Jonah Davis, Child of the Covenant
To Jonah Davis,
Child of the Covenant,
Tomorrow morning is what we call in our house, “the Lord’s Day” which means that neither Mommy or Daddy go to normal “work,” though it technically is Daddy’s work. But it’s a day that is different from all the other days in that we worship Jesus with our church and we remember the great things that He has done for us.
There’s so many things that we want you to know: the alphabet, the colors, and a few numbers (trust me, there’s too many to learn most of them); how to make a bowl of cereal, how to tell a joke, how to stand up for what is right; what’s true, what hills are worth dying on, and what things don’t really matter that much. But of all the things we want you to know, we want you to know all the great things that Jesus has done, and especially what He has done for you. You see Jojo, we are presbyterians. When you tell this to your classmates at school or friends in the neighborhood, they might think a presbyterian is something similar to a pterodactyl or some other dinosaur. Fair warning: once you start explaining what a presbyterian is, they will lose interest. This is where jokes come in handy.
Though presbyterians seem to have been around at the same time as the dinosaurs, we believe some very old beliefs. We believe that God wrote a book. The same God who made slugs and pterodactyls also wrote a book that you hear us talk about all the time. It’s a true book full of all kinds of people who do lots of incredible, silly, amazing, and disobedient things. In fact, the people in the Bible are really good at not listening to God. But we also see God keeping the promises that He makes. And here’s the kicker: I want you to really listen to this. God has made promises that He will be our God and that we will be His people. Did you hear that? God made that promise not just to Mommy and Daddy, but He made it with you. You are Jonah Louis Davis, child of the covenant and member of Providence Pterodact... Presbyterian Church.
Covenant is just a really fancy word for “promise.” It’s like calling a “choo-choo train” a “locomotive.” But here’s what I want you to think about Jojo, God created everybody just the way He wanted them to be. And because of this, we are all born in a relationship with God. To sound really fancy, we are all born in “covenant relationship with God.” And God wants all people to love Him, obey Him, and serve Him. The best life possible is a life of loving Him, obeying Him, and serving Him. If we do these things perfectly, then we keep our end of the promise. But we are just so bad at it. We break our promises to God again and again. And our biggest need in the whole wide world is for someone to keep those promises to God that we just can’t keep. If it makes you feel any better, only one person in the whole Bible was able to keep those promises to God. This person’s name is Jesus (you might have heard us talk about Him), and while we are covenant breakers, He is a covenant keeper.
The Bible tells us that there are two ways that people come to know God: one way is when people who don’t know God come to know God. Think about Abraham. He was out in the middle of nowhere, worshipping a god that didn’t really exist, and all of a sudden, God told Him: “Trust me and do what I tell you to do!” And Abraham did! People with stories like this come to know God and then they profess their faith in Him. Back in Abraham’s day, Abraham was circumcised (I’ll explain that when you’re older) after he started believing in God. In our day, when someone comes to know God who didn’t know Him before, they are baptized.
Another way that people come to know God is through birth: they are born into a household where their mommy/daddy already believe in God. So kids like Abraham’s children, Lucy, Leo, and you have stories like this. So back in Abraham’s day, his sons were circumcised; for you, this means we are going to have you baptized.
Baptism tells this truth — that our souls are stinky with all the bad things that we have done and we need to be cleaned by Jesus. But also, in baptism, God is laying a claim on you. He is saying: “Jojo, you are mine.” Tomorrow is a big day for you, but it is also a big day for Mommy and Daddy because we are saying, “God, Jojo is all yours. As much as we hate it, we will break promises with him and we will fail him, but you will always keep your promises and you will never fail him.”
