The Scripture Readings will be:
- From the Jewish Scriptures: Genesis 9:8-17
- Repsonsive Reading: Psalm 25:1-10 (VU p.752)
- From the Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20
- 410 This Day God Gives Me
- 644 I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry
- 443 God, We Pray at this Beginning
- 420 Go to the World
What does it mean to get baptised? For the Early Church this was a no-brainer. Baptism was the rite through which one entered the church. Prior to your baptism you studied what it meant to be a part of the faith and then on the day of baptism you made a confession of faith. And for Adult (or Believer's) Baptism that is still the case.
But what about those of us who baptise infants and small children? Many times we baptise people who are incapable of making a confession of faith. Instead their parents make the confession and promise to share their faith with their children as they grow. In return, the congregation pledges to be there for support and help in that task. Then, the theory is, when the children are old enough they will be" confirmed", they will study and then make a public confession of faith. What does baptism mean then?
There is no one right answer to that. Within the United Church there are a wide range of understandings of baptism. Part of its meaning lies in the naming and recognition that this is a beloved child of God. Part lies in the act of welcoming the child (and the parents) into the arms of the faith community. Part lies in the desire to name and recognize the fact that the miracle of birth reveals something to us about God.
But for me the most important part of the baptism service is the two promises. One is the promise by the parents to share the faith. The other is the promise by the congregation to be there to help/support/guide in that sharing of the faith. Many congregations I have been in are very quick to complain about parents failing to live up to their promise, to talk about how we see them at baptism but rarely (or never) again. But I have to ask, how good are our congregations at living up to their promise? Is it enough to say, "we are here" and "we have a SUnday School program"? SOme congregations name a sponsor to be there for the family, a contact point as it were. But does that make much difference? How do we all live out the promises we make at baptism to raise our children with a knowledge of God made known in Jesus of Nazareth? Could we find ways to do it better?
Baptism is a covenant. It is a covenant between the congregation, the baptised (or, in the case of infant baptism, the parents) and God. As with all covenants, we all have a part to play in ensuring that it is lived out. Let's all go forth and live out the promises we make this day.