meditations

Baptism of a daughter — a pastor’s point of view

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As a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), one of the largest Christian denominations in the U.S. with over 3,300,000 members and 9,000 plus congregations, our church is divided into geographical regions known as synods. American Lutheran Church – De Smet is a member of the South Dakota Synod of the ELCA, as well as North Preston and Lake Preston Lutheran Churches and their minister, my colleague, Brad Sanderson. A synod elects a bishop to oversee the congregations and help them find pastors, amongst other things. Our bishop is the Rev. Constanze Hagmaier. She began her term as the bishop on Sept. 1, 2019.

Our daughter, Etta Dolan, was born on Sept. 10, 2020. Most families who attend mainline denominations have their child baptized sometime within the first year of their life. The COVID-19 pandemic changed so many things last year. As such, we have yet to baptize Etta; however, that’s going to change this Sun., Oct. 24 at our 9:30 a.m. service. Bishop Hagmaier is coming to preach God’s Word and baptize Etta! It’s going to be a wonderful, joyous celebration as Etta officially becomes a member of God’s great, diverse and expansive family. You are all invited.

Since Etta is going to be baptized, I thought it would be appropriate to take a moment and describe a Lutheran understanding of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. The founder of the Lutheran Church, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, stated that for something to be considered a Sacrament, it must include four things.

• It must be commanded by Jesus Christ; Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19).

• It must be accompanied by words of Holy Scripture; note that a valid baptism is done when the pastor or priest uses the Trinitarian formula above.

• It must have a physical element, and for baptism, that is water.

• It must offer God’s grace freely to every person; baptism is something that is available to all people.

While Lutherans most generally baptize infants, any person who is unbaptized is welcome to participate in the Sacrament. Further, if you were baptized in another Christian denomination using the Trinitarian formula, and you married a person who is a member of our denomination, the ELCA, you need not be re-baptized. We acknowledge the validity of any baptism done using the Trinitarian formula.

As a Lutheran pastor, I welcome any and all questions about baptism, or any other topic for that matter. I find that one-on-one conversations offer the most dialogue. I think if you stop by my office, you’ll find that I listen more than I speak. My door is always open, even if you aren’t a member of our congregation. If I don’t see you at church, I’ll see you around our communities!

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