You might be thinking: “but what if I didn’t want to be baptized?” Well, that’s tough nuggets, kid. Here’s why: we are going to raise you to believe that fire is hot, tofu is weird, kitties are funny, cookies are delicious, and that Jesus is King. We want to raise you to know the truth. None of those choices for how we are going to raise you are your decision. Right now, you make very few decisions for yourself. Sometimes you decide that you want to play with your feet and you definitely decide when it is time for a snack, but that’s about it. But baptism is not really about your decision: it’s about God’s decision. We’re baptizing you because we believe it’s what God tells us to do in the book He wrote and not just because we think it would be a good idea. Baptism is not about your choice to say “I’m on God’s side!” It’s about God’s choice to claim you and say “Jojo is mine.” So we are going to raise you that way. We are going to raise you as if all the promises of God belong to you. This is why we are going to raise you to love the church, read the Bible, serve other people, and sing “Jesus Loves Me.” Your baptism is more about God’s commitment to you than it is your commitment to God.
You might be thinking: “does my baptism mean I’m saved?” The answer to that is no. Water and prayer is not enough to save you — only the Lord’s work in your heart can save you. But that’s why we baptize you. We pray all the time that you would not know a time in your life where you do not know the goodness and love of Jesus. We pray that one day, you would publicly acknowledge that you are a sinner who desperately needs the grace of Jesus in your heart. Until that day, we teach you that “Jesus Loves Me” applies to you, and that life in this crazy world must be lived by faith in God and reliance upon His Word. For that reason, we are going to raise you in an imperfect church filled with imperfect people who all need a perfect Savior. Our church really loves Him, and they will really love you. Please remember Jojo, the church is not just a place we go or a thing we attend: the church is the people we limp along with as we all try to follow Jesus. They make the gospel more believable. At home and at church, we will do our best teach you all about God’s book, pray with you, and trust that you will one day come to believe that God’s grace is the best thing ever. As we read all the time, “God’s grace is enough, so big and so free; God’s grace is enough to change you and to change me.”
Jonah, you were named after a guy in the Bible that many people think your mom and I are bonkers for naming you after. The name “Jonah” means “dove.” Sorry it couldn’t mean something cooler like “blood-thirsty tiger,” “silverback gorilla,” or “locomotive.” Maybe in a few years, you will be like your dad and tell your parents that when you are old enough, you are going to legally change your name to “Stratos” from your favorite cartoon, He-Man. But until you can make a decision like that, your name is Jonah.
Jonah was a man who made a lot of bad decisions, but like you, he was one of God’s “covenant people.” In God’s book, Jonah tells us about all the bad decisions he made and just how much he didn’t like listening to God. But he also tells us about how God gave him lots and lots of grace. Jonah ran away from God and tried to pretend like God’s promises weren’t true. Eventually, Jonah was thrown into the ocean and as his whole body was being covered with water, he was saved in the belly of a fish. God saved him in that fish and spat him out on to dry land to go do His mission. Even after all that, Jonah still got a lot of things wrong, but you know what? God held on to Jonah. Even as the book ends with Jonah in an ugly mood, yelling at God, God peacefully responds and shows him grace. Throughout the Bible, doves are a symbol of peace. Funny enough, when Jesus was baptized, it says that the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus “like a dove.” I think Jonah eventually found peace in his heart and wrote the book that we know today as “Jonah” (how else would we know what happened in the belly of the fish?).
Anyways, just like the Jonah in the Bible, you might have lots of times where you don’t feel very peaceful. Time when you want to disobey God, get ugly with God, and run from God, but I pray that you will remember your baptism. Remember that just as God made a fish in which Jonah found peace, God has made His church where we can find peace. Not because the church is a Buc-ees for the soul that fixes all our problems and never makes disappoints us, but because the church is how Jesus does what He does.
Tomorrow, Pastor Ian will baptize you just like he did with Lucy and LeoBobber along with another little girl whose mommy and daddy are making the same promises. In fact, I bet there are lots of kids just like you that are getting baptized tomorrow all over the world. Tomorrow, God puts His sign on you with water that you are a member of His church, that you belong to Him, and that you are Jonah Davis, child of the covenant.
I love you buddy.