One, Two, a Twenty!
July 9, 2017 Pastor: Matt Wilcox
Topic: Baptism Scripture: Luke 18:15–18:17
Being a parent is filled with some of the most unexpected, silly, and sacred moments found within the human experience. And the incredible truth is, that any given moment can be one of those adjectives or all three at once. Isaac is only three, and Caitlin and I have already been blessed with a wealth of these moments. And we can’t wait to share them with our next little guy who will soon be with us. I’ve had some really special moments with my son, Isaac. Wagon rides on the Constitution Trail, watching Eagles games together, making our own water slide in the back yard, and plenty of others. But there’s one moment, one practice, that Isaac and I have that has become so very meaningful to me and it is this little tradition of ours that came to my mind immediately when I began thinking about what I would say on the day I baptized four kids in one service. It’s the title of my sermon. One, Two, A Twenty.
It’s really a simple thing and it is one of those moments that is unexpected and silly and sacred. We have a pretty standard bedtime routine at our house. Every night Isaac goes up and he gets his bath, we read him a story, we pray with him, and he goes night-night. Bedtime is a sweet (and sometimes terrifyingly frustrating) tradition in and of itself but a few weeks or months ago Isaac added One, Two, A Twenty to our routine. I kneel down at the far end of our bedroom and Isaac goes into the far end of our adjoined bathroom. He sets himself and then he says, “One, Two, a Twenty! Run to Daddy!” And then he runs right into my arms and I squeeze him and give him a kiss. We normally repeat the process three times. And while it may not be the best example of teaching the value of counting, it has become the most precious practice for me as a father. One, Two, a Twenty! Run to Daddy!
It was unexpected when Isaac started playing this little game that he came up with. It’s silly and simple in a way that could only come from the mind of a child. And it’s sacred. It speaks, I think, to a profound truth about our God and His relationship to us as Father. And, like I said, it was the first image that popped into my mind when I thought about how we would celebrate the baptism of four young kids this morning. And it goes hand-in-hand with the first passage of Scripture that came to me when Tricia and NK and I talked about this quadruple baptism. It’s a moment that gets depicted in a lot of paintings. It’s a precious and sweet moment that we love to tell. I’m talking about the moment Jesus had his own Time with Children.
* Read Luke 18:15-17.
Like I said, this is one of those moments in Scripture that we hear about, see in paintings, and honestly just love. It adds an element to Jesus that maybe we didn’t know we needed but one that makes Christ all the more meaningful to us. A sort-of intangible thing about his character that makes us love him all the more. Let me give you an example of what I mean by that: Y’all know I’m a big Eagles fan. And despite his victory over the Redbirds in 2015, I root for Carson Wentz as the QB of my Eagles. Now Wentz has the skills and talent of an NFL player but he is also a devout, out-spoken Christian. He leads team Bible studies and prayer gatherings. He’s taken other players and friends to places like Haiti for missions trips. Even two weeks ago, he spoke at a huge gathering and shared about his prayer life during the draft process and how the Lord has grown and shaped his faith during his time in Philly.
It is not a prerequisite for a QB to be a faithful believer in Christ for me to root for him. But ya know what, it makes it a whole lot easier for me to support Wentz as a player and as a person when I see and hear about his faith in Christ. Well, if we were to try and come up with a non-negotiable list of “must-haves” for our Savior, I think of things like merciful and powerful, loving and committed. The list would be long or, at the least, meaningfully specific. But I don’t think that “Must like kids” would be on that list. Even so, it’s accounts like this one in Luke 18 that reveal to us and remind us of the tenderness and overwhelmingly expansive love that is in the heart of Christ.
This text is much more than a simple resume-booster for Jesus. It speaks to the quality of his character. And as is the case with any revelation concerning Christ, this also speaks to the nature of who we are as the children of God. And the placement of this event is compelling as well. This kid-friendly moment occurs between a story about two different people praying and the story of the rich, young ruler. In the first, we get a parable from Jesus about a religious leader who gears his prayers along the lines of “Thank you, God, that I’m not like this guy. And look all I do and all the money I give.” The second is a tax collector who stands away from the crowd and asks simply for the mercy of God and confesses his own sin. One is consumed with his own image and uses prayer as a platform to further elevate himself. The other sees prayer as a moment of unquestioned humility before the presence of God. That occurs right before our text.
Right after our text is the story of the young, wealthy man who wants to inherit eternal life and thinks he can do so by following a list of rules and obeying a checklist while not enduring any sacrifice. When Christ tells him to sell all he has and give it to the poor, Jesus tells us the young man grew sad and walked away because he had great wealth. So we get a story concerned with prayer and humility and image. Then we get a story of priorities and wealth and sacrifice. And smack-dab between the two, we have Christ’s moment with the children.
