08 June 2011

Baptism in Divine Service

I have been having a marvelous discussion about the concept that we would never let the sin of sinful parents (semper peccator) prevent Christ's administration of the life giving Sacrament of Baptism.

But this discussion has brought into clearer focus a question that I have become aware of in the past years. For many faithful Lutheran pastors Baptism is viewed as an ecclesial action emphasizing the congregational aspect of the act and requiring or at least effecting the administration of Baptism during some type of corporate worship. For some it is Divine Service but for others it can be a daily chapel service at a parochial school.

Others of us have grown to realize that the shift from the immediacy of Baptism to the "public" ceremony occurred in the Reformed/Pietistic era. I was taught that Baptism should be done ASAP because of Augustana II. There should be no delay in the administration of the appropriated means of grace because apart from the church's use of the means of grace there can be no salvation (extra ecclesiam nulla salus).

The emergency of the complete poison of original sin mandates the urgency of Baptism. Given my preference I will and have done several, not all, baptisms in the hospital taking the waters of deathly mother and making them the waters of life-giving mother. I teach this, instruct my pregnant mothers of the protocol of baptism in the absence of a Pastor when death is imminent.

Where the called man of God is and while performing his sacerdotal actions the entire church of God is mystically present. Even in a hospital setting, the baptism is in ecclesiam.

I always function with the question "what hinders baptism". If it's to wait for a ceremony on Sunday morning or the convenience of Grandma and Grandpa to come or the conjoining of the Baptism with another family activity to increase attendance at the Baptism or to use it as a catechetical show and tell, I cringe. I want to as fast as I can have Christ rip out of that dead child its dead heart, cold and rotten, and replace it with a living, beating, loving God-given heart.

The Augustana II Georg

22 comments:

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I agree. If all things go well, my son Victor William will be born towards the end of October or so. The first time I speak his name to him outside of the womb will be when I baptism him then and there. Why should I make him wait so people can oooo and ahhh on a Sunday morning?

The Rev. BT Ball said...

If your congregation's baptismal font has a removable bowl - take that bowl out and use it at the baptism. The Lord locates Himself for us weak sinners.

T Sherman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Weedon said...

I agree, and yet it is striking to me how the Church in late antiquity and in the early middle ages in the West tended to baptize only on Easter or Pentecost all the children born since the last feast. A child born in July wouldn't ordinarily be brought to the font until March or April; though, of course, there could be emergency Baptism. Still... it amazes me that that was the norm for centuries. I wonder how much the growing consciousness of original sin and its perils led to the practice of baptism as soon as possible after birth (such as Luther's)?

Pastor Anderson said...

I don't think the people at my congregation see a Baptism as an opportunity to ooh and aah. They see it as that which it is: a washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit: a Sacrament that normally takes place where the Sacraments normally take place - the Divine Service.

I worry a bit about laying guilt trips on parents, as if, if they wait a week or even (heaven forfend), two - they are somehow sinning or putting their child in danger of the fires of hell.

Sue said...

My child (now 32!) was scheduled to be baptized at age of 4 weeks. The week before he went into the hospital for emergency surgery. The pastor offered to baptize him before, but foolish me, I said no - I was waiting for a special bowl to arrive from my brother in the seminary, and the special gown to be finished. Later I looked back at that time and thanked God he overlooked my foolishness and allowed my son to live through the surgery and be brought to the waters of Holy Baptism. Recently I watched while that son and DIL discussed whether to have baby Henry baptized (my son definitely in favor - he had to do some research to convince her infant baptism is "OK"). Henry was baptized on Easter, at the age of 6 mos. Thanks be to God!

Susan said...

Do we believe that the Word works faith in the infant prior to baptism? If so, then it is reasonable to wait a Sunday or two for baptism. If not, then I see why we would want to baptize immediately.

Rev. Gifford A. Grobien said...

I have to say I agree with the suggestion Sue is making here. Without a doubt it is true that the church is wherever the called minister offers gifts to others, be it the hospital or the cathedral. And, to be sure, baptism works faith in an infant, and we should desire that a newborn be forgiven of original sin as soon as possible.

