Bolyston Adams.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 29.Jan.2019. Web. May.20.2019.
 “Louisa Adams.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 26.Apr.2019. Web. May.20.2019.
 Louisa Adams.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
 “John Adams II.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 10.May.2019. Web. May.20.2019.
 Sermon Illustrations. Com “Family.” Found in US News &World Report on Dec.12.1998
 Acts 2:38-39.