First Lesson: Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Responsive Reading: Psalm 50: 1-8, 22-23
Second Lesson: Hebrews 11: 1-3, 8-16
Gospel Lesson: Luke 12: 32-40
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Susan Webber tells the following story: A preschool Sunday school class was learning about Noah’s Ark. The Teacher to get the kids involved in the lesson decides to play a game.
“I’m going to describe something to you. Let’s see if you can guess what it is. First: I’m furry with a bushy tail and I like to climb trees.”
The children sat there in silence.
“I also like to eat nuts, especially acorns.”
Still no response, the game was a flop.
“I’m usually brown or gray, but sometimes I can be black or red.”
The teacher in an act of desperation decides to call on one outspoken young girl named Michelle. “Michelle, what do you think?”
Michelle looked at her classmates, unsure of herself. Michelle finally blurts out “ Well I know the answer has to be Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”-Hebrews 11:1
Today, we celebrate two major events in the life of our congregation. First, we celebrate our Vacation Bible School this week with the singing of our Little Fishes. Second, we celebrate the Baptism of Olivia.
As we consider the meaning of today’s lesson regarding faith let me point out something important. When Jesus is looking for examples of Faith to point to in the Gospels, he never cites religious scholars or authorities.
Jesus, in fact, accused one of his disciples Peter of having “little faith”. Who Jesus does cite as examples of Faith though is little children.
And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.-Matthew 18:3
Parents might hear these verses and think they don’t make much sense. Children from the youngest of ages seemingly need help with everything from feeding to dressing to getting to school on time to ultimately making wise decisions. Parents, it seems then should be leading the ways in things of faith. But what if our ways of thinking about faith are totally wrong?
What if we as Christian people misunderstand Faith because we associate Faith with intellect rather than trust. Perhaps this is why Jesus encourages us no matter how old we are to follow the example of little children.
Let me raise one of the issues with our understanding of faith. You ask a Christian whether an infant can actually believe and the answer is generally no.
To help understand the meaning of faith let’s look further at how the scriptures describe it.
John the Baptist is described as dancing and being “filled with the Holy Spirit” even when he was residing within his Mother’s womb.
John the Baptist’s story highlights a point later made by Saint Augustine “ You become a believer by being initiated into the faith, rather than by intellectual conversion.”
The Early Church did not see Faith as we often see Faith as merely a private set of beliefs that exists within one’s soul. Where we often misunderstand Faith is thinking of it as some preferred set of beliefs. Faith in the words of Ephesians is rather a gift. Faith given in Baptism is the means by which God declares us to be his adoptive children.
Peter Leithart makes the following point “Should we baptize babies is in fact a similar question to “should we talk to babies?” or even read to young children. Even if Babies can’t understand the conversation, this doesn’t mean that the spoken word won’t shape them for years after the event takes place.
When we consider the meaning of grace this morning, I want you to think of the following. Grace is not abstract; grace comes to us via real symbols of water, wine, and wheat. It is through these symbols that God connects himself to the imperfect situations that are our lives.
What I want you to do this morning is think of the following “How did you know as a young child that you belonged to your parents?”
I imagine that your parents probably hugged you and planted kisses upon you. Even when you weren’t able to understand them, your parents spoke words of promise and comfort to you. Your parents did this because they wanted you to a permanent part of your life though from this day forward. Declaring himself a part of our life moving forward is what God does on the day of our Baptism. God marks and seals us with the Cross of Christ and declares us to be his “forever.”
Let me tell you what’s happening to Olivia on this day. Olivia doesn’t have to do anything within the waters of baptism. Jesus says she’s ok now. Jesus says “I have adopted you as my child.” Olivia’s has faith because Jesus says so. Olivia has salvation because Jesus declared “It to be finished” as he hung upon the cross.
You see Baptism is not about any promises that we make to God. In a number of years, Olivia will hopefully stand before this congregation at her confirmation to confess the faith that we celebrate on this day. What Baptism is ultimately about is God’s promises to us. The following truth is why nowhere in the Bible does anyone ever give a reason (especially age) as why someone shouldn’t be baptized.
Why does Jesus cite Children as examples of faith? For everyone that’s ever been around a child, you know that one of their habits is they will just blurt out what’s on their mind whether it’s appropriate or inappropriate. It is these qualities of openness and trust that point to Baptism’s true meaning.
In the words of Peter Leithart again “All baptisms are infant baptisms; all baptisms call the baptized to childhood.” Childhood is the time in one’s life where people haven’t gotten to experience the brokenness and bitterness that consumes the world all around us. A child doesn’t view the world like an adult views the world. What we often fail to consider is how good a thing that this can be.
Let me tell another story about one of our Little Fishes. A boy was recently at a family event. Mom said that her kids were going to Vacation Bible School. One of the relatives didn’t care for this at all. Mom didn’t want to use this event to start a discussion about religion. The guy kept going on though about “When has God ever done anything good for me?” To which our Little Fish looked up at his uncle and said: “He sees to it that I’m alive.” The conversation was then over.
“But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”-Luke 18:16.
And as we gather on this day, we embrace the following hope. Pretty soon, everything that isn’t right today will be alright with the world.
Let me close with words from the Book of Isaiah: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.”
 Canfield, Jack, Mark Victor Hanson, Patty Aubrey, and Nancy Mitchell. Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul. Deerfield Beach, FL. Health Communications Inc. , 1997, Book, pg.220.
 Canfield, Jack, Mark Victor Hanson, Patty Aubrey, and Nancy Mitchell. Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul.pg.220.
 Matthew 14:31
 Matthew 18:3
 Luke 1:15,41.
 Leithart, Peter. “Infant Faith”. First Things. 15.Oct.2015. Web. Aug.1.2016.
 Leithart, Peter. “Infant Baptism.” First Things. 06. Aug.2004. Web. Aug.1.2016.
 Ephesians 2:8-9.
 Galatians 3:27.
 Leithart, Peter. “Do Baptists Talk To Their Babies?” Biblical Horizons. Sept.1996. Web. Aug. 1.2016.
 Leithart, Peter. “Do Baptists Talk To Their Babies?””
 Leithart, Peter. “Do Baptists Talk To Their Babies?”
 Newton, Emily. “Capon and Cupcakes”. MBIRD (Mockingbird Ministries). 07. June.2016. Web. Aug.1.2016. Newton is quoting Robert Capon.
 John 19:30.
 Leithart, Peter. “Infant Baptism.”
 Isaiah 11:6.