Five years ago this week I baptized our then six-week-old son, Charlie, into the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church in the congregation I served. Since he was the first PK (pastor’s kid) born to that congregation in nearly 20 years, parishioners piled into the pews like it was the Second Coming. Some showed up the day before to help me shovel snow from the church’s sidewalks. Our family came in from out of state. Charlie managed to not throw up on his christening gown. The reception following was bountiful. And the boiler in the sanctuary basement held steady. It was a glorious event for me as a pastor and as a new dad.
But perhaps what I remember most about the whole weekend was the anthem during worship. I had invited a local musician who directed the gospel choir at a nearby university to perform, and I wanted him to sing “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me.”
If you aren’t familiar with it, the song’s roots grew from the harsh soil of slavery. As one of the black spirituals sung by enslaved persons in the American South, the haunting melody and words are a mixture of lament, hope and longing. It’s not exactly a “happy song,” but it is surely a faithful one.
The lyrics sing out:
I want Jesus to walk with me…
In my trials, Lord walk with me…
When I’m in trouble, Lord walk with me…
All along my pilgrim journey,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.
The truth is, I want my children to know these words just as much as I need to sing them out in my own life. I pray for them to know the safety of the One who walks with them, come what may. That’s part of the promise pronounced at baptism.
In an age where fewer and fewer young people are finding any benefit to organized religion, I want my boys to know that the God of the universe, revealed in Jesus Christ created them, loves them, and journeys with them wherever life takes them.
I want them to remember that people have called on his name in times of trouble, fear, enslavement, scarcity, loss, grief, illness and death for thousands of years. And in his name they have found hope, courage, comfort, strength, wisdom and peace.
As we prepare to enter the season of Lent, wherever you are on the journey, I pray you remember that as well.