Baptism renewal

December 16, 2010. Our little man was halfway through his first year, just six months old, and he was baptized. A gift from God, given to him through the priests of the Russian Orthodox Church. The ROC will forever have a seat of love in my heart because they stepped in to welcome my son into the covenant community when we could not. They acted as an image of our heavenly Father, passing down a spiritual heritage to a little boy whose history will likely forever be a mystery to him. It is a good gift, a very good gift.
Arie's baptism certificate.
John and I belong to a church in the Reformed tradition, which is a protestant church. A number of our friends asked if we would baptize Arie again once he came home, since he was first of all not baptized as our son and second of all not baptized in our tradition. I think most people would understand our wanting to re-baptize him, if not expect it.

But we chose not to re-baptize him. We made the decision not because baptism doesn't mean that much to us, but because of how much it means, how deep its meaning goes, and because of what we believe baptism means.

A long time ago- a very long time ago- God called a man to follow him. Abram. Or Abraham as he would become widely known. We might call him the first disciple. From this one man's offspring, God grew the nation of Israel who were a special chosen people. Chosen to be his treasured possession and a kingdom of priests. That is, a kingdom of people who would demonstrate to the world the love and glory and power of God. In response to this special calling, the Israelites were to live in obedience to the law God set before them. If you've read the Old Testament you'll know it was a hard law. An impossible law.

But even in the face of the hard law, the Israelites were blessed because God chose them and revealed himself most fully to them out of all the nations on earth. To know the God of the Universe: is not the most abundant blessing a person could receive? A nation could receive? On those who belonged to this blessed, chosen community, God put a physical mark. Not a skin tone or an eye color or a language or an accent, but the physical mark of circumcision. Any male* who belonged to the covenant community by birth or by adult decision, was circumcised. (*Israel was a patriarchal society, hence only males received the mark though woman certainly belonged as well.)

Again if you've ever read the Old Testament you'll know that even though these people were chosen and marked by circumcision and even though they were blessed to know the most about God and how he wanted them to live, they could not live up to the hard demands of the law. They failed miserably when they tried and even more miserably when they didn't. It was because of sin and the helpless fallen condition we all find ourselves in.

Enter Jesus.

Enter God, made fully human. Enter the first human in all of history who perfectly fulfilled that impossible law. Enter the only person ever who did not deserve the punishment of sin: death. Enter the greatest act of divine love: that Jesus chose death on our behalf, that we might be saved eternally.

When Jesus came to live, die, and rise again for us he ushered in a new covenant. Where the old covenant was Israel's obedience to the law in exchange for God's love and favor, the new covenant is no longer subject to the law because Jesus already fulfilled it for us. Just before his death when Jesus ate the Last Supper with his disciples, he so beautifully and poignantly lifted a cup before his friends and said:

This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

The new covenant means that we belong to God through Christ. It means we follow the law out of love and not legalism. It means the Spirit of God dwells in every believer and not just in the tented Tabernacle or the veiled temple as in the Old Testament. It means so many things, but most importantly for this post it means that blessed covenant community has extended from Israel alone, to all those who declare with their mouths, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead.

That's me. I'm not a Israelite. And I can't live up to the law. But I belong to the blessed covenant community because I confess and believe that Jesus is Lord and he has granted me salvation.

And it could be Arie too.
All dressed up and ready for the baptism renewal!
Just as the covenant shifted with Jesus, so did the mark of the covenant. Where the Israelite men and their sons were once circumcised, now all members of the covenant community, all disciples- male or female, Israelite or not- are baptized.

Infant circumcision was not a mark of individual salvation and neither is infant baptism a sign that the child is saved or will grow up to become a believer, though we certainly have every reason to hope. Instead what baptism does, as circumcision did, is welcomes the child into the covenant community where he will receive the benefits of that community: namely that he will hear the gospel preached and grow up surrounded by people who will teach him to love, and serve the Lord. When Arie is older and able to understand what God has done for him, he will have the chance to respond to his baptism by making a public profession of faith.
It is an Orthodox tradition for a child to receive a cross at their baptism. This is something we hope Arie will wear throughout his lifetime.
We had the opportunity to witness an Orthodox baptism when our friends Dylan and Kelly had their son Brendan baptized last year.  It was an incredible experience: rich in liturgy, full of tradition, and thick with meaning.  The elaborate 90 minute service looked very different than the simple three minute one we use, but underneath all those obvious differences lies this gospel truth:

 There is  
one body and
one Spirit, just as you were called to 
one hope when you were called;  
one Lord
one faith, 
one baptism;  
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all

One baptism. And when God speaks, he speaks once and for all. That's why we remembered and celebrated Arie's baptism, but we did not re-baptize him. The Russian Orthodox Church might be part of a different Christian tradition than ours, but the sign and seal placed they placed our son was a sign and seal of the one baptism to which we all cling. When God spoke over Arie that December day, he spoke once and for all. This is a gift for which John and I are eternally grateful: that before we knew our son's name, God marked him to be a member of his covenant community, offering him all the benefits and blessings that come with it. 
The bowl we used to represent the baptismal font was a gift we received at our wedding.
On Sunday John and I made our parental promises before God and our community. We promised to teach Arie the gospel story, by word and by deed. We promised to teach him how to pray. And because none of us can do it alone, we promised to nurture him and his faith within a body of believers. In turn, our body of believers promised to pray for our son, to encourage him, and to nurture his faith. Bold promises made with the confidence we have in Christ. 
Before the ceremony.
It was simple, beautiful ceremony. The three of us up front with a bowl of water, rejoicing in what God has done and trusting in his provision as we made promises for the future.  
Touching the water to remember his and our own baptisms.
(Arie very loudly enjoyed this part.)
Making our parental promises and receiving the gift of the congregational promises.
 Now may our lives will serve as a testimony and an amen to that ceremony. 
Greeting Dylan and Kelly after the ceremony. These wonderful friends will serve as Arie's honorary Orthodox godparents, teaching him (and us) about his spiritual heritage.
After the worship service we had a very full day of love. Cupcakes and coffee with our friends and family, enjoyed amidst the boundless energy and everlasting giggles of a half dozen toddlers (and parents) racing about. 

