October 22, 1978

God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!
He, because I could not pay it, Gave my full redemption price.
Do I need earth’s treasure’s many? I have one worth more than any
That brought me salvation free, Lasting to eternity.

Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation; I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I’ve traveled, All your might has come unraveled,
And, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me! (CWS 737:3)

Get God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It on

The Way of the Baptized

A Christian is a person who begins to tread the way from this life to heaven the moment he is baptized, in the faith that Christ is henceforth the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And he holds to this way until his end. He is always found on this way and is led into the truth to obtain life, as one who already sees the shore where he is to land. He is prepared at all times, whether death comes today, tomorrow, or in one, two, or ten years; for in Christ he has already been transported to the other side. We cannot be safe from death for a minute; in Baptism all Christians begin to die, and they continue to die until they reach the grave.

–Martin Luther, on John 14:6 (LW 24, p. 51)

Certificate of Baptism

This year, as a Christmas gift to me, my dear bride put all of our family’s baptismal certificates into frames. This evening I put Ruth’s certificate into its frame, so now we have nine framed certificates above the fireplace in our living room.

Ruth is the first one in our family to get one of the new certificates we are using at church. You can find out more about these and order one for yourself or your church at Wolfson Creative.

Now that to the font I’ve travelled…

Nine years ago today we brought our firstborn daughter Hannah to be crucified and buried with Christ in Holy Baptism. Since that day, we’ve been back to the font many times. Actually, we have been to three other fonts for our five other children. And God-willing, we’ll be back at the font again in just a matter of weeks, as we are awaiting the appearance of our seventh gift of God. Each and every trip impresses on me more and more that “there is nothing worth comparing to this life-long comfort sure.”

But that is not to say that my only trips to the font have been to be baptized, to baptize, or to bring my children to baptism. No, this font is a daily destination. For this is the only water that can wash away what has been wrong today and drown the old Adam who loves to swim. The daily activity starts with the sign of the cross. “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It confesses “I believe” and it prays “Our Father.” From there, this daily activity gets going, singing a hymn perhaps, busy with vocations like father, husband, and pastor. Until the day is over and again we finish at the font. “Forgive me all my sins, and graciously keep me this night.”




Certificate of Baptism

Eight years ago today, our oldest child, Hannah Marie, was baptized into the name of the Triune God. I noticed, as I was going through a few things, that both of us were given the same style of baptism certificate (see photo). It’s actually quite remarkable that almost identical certificates were available for 25 years with hardly any changes. I’m not sure if they are still available today. I didn’t see them at either NPH or CPH.

I like the fact that Hannah and I have the same certificate, but I’m not sure I would have chosen these. As a pastor, I have tried several options for baptismal certificates for children baptized in our congregation. I have tried a few different styles of purchased certificates. I have also, more recently, created my own certificates. I have also felt that it was nice to have a certificate that could be framed to hang on the child’s wall. The certificate that Hannah and I have is part of little booklet, which is not meant for framing. The other thing is that the certificate should be well designed, and have an official look to it. It should look like something meant to be displayed.

Many of the certificates available for sale are okay, but were never quite what I was looking for. The certificates I made were okay, and I thought they looked fairly nice, but there was something missing.

Recently I came across baptismal certificates which are newly designed to underscore the permanence and significance of baptism. They look like the kind of certificates your grandparents or great-grandparents might have received. They are beautifully illustrated with biblical scenes which picture or connect to baptism. They are meant to be printed large (11×17) and specifically meant to be framed and displayed. You can get more information about these certificates here:

There are other places where you can find vintage baptism certificates, as well as other kinds of certificates (CPH and Agnus Dei Printing). But I have chosen to give these a try, as the best combination of a classic look, modern convenience, and reasonable cost.

If you’re looking for baptismal certificates for your church, give these a try. Either way, try looking for your own baptism certificate. See if it’s something you can put in a frame and place it somewhere where you can be daily reminded of the life-giving water by which God poured on you the forgiveness of sins and all the benefits of his cross.



Baptized into Christ

On Sunday, January 9th, Joanna was baptized into the name of the Triune God. This was also the First Sunday after the Epiphany, on which we observed the Baptism of our Lord. Since we had family in town for the baptism, we decided to have the group sing in the service. We sang Kevin Hildebrand’s setting of “God’s Own Child I Gladly Say It.” The kids sang the first stanza, the adults sang stanzas two and four, and the congregation joined in on stanzas three and five. The video below is the first stanza. It was recorded from the back of church, where the piano and clarinet were playing, but you can still hear the kids singing.

