For the final presentation in my Christian Education class this last semester, I lead the class in a session that looked at sacrament in our lives. One of the recommendations during the session was to take a look at the liturgy from either baptism or communion within your own tradition and look at what the words mean. I decided that I should probably do that, as I was leading the class. I decided to look at the baptismal covenant services in the Book of Worship. I use the communion liturgy at least on a monthly basis, but rarely have the opportunity to look at the words we speak around baptism. A few responses by the congregation caught my attention, and made me think. In one of the services, the congregation pledges to do the following:
With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness , that they may grow in their service to others. We will pray for them, that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.
I wonder how often we sit back and actually reflect on the words we speak during a worship service, better yet on the promises we make. In a lifetime, how many times does one make the promise to “surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness”? For some, I’m sure the number is staggering. We make this promise to help guide people in Christ’s way, but more importantly to be a community that loves and forgives. I know that I have failed many times to be a contributing member of that type of community, and I’m sure many of church members have done the same over time.
If we make this promise early on in a person’s faith journey (either as an infant, or when baptized later in life) we are setting the bar very high, but not impossible. I think that the church should focus on love and forgiveness before all of the other things we talk about. If we can be a community that truly loves each and every member of the community, and forgives instead of resents, it truly can be an awesome experience to be a member of a church. Unfortunately it seems that our community is too much about power and prestige, about who deserves better, about personal ambitions, and not about love and forgiveness. Yes, we have to set ourselves aside a lot in order to fulfill this promise, but isn’t that what Christ is all about? Aren’t we called to set aside self in order to share Christ with the world? It’s not an easy task, but love and forgiveness can go a long way.
Next time you are involved in a service of baptism, confirmation, or communion, take a moment to think about the words and see if the community is meeting its promises and guidelines. If we are not, let’s work to change that, for the sake of being people who follow Christ fully and live up to what we promise.
Grace and Peace,