I wanted to reinforce yesterday’s thoughts with an example of baptism liturgy, this one being from the United Methodist Church.  You will find many similarities in the order of worship for baptism amongst churches with liturgical traditions, with much more in-depth liturgies in Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches.

We’ll spend some time later on comparing and contrasting historical baptism traditions, and even tread in the waters of infant baptism.  For now though, take a look at this short liturgy and see how it not only incorporates the whole church, but also demonstrates covenant relationship, between God and the person being baptized; between God and the congregation; and between the person being baptized and the congregation.

It’s of vital importance that an individual being brought into the fold of God’s family know that they’re not in the water alone.  Too often, people believe that they will suddenly become spiritual superheroes because they “got saved”, and live a temptation-free, sin-free life.

We know that simply isn’t the truth.  When we do fall, there’s shame and guilt.  We’ll experience divorce, cancer, loss of  job and home, car wrecks, and chigger bites, just like everybody else.  The great thing about baptismal liturgies is that when they are used, and taken seriously by the folks using them, the individual knows that they not only have God as their Father, Christ as their Savior, and the Holy Spirit as their guide;  they also have a family in Christ to pick them up when they are down; correct them when they are wrong;  discipline them when they are out of order; weep with them when they are mourning; and to rejoice with them when they hit the powerball  (Sorry…We don’t play powerball anymore after we get saved, do we?  Guess I better get baptized again!  ;o).

“Surrounding these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their service to others…” is a purely Biblical concept.  Ecclesiastes 4:8-12 reads:

There was a man all alone;
he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
“and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
a miserable business!  

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

So, in the Lee Adams translation from the Hebrew, this means “No man is an island.  Don’t try to go it alone.  It’s great to have a friend to hang out with, but three…now that’s a party.”

Here’s the UMC Liturgy for Baptism:

The Baptismal Order

Brothers and sisters in Christ:  Through the Sacrament of Baptism we are initiated into Christ’s holy church. We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit.  All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.

( Parents and/or youth and adults are asked these questions ):

On behalf of the whole church, I ask you:

Do you believe in God and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments?

I do.

Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?

I do.

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

I do.

Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

I do.

According to the grace given you, will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world?

I will.

( Only parents are asked this question ):

Will you nurture these children (persons) in Christ’s holy church, that by your teaching and example they may be guided to accept God’s grace for themselves, to profess their faith openly, and to lead a Christian life?

I will.

The pastor addresses the congregation:

Do you, as Christ’s body, the church, reaffirm both your rejection of sin and your commitment to Christ?

We do.

Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life and include these persons now before you in your care?

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. 

Amen.

It’s clear in the liturgy that the individual being baptized is not the only person taking vows here.  The community they are becoming a part of is making some heavy promises, too!  They have the responsibility and privilege of raising up this new member of their body.

I looked for some well-made video examples of different baptisms to share with you all, but frankly, most of what I found on Youtube were home movies, and not very pleasing to the eye.  What I did find that was very professionally put together was a video of a Serbian Orthodox Chrismation.  In the Orthodox  tradition, Chrismation is a sacrament that always accompanies baptism.  It’s the rough equivalent of Catholic Confirmation, and when received by an adult,  a sign that they are received into the church community, sealed by the Holy Spirit.  It’s a beautiful ceremony, with a priest anointing the recipient with oil and the sign of the cross on different parts of the body.  We also see a picture of support from the community here, in that the young lady holding the candle is acting as a sponsor for the person who has received baptism, and is now being chrismated.  The sponsor, in this tradition, is expected to be a mature believer who is committed to edifying her friend’s faith.  The new member is surrounded by family and friends who support her choice to become a part of the body of Christ.  If you would like to know more about Chrismation, check out What Is Holy Chrismation? | Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese.

Serbian Orthodox Baptism – YouTube.

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