Daily Scripture Readings:
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the western church's movement into Lent, the season of penance, fasting, and preparation for the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ Jesus. The ashes placed on the forehead is a sign of repentance. It is also interesting that the sign of the cross is made on the forehead also during Holy Baptism, an act which in traditional Christianity connects the water and the Word to work repentance and faith by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, completely independent of the mental and physical state of the person being baptized. I had always relegated the concept of infant baptism to a minor debate, one where it really doesn't matter what you believe on the issue. Perhaps mainline Protestants were correct in that faith was only an intellectual assent to a revealed fact/truth. Perhaps Protestants were correct that only a confessing believer should be baptized as the Ethiopian Eunuch was because, after all, water would only be a symbol, not an active object involved in some sort of "Sacrament." That minor debate became a major reality when our church recently burried a six year old, mentally handicapped young boy who died on Valentine's Day. Scripture clearly teaches that through Adam all have sinned, and all fall short of the glory of God, that includes children. However, if faith is an intellectual assent....how could a six year old child who had mental problems grasp the concept of the atonement and the Gospel message....probably not even as well as I understood it mentally at that age.
What do you tell the boy's family? "Sorry, he didn't make a public statement of faith and give a salvation experience." "Too bad he didn't make it to an age where he would have been able to make a public testimony of salvation." "Because he didn't give a public testimony, we must leave this in God's hands....remember, God is sovereign." No, you don't say any of these things, because these things would revolve around a picture of a Christ who doesn't tell us how He cares for young children. But that is not what Scripture tells us at all. Christ chided the disciplesfor barring the young children from coming to Him and said that the kingdom of Heaven was for such as those (Matt 19:13-14). In such a way, now, Protestants withold infant baptism because of a view on faith that allienates those who have no mental capacity and those whom God came in the form of at Christmas through the Blessed Virgin. What this fact teaches is that Holy Baptism is a supreme gift of water and the Word that works faith in the heart and gives the Holy Spirit to those who do not understand what it "means." This teaching of infant baptism indicates to me that faith is not ours to have without the grace of Christ, and that the faith is rooted in our heart, not our minds. Unless I can be convinced by their theologians who use Scripture to reconcile God's mercy and grace for children (Luke 10:21) and His justice to punish all men for the state of sin that we are all conceived in (Rom. 3:23), I must declare those who teach this vile and damning doctrine, antichrists.
The kingdom of Heaven was made for the little children (Acts 2:38-39). We are to have faith as little children. As the sermon at Trinity today for Ash Wednesday said, "blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matt. 5:3). In this season, we should focus not on what we do for God, but for what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and reflect on why God sent His only Son into the world ultimately to die on the cross. That message of full and unfailing agape love is what should bring us to sorrow during this season. Because we were sinners, we were enemies of God, truly hating Him, but because of His mercy and love He sent His Son for us (Rom. 5:8).
Glory be to the Father and to the Son + and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and shall be forever, Amen.