1 Samuel 3.1-10
Mark Twain was the nineteenth-century American author of books like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Someone once asked him, ‘Mr. Twain, do you believe in infant baptism?’ He replied, ‘Do I believe in it? Hell, I’ve seen it!’
In Mark Twain’s day, there were those who wondered whether baptism should be reserved for those old enough to answer for themselves. A lot of people these days have doubts about the rightness of baptising infants too.
I want to talk a bit about baptising babies, and then I want us to recall that God called Samuel when he was just a child.
We baptised CJ this morning, and he didn’t make his own promises. M and A answered for him. Next month, we’ll baptise L and T’s son, and D and A’s daughters. Did we do the right thing with CJ? Will we do the right thing next month? Should we listen to those who say, Wait for them to make up their own minds?
Sermon for The Baptism of Jesus (11 January 2009)
October 1983 found me down in Adelaide, in a state of confusion. I had gone down for some oral exams on the way to qualifying as a psychiatrist. Everyone expected me to sail through them. I flunked. Badly.
The day after my devastating failure, I looked up some old friends in Adelaide. I was talking to them in their living room, when I felt a physical sensation in my head and realised—God was calling me into the ministry. Now, all this is a little dangerous for a psychiatrically-trained person to admit, but it’s what happened. (It wasn’t the first time I’d felt a call to ministry; I’d been wrestling with it on and off for years. But this was a final confirmation.)
Today’s psalm, Psalm 29, reminded me of that time in my life, when God’s voice came to me over the chaos of my feelings:
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
For the people of ancient Israel, the waters were a place of chaos and danger. They wouldn’t venture out onto the sea unless they absolutely had to. Think of the story of Jonah, who went on a sea voyage across the Mediterranean. He must have been absolutely desperate to get away from God.
But fearful as the waters were, the psalm proclaims this: God’s voice is mightier than the waters, greater than the storms. God’s voice thunders. In Adelaide, I found that to be so. I went down heading for a career in psychiatry, and returned with a vocation to ministry. Continue reading