The Sign of the Cross

One month ago, Pastor Dan Walters wrote a great post on his blog about the practice of making “The Sign of the Holy Cross.” He wrote about how Dr. Martin Luther encouraged the practice in these instructions in his Small Catechism:

In the morning when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross and say: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Pastor Walters and I both grew up watching Kirby Puckett make the sign of the cross before he went to bat. We both grew up in the same town, went to the same Lutheran schools (a year apart), and studied from the same catechism with the same teachers. But we didn’t read these words in those catechisms, because our catechisms didn’t have these words.

Luther’s original Small Catechism of 1529 did. The Small Catechism included in the 1580 Book of Concord did. The version of the Dresden Catechism, published in 1881 by Northwestern Publishing House, had these words. But sometime before the WELS’ Gausewitz Catechism was revised and published in 1956, someone made the decision that it would be better to remove these instructional words from this book of instruction. (Someone who has access to a copy of the original 1917 Gausewitz catechism will have to confirm whether the change was made in the 1917 or 1956 version.) When the synod again revised the language of the Catechism in the early 80s and again in the 90s (to reflect language in the new hymnal), they continued to leave these words for those who read the Small Catechism in German, in the Book of Concord, or in a catechism published by another Lutheran body.

I can probably guess why they did it. It probably had something to do with the fact that this practice had become exclusively associated with Roman Catholicism. Of course, it’s not as though they had removed a major doctrinal point from the Catechism. It’s a pious practice which had probably become neglected and even associated with superstition and the false teaching and practice of the Roman church.

So our catechism simply introduced Luther’s morning and evening prayers with the Trinitarian invocation. I always thought that was odd. It didn’t make sense to me. It would have made sense if I had known that Luther was suggesting that we begin and end each day with the very same words and the very same sign used at our baptism, a constant reminder that each and every day we rise and we rest in the name of the Triune God and marked with the cross of Christ.It would also have been useful to know that Luther continued to say:

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

That would explain why morning devotions after breakfast at my Grandpa’s always concluded with the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and Luther’s Morning Prayer. Every morning. Again, Luther continues:

Then go to your work with joy, singing a hymn…

Oh, it looks like Grandpa learned that from his catechism, too.

Whether or not someone actually makes the sign of the cross is not a big deal. The point is that these are some important words. They direct us to our baptism and the core of our Christian faith at the beginning and end of every day. I wish they had been left alone. I wish I had learned them earlier. I am glad to see that our new hymnal supplement quotes these words in a footnote to Luther’s prayers in a few of the devotions. I’m glad to see that some attention has been given to them in various articles and blog posts, such as the one mentioned above and those below. And I hope that someday Luther’s instructional words will be re-inserted back into a future edition of a synodical catechism.

Below is an excerpt from an article from the March 2010 issue of Worship the Lord newsletter, entitled Accuracy: Urban Legends in our Churches by Pastor Jon Buchholz, President of the Arizona-California District of the WELS.

Myth: Making the sign of the cross is a Catholic superstition.
Reality: The sign of the cross is a way for Christians to remember their baptism.

We worship in the name of the Father and of the ☩ Son and of the Holy Spirit. The rubric calls for the pastor to make the sign of the cross over the people. Some in the congregation make the sign of the cross over themselves at the same time, and people think, “Hmm, Catholic visitors today?”

The sign of the cross itself, the proper way to hold one’s hand when making it, whether to go from right to left or left to right, and all the different times to make it are subjects for deeper exploration elsewhere. (Luther’s morning and evening prayers in the Small Catechism include an enjoinder to bless oneself with the holy cross. In corporate worship, appropriate times to make the sign of the cross include at the invocation, the Incarnatus (in the Nicene Creed, when we say, “And became fully human”), after receiving the Sacrament of the Altar, and at the benediction.) Suffice to say that making the sign of the cross is an ancient practice that serves a very simple purpose: It is a memory device to help Christians find comfort and strength in their baptism.

Did you think about your baptism today? Would it be helpful if you had a simple tool to help you recall each day that your old self was drowned and put to death in the waters of Baptism and that now you have been resurrected as a new creation, clothed with Christ, forgiven, and given a new identity as a child of God? Recalling our baptism gives us strength in the face of temptation, comfort in affliction, and joy in all of God’s promises sealed to us in his covenant of grace.