But, at the same time, this urgency to baptize in the hospital somehow strikes me as distrust in the Word in its other forms--specifically the spoken Word. The infant--even the unborn child--of a faithful mother who has been hearing the Word and speaking it to her child surely has faith and salvation already--he has been forgiven of original sin.

I am not advocating putting off baptism until the overseas relatives get to town, or until a new appointment is received in the mail. Our latest child was baptized the Sunday following her birth (on a Monday). Several years ago, when the local pastor refused to baptize our newborn the Sunday following her birth, we had an ordained professor baptize her in the next Monday chapel service. (This was not at either of the American seminaries.) Baptizing in the regular rhythm of the church's worship (allowing for emergency health exceptions) upholds the power of the Word and the significance of the church.

Pastor Peters said...

For 31 years I have ordinarily baptized in the Divine Service, usually 1-2 weeks after birth. I have made exceptions but for good cause and not for preference. I also baptize 1-2 children a year in the hospital for various reasons. I have also baptized 1-5 children and adults at each Easter Vigil. Now I am in a parish near a very large Army post and the deployments have created a new circumstance in which baptism is delayed 6 mo or more so that the father in Iraq or Afghanistan may be present for the baptism. While I have mixed feelings about this, they do not go to a fear about the status of the child's salvation. The child is raised in a Christian home by Christian parents and has heard the Word in the womb and lying in the mother's arms. We baptize in the Divine Service because the baptized need to see and hear the baptism for their own faith benefit as the baptized and not for show. BTW I believe the baptismal liturgy is the best teacher of baptismal theology and directing the baptized on how to see themselves.

Rebekah said...

Baptizing 1-2 weeks after birth is extremely hard on mothers, especially if they are expected to stand for the duration of the ceremony. Starck's prayer book, written at a time when baptisms occurred promptly following birth, notes that the mother is usually not able to attend the baptism (the churching of women was also still practiced at the time).

We've had our last three children baptized in a private setting immediately following birth so that I could be there. The sponsors were enrolled and the baptism certificate presented in public worship at a later time.

Susan said...

Looking at Pr Peters' last two sentences in combination with what Rebekah said, I think there are three options.
1) Baptize immediately and privately.
2) Baptize soon and publicly.
3) Baptize several weeks later and publicly.

The downsides are
1) denying the child for a while.
2) denying some moms attendance at their own children's baptism.
3) denying the congregation attendance at most baptisms.

Since there's something wrong with every option, logically you'd think God screwed up somehow. But since we know He didn't, at least one of these options isn't as bad as it may appear.

Pastor Peters said...

I am not sure where you get the idea that a couple of weeks and moms still cannot make it to church. Most new moms are in church whether baptism or not within 2 weeks in my parish and at least half of them within one week. Even c sections do not necessarily preclude being in church for some new moms... One with two children, husband deployed, gave birth on Monday and was in church with all three that Sunday...

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

This isn't a matter of denying the efficacy of the Word but rather focusing on this - the specific promises concretely tied to Baptism. Am I going to guilt someone out if they don't baptize their kid immediately -- nope.

But I, me, myself -- I can't see myself waiting. I want things sign, sealed, and delivered... so as soon as my kid's delivered he'll be sealed in Baptismal grace and signed with the Cross of Christ.

Cecil The Sea Sick Sea Serpent said...

When did infant baptism become a part of a divine service? For Lutherans?

Susan said...

Pastor Peters, I agree with you about being in church right away after the kids are born. Most of mine were baptized on Sunday morning a few days after they were born. One was a whole whoppin' 7 hours old when she was baptized in the Divine Service.

But not all women go through childbirth as easily as others. Some really need/want to hunker down and recuperate for 4-6 weeks after childbirth. If that's a non-negotiable for them, then their choice is Mom missing the baptism, child waiting for baptism, or congregation missing the baptism.

Rebekah said...

