As we continue Back to Basics, we turn our attention now to our Baptismal Vows. These vows are affirmed by parents who baptize children, and by adults who are baptized and who join in formal membership in the church. What do these vows claim about our faith, and do we still claim them?
This week’s Worship begins a new series on our Baptismal and membership vows. Often we think of our Stewardship commitments in relation to these vows (and rightly so). But where these Stewardship commitments are outward expressions of our faith, the statements affirmed earlier in the liturgy seem to have more to do with our core commitments, our centrality as Christians.
The first to be explored during these three weeks is the commitment to, “renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of [our] sin” (emphasis mine). Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards reminds us that these three verbs are concrete actions with specific implications for us as Christians. As such, this reminds us that these vows at baptism are not an ending, but the beginning of a lifelong journey.
Matthew 4:1-11 (CEB)
1Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him. 2After Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. 3The tempter came to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.”
4Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.”
5After that the devil brought him into the holy city and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, 6“Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down; for it is written, I will command my angels concerning you, and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.”
7Jesus replied, “Again it’s written, Don’t test the Lord your God.”
8Then the devil brought him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9He said, “I’ll give you all these if you bow down and worship me.”
10Jesus responded, “Go away, Satan, because it’s written,You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” 11The devil left him, and angels came and took care of him.
Consider these questions:
- What does it mean to renounce something? What personal meaning does this carry for you?
- What does it mean to reject something? What personal meaning does this carry for you?
- What does it mean to repent? What personal meaning does this carry for you?
- How does combining these actions – to renounce, to reject, and to repent – express your personal faith?
Post-Worship Update on 6/26
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s message drew similarities between the three temptations of Jesus alongside the three verbs in the first baptismal vows. The temptations were deeply personal (to satisfy hunger after fasting) and incredibly wide in scope (I’ll give you all of these kingdoms…). Our baptismal vows are wide in scope (spiritual forces of wickedness) and deeply personal (repenting of our sin).
What is happening in our world that calls us to renounce, reject, and repent? Indeed, I suggest there is much to consider:
- Topping our national news cycles are stories of migrants at U.S. borders.
- As a city with several Marine and Navy bases, we continue to seek ways to care for veterans, especially those returning from active duty who often struggle with physical and/or emotional injuries as they work to reenter civilian life.
- We continue to see people in our local communities who are experiencing homelessness.
There are many who would suggest these are political issues that should not be discussed in a church setting. But I suggest that these circumstances require our spirituality and our religiosity in order to discern how best to respond.
The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church invites us to consider these things:
Immigration – “Reflecting upon the Scriptures, we are reminded that United Methodists are a global church. In the United States, we may be descendants of economic immigrants or forced migrants, or we may have recently arrived in the US. We may have formal documents proving US citizenship, or we may be undocumented. Regardless of legal status or nationality, we are connected through Christ to one another.”
Veterans – “the Church commits itself to extend its pastoral ministry to members of the armed forces and their families during their time of service and after their return; and… we call upon our churches to extend a welcome home to persons who return from service in their armed forces, to respect their stories and interpretations of their experiences, and to value and encourage expression of their contributions to the ministry of our churches…”
Homelessness – “As people of faith and religious commitment, we are called to stand with and seek justice for people who are poor. Central to our religious traditions, sacred texts, and teachings is a divine mandate to side with and protect the poor…We share a conviction, therefore, that welfare reform must not focus on eliminating programs but on eliminating poverty and the damage it inflicts on children (who are two thirds of all welfare recipients), on their parents, and on the rest of society.”
Some of these are deeply personal, and some of these are worldly. Perhaps they are both. Regardless of political ideation, I believe that the living God calls us to respond.
Consider these questions:
- What can you do in your life now to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness?
- What can you do in your life now to reject the evil powers of this world?
- What can you do in your life now to repent of your sin?