When you were baptized, the pastor said, “Receive the sign of the holy cross, both upon the head and upon the heart, to mark you as a redeemed child of Christ.” Then he baptized you into the name of the Triune God. The sign of the cross at the invocation can tangibly recall the name into which we were baptized and in which we worship. At the Incarnatus we remember Jesus, our brother, sharing our humanity to fulfill all righteousness. As the pastor dismisses us from the Lord’s Table, we remember that through Baptism are we worthy to receive the precious gifts of Jesus’ true body and blood. As we are dismissed with the blessing, we go in the power of Baptism, to bear Christ’s name in the world.

Certainly the sign of the cross can become a superstitious device, like an amulet or a charm; anything good can be perverted. But the simple sign of the cross can be a powerful reminder of something that we want to remember often.

Bless yourself with the holy cross, and as you do so, recall all the gifts of God’s grace!

Here are a few other articles on the same subject:

Planned Giving & Baptism

This past weekend, my uncle was in El Paso. Uncle Harry is a Christian Giving Counselor for the Arizona-California District of the WELS. His job is to help individuals and congregations make plans for their giving. So he met with our church council to introduce the concept of a congregational endowment fund and he presented a seminar on Christian estate planning. So really, he was in town on business. But we managed to have a nice visit while he was here. Sara and I went out to eat with him on Friday night and I had lunch with him before he left on Tuesday.

Uncle Harry is also my baptism sponsor, my godfather. Well, it just so happened that the Sunday he came to visit was the 1st Sunday after the Epiphany, when we observe the Baptism of our Lord. And this quarter I am using the adult level materials in our Sunday School curriculum, Growing in Christ, for our Sunday morning Bible Class. The lesson was The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus. The last question in the lesson was this: What does it mean to “remember” our baptism? How do sponsors help us with that, and how do we as sponsors help those who are baptized to remember their baptisms?

So I had the opportunity to share with the class what my sponsor did for me that has helped me remember my baptism. I asked how many people remembered when they were baptized. Not many. That's pretty typical. Most of the time when people fill out membership application or information forms, the spot for their baptism date will have a year and maybe a month. But most people seemed to think that a baptismal certificate would be the best way to find out. 

I mentioned that I don't know where my baptism certificate is. I've been told that it might be in a safety deposit box in Nebraska. So I don't have a certificate, but I do have something that is probably just as good. I have a letter that my uncle wrote to me on October 22, 1978—the date I was baptized. The letter introduced me to the family. He mentioned the "vicious rumor" that I didn't have red hair like so many of my siblings and cousins, but he suggested that lots of carrots and beats would take care of that.

Obviously, the letter didn't mean much to me way back then, but even now as I remember my own baptism, I have this concrete reminder. Uncle Harry wrote, 

Perhaps my first welcome to you should be to an even bigger family, the adopted sons and daughters of Jesus, our Savior. You're too young to know it yet, but that's the best family of all to be a member of. When your pastor put that water on you, he made a very special person out of you. When you get old enough to understand it, your mom and dad will explain it all to you. It also made a rather special person out of me and your Aunt Johanna. We're you're sponsors and we're very proud to be a part of your life. We'll keep you in our minds and in our prayers.

I have lately become very fond of the hymn, "God's Own Child I Gladly Say It." We have always tried to help our children remember their baptism and to talk about what it means, especially as they grow older. This hymn has been so helpful encouraging to me, and gives me even more reason to teach that. Our kids know at least the first stanza of this hymn, and it brings me great joy to hear them singing it, especially to hear little Lydia singing those precious words, "I am baptized into Christ!"

God’s own child, I gladly say it: 
I am baptized into Christ! 
He, because I could not pay it, 
Gave my full redemption price. 
Do I need earth’s treasures many? 
I have one worth more than any 
That brought me salvation free, 
Lasting to eternity!

Sin, disturb my soul no longer: 
I am baptized into Christ! 
I have comfort even stronger: 
Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice. 
Should a guilty conscience seize me 
Since my baptism did release me 
In a dear forgiving flood, 
Sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

Satan, hear this proclamation: 
I am baptized into Christ! 
Drop your ugly accusation; 
I am not so soon enticed. 
Now that to the font I’ve traveled, 
All your might has come unraveled, 
And, against your tyranny, 
God, my Lord, unites with me!

Death, you cannot end my gladness:
I am baptized into Christ! 
When I die, I leave all sadness 
To inherit paradise! 
Though I lie in dust and ashes 
Faith’s assurance brightly flashes: 
Baptism has the strength divine 
To make life immortal mine. 

There is nothing worth comparing 
To this lifelong comfort sure! 
Open-eyed my grave is staring: 
Even there I’ll sleep secure. 
Though my flesh awaits its raising, 
Still my soul continues praising: 
I am baptized into Christ; 
I’m a child of paradise!