We hear that people were brining children to Jesus and that the disciples were trying to shoo those parents and those children away. It seems that from the very beginning of people gathering to be near Jesus that there were those folks who thought that the best place for kids was somewhere at a distance from the actual gathering. I am so very thankful for the incredible and intentional ministries we have here for our little ones. But we should never become accustomed to the silence of children in the walls of this sanctuary. The sounds of an infant crying or a toddler playing should be music to the ears of a church, not a reason to insight dagger-like stares and “shhh’s”.
So Jesus tells his disciples to let the families and their children come to him. Actually, the text tells us that Jesus called to the children. I can see it: Jesus calling these kids and some running into his arms. Some approaching a little more sheepishly. Christ reaching out to take a baby into his arms. Our Savior surrounded by children.
It really is the perfect scene of Christ when we consider the blessing we just witnessed with the baptism of Cruz, Quinn, Cash, and Colt. And what a sight, right?! How many of you have ever seen a quadruple baptism before? And I’m sure there were probably more than four kids brought before Jesus in our text this morning. But it reveals to us one of the most profound truths concerning baptism. It is so much more than a ceremonial act. It’s more than a sentimental, sweet moment. Baptism is something unique and mysterious and transformative. Our text this morning gives us some witness to that and next week we will continue to explore baptism as we welcome Jack Panteleone into the family of God.
For me, our text this morning reveals both the intimacy of baptism and the wild acceptance of God. These four boys were welcomed into our church with warmth and affection. Those children in our text were brought into the arms of Christ with warmth and affection. Baptism is not a right of passage. Baptism is more like running into the open arms of Christ. It is an action marked by the desire of God to hold us and to claim us. God opens his arms to us long before we are able to decide to approach him. Just as little Colt had no personal motivation in his baptism this morning, nonetheless did God receive him as a son. These boys and each of us who have been touched by the waters of baptism and have run into the open arms of God are received as sons and daughters of God. And that leads to the wild acceptance I talked about a moment ago.
Both the verses that come before and after our kid-friendly Jesus moment set the stage for our understanding of baptism and, really, who we are. In the story of the two praying, Jesus reveals that what God desires is not the lofty, eloquent person but instead the person who sees their need for God. The humble, not the self-absorbed. The account of the rich young man shows us that God doesn’t care about the things we bring to the table. He cares about our heart and our singular devotion to Himself. An open and willing heart is more valuable than all the wealth we could accumulate.
It is these two realities of baptism – the affectionate intimacy and the wild acceptance of God – that make baptism and our text this morning a message for not only children but for all of us. Our text shows certain people, in this case – the disciples, thinking that other people, kids, have no place in the presence of Christ and Jesus completely disagreeing and bringing those children to his side. Jesus does this with children in our text but throughout his life this has been his practice. Beggars, lepers, tax collectors…all are told they shouldn’t bother Jesus but Jesus brings them into his arms and his life. The lame, the sick, the forgotten, the rejected, the judged, the wounded, the not-good-enoughs…any and everyone that society has said deserve no place in the lap of Christ are the exact ones that Christ brings closest to His heart.
We are all children of God. Some of us have been lost. Some of us are wandering right now. Some of us have rarely left His side. We’ve had tantrums against God. We’ve argued with Him. We’ve disobeyed. We’ve done our own thing, gone our own way, even when part of us knows that God is right and we are wrong. But that doesn’t change God’s posture. It doesn’t make Jesus turn from us. He remains before us, arms open, waiting for us to run into his embrace.
One, Two, A Twenty is a special practice for me because it represents something I can’t remember having. Isaac willingly, excitedly wants to run into my arms. “Run to Daddy,” he says. Hopefully most of you have affectionate, warm memories and relationships like that with your fathers. I don’t know what it’s like to want to run to my dad. I don’t know what it’s like to see a father’s embrace as something comforting, protective, and accepting. But I found it in the arms of my Savior. And I have made it to be one of my utmost priorities to ensure that my sons will find that comfort and acceptance and affection from me as their father. My arms will always be open to them to run into. Just as Christ opened his lap to those children in our text. Just as the family of God was opened for Cruz and Quinn and Cash and Colt and Jack next week to join the family of God. And just as God opens his arms to all of as his children – whether we are 6, 16, or 61. We have an intimate and affectionate place in the arms of our God.
The task for some of us will be accepting that kind of love into our lives. Rejecting the lies we have been told and that we have told ourselves, and accepting the loving truth of God. The task for some will be committing to being a living example of God’s love not only for our children and our families but all we encounter in this life. Baptism sums up for us really the two most fundamental realities for a children of God. We are lovingly embraced by God. We are called to lovingly embrace others. Both of those realities will require moments of commitment, rededication, and practice. But it’s worth it. There is nothing in existence like running into the arms of God and being held firmly in his embrace. So let’s do it with all the enthusiasm of child. Like Isaac. One, Two, A Twenty…Run to Daddy!