Susan has efficiently outlined the variables; the rest is a matter of expectation. There was a time when it was thought a woman couldn't and shouldn't break her postpartum confinement, even for church, even for the baptism of her child. Even now the world usually allows women a recovery time of about 6 weeks, and I speak for slow recoverers in being grateful.

I have almost never seen a baby under the age of 6-8 weeks in church, let alone getting baptized, unless it was my own (I stood up--barely--at 4 and 5 days postpartum for the baptisms of our first two children). We had a pediatrician tell us flat out not to take a newborn to church; perhaps other parents have been similarly "ordered."

Fr. Timothy D. May said...

The difficulty with this post is the anti-"ecclesial" slant. The efficacy of baptism is the same in public and private so the "oohs and aahs" are not a reason to have or not have a baptism in a given place. It is an obvious aside to place the attention on people's reactions and/or the place where the baptism takes place rather than what is happening in Holy (can I say "holy"?) Baptism. I am not aware of the history involved with the public approach of the Reformed/Pietistic era. Still, we are not sheltered from Reformed/Pietistic emphases by going "private" or using emergencies as the basis for creating practice. For example, we are aware of the phrase "just me and my Bible." Think how a growing emphasis on "just me and my Baptism" might take away from all that is promised in Baptism. While we receive individual blessing in Baptism, through Baptism we are made part of something greater, that is, if Christ is head of the Church.

Rebekah said...

I said that poorly. We didn't have our children baptized immediately SO THAT I could be there; they were baptized immediately so that they would receive the gift and we wouldn't have to drive any more unregenerate souls home on the highway. It also eliminates the question of what's the difference between two weeks and six months if the Word avails? My being there, with no requirements of appearance, posture, or hostessing after the fact, was for me a happy incidental effect. If the Church said, "Send your kid and stay home," women would surely take up that practice again as they used to, just as some of them now show up in 1-2 weeks.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Thinking upon this topic I am reminded of Phillip and the Ethiopian - what hinders us? Thus, why wait? And again, while the Church at large may learn from a baptism in the service, the purpose of baptism isn't teaching the congregation - it is for the one being baptized.

I don't think this is being anti-ecclesial... any more than communing a shut in at home or in the hospital is anti-ecclesial. Provide the Sacraments to the individual where they are needed, especially when that individual cannot join together with the rest of the body for whatever reason.

Larry said...

I say why wait too. In His encounter with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21), Christ made it clear that baptism was necessary for salvation: "Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." So what makes an unknowing adult Baptism for an unknown child again? Seem some say an adult need instruction so prior to water Baptism. So this thing, I’m not sure where, please help me, desire Baptism for salvation comes to play, because it is not water. Wondering if it is even scriptural. Also it seem ordained ministers do Baptisms with and exception clause of emergencies. So I say why wait until it becomes crystal clear why Baptism is being denied. Perhaps you smart and learned teachers of Christ can edify this simple layman.

Larry Luder

Rev. Paul L. Beisel said...

No one is despising the Sacrament of Baptism by waiting until the child is brought to the church for the first time to be baptized. Where I have a problem is when weeks and months go by and still no baptism.

Baptisms, like unto ordinations, are a good thing for the congregation to witness. We live in a very anti-sacramental culture in the U.S. and any time we have the opportunity to put it right in the face of those who do not believe in their importance ought to be taken.

I've done private baptisms before at the family's request. I still prefer to do it in the context of the Divine Service. Just because the early church didn't always do it that way doesn't mean it is not a good and salutary custom.

When there is a real urgency to baptize because of health reasons, then by all means do it! But I think it is reasonable to baptize the first time they are in Church. My $0.02.

Susan said...

When we're in the congregation during a wedding, we hear the word of God (in the rites) concerning marriage. Same thing for ordinations and installations, where God teaches us what the Ministry is for. Same thing for baptism, where God (through the rite) teaches what He did/does for me in baptism. That word --spoken before the entire congregation and not just the candidate & his family-- is a very strong argument for baptizing in the regular services of the church.