By the time I thought to ask someone to take a picture of me with Arie, he was exhausted. This is the best one we got. Ha!
Our cake and coffee reception was followed by a meal and afternoon of fellowship with our out-of-town guests. My parents came from Ontario for the ceremony and they brought 9 of their closest friends with them. 
Chewing pictures: ever so satisfying to the chef. :-)
 These nine were some of the many believers who helped my parents fulfill their own baptismal vows as they were raising me.  The earliest friendships in the group began 22 years ago. These people watched me grow up and now are watching me raise my own son.  One of my favourite hours from the weekend was the one in which I was surprised by a pile of gifts from these wonderful families. In them were many treasures, the best of which were all the books we received for Arie! Chosen with such love and consideration; the favorites from women whose children are all grown. The very best books with the most beautiful illustrations and cherished stories. I spent hours today reading these treasures with my son. 

My dad only has one sentimental bone in his body which has so far been reserved for his children's weddings and the endearing terms he uses for me and my sister "popje"- "dolly" in Dutch. So when I was opening these wonderful gifts and clutching my chest in deep appreciation he was doing this in the background: 

I will cherish this hilarious photo forever. Also, posting this will teach him to ruin my emotional moment.  (Love you Dad!)

There was a lot of laughter this weekend and a lot of depth of experience. I so enjoyed sharing just a moment of my adult life with all these people who raised me and who literally helped us bring our son home. When my dad wasn't looking, there were also a few teary eyes watching our son run around with joy in his home, surrounded by love that will never let go. 

We are blessed to be loved by these people. Blessed to have them drive six hours to share in our joy. 
My mama!

I can only pray that as John and I raise our son, we can love on our own friends and their children like these people loved on me. A picture of divine fellowship. A covenant community. The love of Christ poured out for us and spread around. 



Today's prayer for my lenten series reflects the gratitude I have for the Russian Orthodox Church and the gift of baptism they gave my son. 

God of all believers, 

In a world where your church has become so splintered by differences, help us to remember our unity. Help us to remember that you are God over all. East and West. You are worshiped in great Cathedrals and you are worshiped in simple sanctuaries. 

On this day we thank you for the priests, clergy, and believers in Russia who so diligently care for orphans. Thank you for the baptism so many receive. We pray that you will bless the children with the gifts of belonging to a covenant community. Enable them to hear the gospel and to see what love looks like, in your name. May they hear the name of Jesus Christ so often and so early in their lives that they can never remember a time when they did not know you. 

You have commanded your children to care for orphans in their distress. Today Russian orphans are in distress. Give wisdom and compassion and grace to Russian Christians of every type as they respond to that call. 

We pray these things in Jesus' name, 


  1. I am so thankful for your decision and your testimony about ONE BAPTISM...one Lord, one faith, one baptism! I was moved, as well, by the wonderful support of your parents and their friends who have been loving on you and praying for you all these years... so sweet is this fellowship! And what delight to have Dylan and Kelly (and Brendan) as Orthodox friends who will be able to celebrate and remind Arie of his heritage. It seems he is doubly blessed on that account! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Carol that means so much to me coming from you! Thank you!

  2. I am so thankful for your decision and your testimony about ONE BAPTISM...one Lord, one faith, one baptism! I was moved, as well, by the wonderful support of your parents and their friends who have been loving on you and praying for you all these years... so sweet is this fellowship! And what delight to have Dylan and Kelly (and Brendan) as Orthodox friends who will be able to celebrate and remind Arie of his heritage. It seems he is doubly blessed on that account! Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. I stumbled down the rabbit hole of the Internet and found your blog. And how happy I am that I did. I am also a Dutch girl of Reformed faith and I love to come back and see what new things you have written. Wen my youngest son was baptized our pastor carried him around the church for everyone to see. A reminder to them that they are making a promise as well. I love what you chose to do instead of rebaptizing him. It looks like it was a beautiful and heartfelt ceremony. And on a side note, I love your shoes!

  5. This post brought tears to my eyes! It is so refreshing to see a Christian who is living the faith- who realizes that we are all One body united in the love of Christ our savior. Whether we worship in a Cathedral, a sanctuary, a chapel, or in a converted shopping center, whether we partake of wine or grape juice during communion, whether we stand, sit, kneel, dance, sing, or chant- we are all celebrating our love and belief in our savior in the way that is most natural and comfortable to us.

  6. Such a joy to be a part of this! It was a blessing to be there on Sunday.

  7. Love this and the beauty in your intentional parenting....sorry I am so behind,

    I also love that your served Ham on Buns after a Baptism. Yay dutch tradition!


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