Thursday, March 27, 2008

Back to Baptism

As I have noted, I can’t seem to go through a day without some thought on God, or God’s will in the world. In fact, it’s so common place now that I’ve stopped worrying that it’s a sign of mental illness. It’s who I am.

So today’s musing is on baptism and especially the Baptismal Covenant.

I have always liked the services where we welcome babies, or other people, into the body of Christ because of the requirement that we renew our own baptismal vows. “Renew”, for those of us who were baptized when we were only making cute goo-goo noises, is an interesting choice of words. Many of us renewed, or more appropriately affirmed, those vows when we were teen-agers at confirmation. But, regardless, in the Episcopal Church, we start with reciting the words of the Apostles’ Creed in the Anglican-style of “call and response”, acknowledging the story of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, and committing to a belief in one God, the Holy Spirit, the communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, the Holy Catholic (meaning “universal”) Church, resurrection and life everlasting.

All that is important. But it’s the second part of the covenant that is on my mind most this morning. In it, we are asked a series of questions about re-committing ourselves to a life of following the teachings of Christ as practiced by his apostles. Each answer comes with “I will, with God’s help”. We say these words not only as individuals, but as a collective. We are a room full of people committing out loud that we will resist evil, repent and come back to God, work for justice and peace, seek Christ in each other, and respect the dignity of every human being. Wow! With God’s help, we can make all that happen? Wow!

All this gets said after the candidates for baptism (or their parents and godparents) have made much the same commitment. And again, we (the congregation) are asked a question:

Q: “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?”

A: “We will.”

No “with God’s help” in that commitment. We are pledging to do our best ourselves to support the newly-baptized members of the church.

And it occurs to me that we are not only giving that level of commitment to these children (and adults), but we should hear and heed that commitment to each other all the time. Yes, God’s help is necessary because it’s tough to go it alone in a world that thinks anyone who believes in God is a lunatic. But the whole point of being a member of the body of Christ is to always offer to take the hand of your brother or sister and stay with them on the path toward light. Political views, outward appearances and sexual orientation are not reasons to withdraw that commitment to one another.

The world can change. With God’s help and our will.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Our Litergy is so, so powerful and if we look at it and listen to it over and over, I think we will start getting others to understand that we can't do it without God's help.