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Discipleship Deep, Rich, & Rooted: Baptism

Hear (Related scriptures) | Connect (A mini sermon or devotional) | Believe (Ways to dig deeper) | Live out (Best practices) | Share (Ways to connect with others) | Resources

Hear

Connect

A Christ candle is lighted:

"The light that guides us."

Waters are poured:

"The waters of our identity."

Bread and cup are lifted up:

"The feast of our future."

The Bible is lifted up:

"The story that forms us."

"People of God, welcome home!"

So begins the Lenten worship at Trinity. That few minutes is packed with all that we need for the Lenten journey; it is packed with all that we need for a season of discipleship. It tells who and whose we are and creates in us a desire to live more deeply into our identity.

In The Promise of Baptism: An Introduction to Baptism in Scripture and the Reformed Tradition, theologian James Brownson writes:

In the Bible, our identity is not found in our past, but in Christ's past, which is our future. Our truest and deepest self is defined not by what we have experienced in the past, but by what Christ has experienced and accomplished for us. This past experience of Christ gives us a glimpse of who we are becoming…This identity awaits us in the future, and we grow toward it…Who we are at our deepest level is who we are becoming.

Trinity's Lenten gathering litany reminds us of who we are becoming, and in that knowledge we are home. We don't live that identity well sometimes, perhaps most times, but this reminder can help us move closer to our truest, deepest identity.

As we consider deep, rich discipleship, baptism is a great place to start. It is at the font that we are called by Christ, as the RCA baptism liturgy states, "to a new obedience, to love and trust God completely; to forsake the evil of the world; and to live a new and holy life."

It is at the waters that we hear these words of the liturgy as well:

Baptism is the sign and seal of God's promises to this covenant people. In baptism God promises, by grace alone: to forgive our sins; to adopt us into the Body of Christ, the Church; to send the Holy Spirit daily to renew and cleanse us; and to resurrect us to eternal life. This promise is made visible in the water of baptism.

At the baptismal font we promise to disciple others, to pray for and teach others, to love and encourage one another. It is there that we are washed clean and receive new life.

As we walk away wet, we begin our first steps of deep, rich, lifelong discipleship within a covenant community and out into the world.

"People of God, welcome home!"

Believe

Here are ways to deepen an understanding of baptism:

Individuals and Families

  • Make a family scrapbook that celebrates baptisms and faith journeys.

Congregations

  • Give parents a copy of Water, Come Down! The Day You Were Baptized, by Walter Wangerin Jr., for their babies and young children who are baptized.
  • Gather children around the font to talk about baptism.
  • Write a vow for children to include in the baptism liturgy; for example: "Do you promise to be a friend to ________________, to help her as she grows to find her way around here, to share with her? Will you pray for her?"
  • Proclaim Words of Assurance at the font.

Church Leaders and Members of Consistory

  • Invite families to meet with elders prior to baptism to share faith stories and their hopes for their children.
  • Read The Promise of Baptism, by James Brownson.

Live Out

  • Celebrate baptism anniversaries.
  • Place a clear bowl of water in a prayer space.
  • Sing "Take O Take Me as I Am" together.
  • Be sure the font is visible.
  • Sing "Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows" (Sing! A New Creation, p. 240).
  • Use water imagery often in liturgy and worship.
  • Print baptism anniversaries in bulletins and newsletters and on websites.
  • At consistory meetings, include in your time of prayer those recently baptized and those celebrating baptism anniversaries.

Share

  • Memorize parts of the baptism liturgy together.
  • Ask one another often: "How are we living out our baptismal vows?" "How are we providing ways for others to live out their baptism?"

Resources

Come to the Water
This is a three-session study for people who desire to be baptized or to have their children baptized. It consists of free downloadable leader and participant guides (PDFs).

Baptism of Your Child: A Book for Presbyterian Families, by Carol A. Wehrheim (Westminster John Knox Press).
This book, set in a question-and-answer format, helps families reflect on and become fully involved in their child's baptism. It includes ideas for faith formation in a child's early years.

The Promise of Baptism: An Introduction to Baptism in Scripture and the Reformed Tradition, by James V. Brownson (Eerdmans Publishing).
30 brief, focused chapters--each centered on a key topic and enhanced by thoughtful discussion questions--help pastors, students, and laypersons understand this sacrament that lies at the heart of the church's life.

General Synod papers on Children at the Lord's Table

Order a free packet of these reports plus articles by Gregg Mast and James Cook and a reproducible booklet entitled We Come to Your Table.

Fed and Forgiven (Augsburg Fortress; order from publisher)
Age-appropriate resources (preK-K; grades 1-3; grades 4-6; adults) deepen sacramental understanding and support ongoing faith formation. Four sessions are provided for each age level.

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