Monday, March 11, 2019

Baptismal Service Commentary, Part 1

The following is the Service of Holy Baptism from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Augsburg Fortress, 2019). The text is black from that service. The blue text is my commentary on the service. Same with the green. This entry takes us through the first half of the baptismal service, prior to the act of baptizing. 


God, who is rich in mercy and love, gives us a new birth into a living hope through the sacrament of baptism. By water and the Word God delivers us from sin and death and raises us to new life in Jesus Christ. We are united with all the baptized in the one body of Christ, anointed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and joined in God's mission for the life of the world.

This is when the family members of the person to be baptized, infant or adult, come forward with the candidate for baptism. Notice that the presentation, as an invitation, explains what baptism is. This explanation does not mention hell. In Lutheran understanding, the defeat of hell has already been accomplished for the baptismal candidate and for all people by God in Christ through the power of resurrection. Thus, baptism is not removing the threat of hell, but is bringing the baptized into a new life in Christ. Both coming to be baptized or to have baptized andthe living out of the new life are responses to what God has already done. 

God is the prime mover, the originator of all things. All we do is notto earn grace, but in response to it. This is specifically and most certainly true in baptism. 


As you bring your children to receive the gift of baptism, you are entrusted with responsibilities:
to live with them among God's faithful people,
bring them to the word of God and the holy supper,
teach them the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments,
place in their hands the holy scriptures,
and nurture them in faith and prayer,
so that your children may learn to trust God,
proclaim Christ through word and deed,
care for others and the world God made,
and work for justice and peace.
Do you promise to help your children grow in the Christian faith and life?

Sponsors, do you promise to nurture these persons in the Christian faith as you are empowered by God's Spirit, and to help them live in the covenant of baptism and in communion with the church?

People of God, do you promise to support  name/s  and pray for them in their new life in Christ?
We do.

In the Promises and Commitments, the baptized or the family and sponsors of the baptized are committing to the shape of their new life in Christ. The baptismal life is not lived alone, but is lived out with other believers (and in the world). This life involves participating in faith community life, encounters and wrestling with the written word (scripture), regular participation in communion and affirmation of baptism, praying for others in word and deed, and becoming familiar with the most foundational texts of the faith (10 commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Creed). 

This life is lived out for this purpose: so that the baptized may learn to trust God and, through that trust, live a life that proclaims Christ, crucified and risen. This proclamation will be evident in the baptized life in what the person says and does, what she prioritizes and what he rejects. Indeed, it is to be hoped that, with the help of the Spirit, works of justice and peace flow in the wake of the baptized person, leading people to ask about the source of their courage and strength. 

Baptismal sponsors agree to help with this work, as do congregation members. Even if a child is baptized in a “home” congregation, but lives elsewhere- the local congregation is committed to these promises to all children of God who come through their doors. 

I ask you to profess your faith in Christ Jesus, reject sin, and confess the faith of the church.

Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God?
I renounce them.
Do you renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God?
I renounce them.
Do you renounce the ways of sin that draw you from God?
I renounce them.

Do you believe in God the Father?
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

The Profession of Faith is a statement of what the candidate or their family and the congregation both trust to be truthful about God and also ask God to help them believe. This profession begins in the via negativa, that is with what is not of God. 

God will not defy Godself, thus we forcefully reject spiritual forces that tell lies about God and attempt to make us feel separated from God’s love. 

God will not rebel against Godself, thus we forcefully reject the social and political forces of this world that attempt to subvert God’s will and purposes for reformation, restoration, and resurrection. 

God will not deliberately harm or separate Godself from the beloved creation, thus we forcefully reject our own internal forces that cause us to make idols of ourselves, falsely elevating self above God and neighbor. 

Once we have rejected what cannot be true about God, we are left with the Divine Mystery. In approaching that Mystery, all we have is the handful of ways that God has chosen to be revealed- through creation, through Jesus, and through the eternal work of the Holy Spirit, specifically in the church. We use the Apostles Creed, during baptism, to attest to these revelations, knowing that they do not represent the full nature of God, but a glimpse into the gift of eternal truth. 

This first part of our baptismal service teaches and reminds us that: 

1)   God moves first. 
2)   We respond to God’s grace. 
3)   The world needs and is waiting for our response, because the faithful response of the baptized person points beyond their actions toward God, the Source and Ground of their being and all grace. 

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