AN OPEN LETTER TO OUR PARENTS

Dear parents:

On the day your child or children were baptized, you said:

“I (we) present [your child’s full name] to receive the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.”

The pastor said: “In Christian love you have presented these children for Holy Baptism. You should, therefore, faithfully bring them to the services of God’s house, and teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments. As they grow in years, you should place in their hands the Holy Scriptures and provide for their instruction in the Christian faith, that, living in the covenant of their Baptism and in communion with the Church, they may lead godly lives until the day of Jesus Christ.”

“Do you promise to fulfill these obligations?”

And you, perhaps your parents, and the godparents said: “I do.”

There was no ambiguity in the obligations to which you assented. “Faithfully bring them to the services of God’s house” did not include “when I feel like it; when there’s nothing better to do; when we don’t have a game; when we are ticked off at the pastor, etc.” Of course, if you had an issue with the pastor, you sat down with him and talked it out before deciding to go elsewhere…which would have been a better choice than staying home.

“Teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments” did not include “unless my kids don’t want to go” or “unless I decide to go to a church that doesn’t say the prayer, the creed, or teach [or worse rewrite] the commandments.”

“Place in their hands the Holy Scriptures and provide for their instruction in the Christian faith” didn’t mean “we will wait until they are in middle school,” or “since we worship only on Saturday night, that doesn’t apply to us,” or “I really am not sure what I believe, so I don’t want to push anything on my kids.”

And, finally, “living in the covenant of their Baptism and in communion with the Church,” did not mean “unless I decide to take my kids to a large hip church where they don’t practice infant Baptism and where Holy Communion is never, ever celebrated on Sunday morning.”

Let’s be clear. Nobody forced you to bring your child or children for Holy Baptism and no one put a gun to your head and said you had to promise to fulfill these obligations. Whatever your motivation at the time and despite any uncertainty you may feel today, you did bring your child for Holy Baptism and you did promise to raise your child in the Christian faith and that happened in the Lutheran church where we always have Holy Communion, always practice infant baptism as the norm, always say the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and still teach the Ten Commandments, and still have traditional Bible study for children, youth, and adults.

There was no ambiguity in the obligations and, at least, one parent promised “I do.” So, will you keep your promises this year?

Many of you know I had a Lutheran mother, a Baptist father, and one set of Roman Catholic grandparents. Everyone believed God is one God in three persons. Everyone confessed Jesus as truly God and truly human, the only way to the Father, and the only Savior. Everyone worshiped every Sunday. We were all Christians. We all loved each other. But we knew there were differences in teaching.

The price tag for marrying my Mom was that Dad had to agree for the children to be baptized as infants, raised as Lutheran Christians, and confirmed as Lutheran Christians. Dad agreed. He went to the baptisms and confirmations of his children. As the youngest by a bunch, I also worshiped with Dad. Two years before he died, he joined the Lutheran church. His argument with a preacher was over Dad’s openness about drinking beer. So, Pearl Beer made my Dad a Lutheran before he died. We laughed.

On Rally Day, August 26, at 9:45 a.m., we will present new age-appropriate Bibles to three-year-olds, third graders, and sixth graders. This year, we will review our baptismal promises. We will sing. We will ask all those serving in the teaching rotations to introduce themselves. We will check out the classrooms where our children learn and get to know the other children in each class. Finally, we will have a snack in the fellowship hall and take a look at the weekly schedule that begins on Sunday, September 2.

On Rally Day, August 26, there will also be an indoor picnic in the activity center (gym) at 12:30 pm with hamburgers and hot dogs. You will be asked to bring two items with enough for your household and a little extra to share. Items can be hot or cold, salads, desserts, etc. We will provide drinks and ask a $1 per person contribution for the meat. There will be a bouncy house and a slide for kids and games for adults. It almost goes without saying that you don’t skip church, skip the 9:45 am Rally Day program, and then show up for the fun event as if we were just a club. So, then, let’s start the year strong and keep the energy going week after week.

I’m writing you today, parents, because I am the spiritual father of this parish, and I, too, have made promises as a pastor to speak God’s Word as Law and Gospel, as No and Yes, as Judgment and Promise. I have zero ego involved in any of this. It’s not about making a name for myself or our parish. We are called to be faithful, beloved daughters and sons of the Most High God. Regardless of your past performance, please say you will keep your promises with the help of God.

I love you,

Pr. Sam Zumwalt+

St Matthew's Pastor Sam Zumwalt

szumwalt

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Zumwalt has worked in churches for 42 years and in May 2018 celebrated the 37th anniversary of his ordination to the holy ministry. He is a member of the Society of the Holy Trinity (www.societyholytrinity.org). In 2004, Pr. Zumwalt moved with his family to Wilmington from Texas, where he served for 23 years as pastor of small, midsize, and large congregations.