Monday, May 19, 2014

A Thought

“Baptism ... now saves you; not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to Him” (1 Peter 3:21-22).

Baptism is much more than a simple rite of passage each Christian and each Christian’s child must go through.  It is, as St. Peter points out, an “appeal”.  In the United Methodist tradition, it is the sign of the Covenant the Lord has made with Jew and Gentile alike through Christ Jesus.  It is not the end of the spiritual journey, however; it is the very beginning of a life only the Lord can know and reveal.

More than this is the promise each sponsor and each parent – and the Church - makes to the Lord our God; that this child will be brought up in a righteous household and will be taught about the Lord through worship and Christian education.  The Church makes a vow to support the parents, and the parents make a vow to the Lord that this child will not be withheld from the teachings of the Church (“Let the children come to Me and do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these”) Matthew 19:14.  It is a great and wondrous thing but it is also a mystery that through a bit of water (don’t get lost in method and means!) and a solemn prayer, this child will be received into the Covenant by this profound act of faith.

The psalmist writes, “I will pay You my vows, those my lips have uttered” (66:13, 14).  These are the vows we make to the Lord; and because the Lord cherishes each child as much as He cherishes anyone (perhaps even more!), these vows we make must not be made in haste.  That is, the baptism of a child or a new believer must not be done with no more thought than as just a “thing we do”.  Indeed it is written in the Scriptures: “It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it” (Ecclesiastes 5:5).

The Sacraments of the Church (those points at which we believe Heaven intersects with earth) must never be taken for granted as just “things we do”.  They mean everything – or they mean nothing at all.



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