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Living Water: A baptismal renewal service

One of the key themes of recent liturgical renewal is the insight that baptism is the root and foundation of the Christian life. In our baptism, we are united to Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6). The Christian life is an ongoing experience of the dying of our old selves and rising of the new.

Several practices in Christian worship remind us of our baptism. The entire season of Lent is not first of all an extended meditation on the suffering and death of Jesus, but rather a preparation for our remembrance of our baptism. The declaration of pardon following the prayer of confession is, in many churches, read by the pastor at the baptismal font, a reminder of grace that is sealed to us in our baptism.

Several denominations have developed “remembering your baptism” services. In some of these services, worshipers are invited to physically touch the water of the baptismal font as a reminder of their baptism.

Each of these practices is designed to nurture a baptismal piety—a way of living the Christian life that actively recalls the significance of one’s own baptism. As John Calvin once argued, “The benefit which we derive from the sacraments ought by no means to be restricted to the time when they are administered to us. . . . The benefit of baptism lies open to the whole course of life, because the promise which is contained in it is perpetually in force.” More recently, Hughes Oliphant Old stated: “Baptism is a sign under which the whole of life is to be lived. Our baptism is always with us, constantly unfolding through the whole of life.”

At the Symposium service, people were invited to come for ward during the singing of “Come to the Water” to place their hand into the baptismal font and touch their foreheads, perhaps making the sign of the cross. Touching the water is not in any way a repetition of baptism. Nor does it imply that the water itself bears any spiritual power. Rather, it is a reminder—a tangible, physical symbol—of the event that is at the root or foundation of the Christian life. The Reformed Church in America’s “Remembering Baptism” liturgy includes the minister pouring the water into the baptismal font while saying, “Water cleanses, purifies, refreshes, and sustains. Jesus Christ is the living water.” The physical act of coming forward and touching the water of the font is a testimony-in-gesture that our faith is rooted in the living water, our Lord Jesus Christ.

—John D. Witvliet

“Whenever I hear the sound of water flowing or see the water poured in the sacrament of baptism, my soul is deeply moved and built up as I remember the promises claimed at my own baptism and those of my children. The signs and sounds of that gesture speak profoundly to me of the renewal we have in Christ Jesus, claimed in baptism and claimed again each time I remember the promises of my baptism.”
—A worshiper

This service was prepared by members of Fifth Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the 1999 Calvin Symposium on Worship and the Arts.

We Gather to Worship

Prelude

“My Life is in You, Lord” (D. Gardner)
“The Solid Rock”/”In Christ Alone” (arr. M. Hayes)

Call to Worship

Psalm 95:1-7
“Come and Let Us Worship God” SNC 6

Songs of Praise

“Blessed Be the Name of the Lord” Renew! 260
“Shout to the Lord” SNC 222-3
“We Bow Down” SNC 42

Call to Confession

Hebrews 4:12-13

Prayer of Confession

Words of Assurance

Response

“Praise, Praise, Praise the Lord!” SNC 28

Sharing Christ’s Peace

The peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you.

We Hear God’s Word

Hymn

“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” PsH 486, PH 356, RL 449, TH 457, TWC 45

Prayer for Illumination

Scripture

Psalm 95:7b-11; Exodus 17:1-7; Hebrews 4:1-11

Sermon

Prayer of Blessing

We Respond to God’s Word

Confession of our Faith

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, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He 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,
and is seated on the right hand of the Father.
He will come again 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. Amen.

Prayers of the People

Prayer refrain, sung after each section of prayers, “Kyrie Eleison” SNC 52

Time of Renewal

(Introduction from Psalm 85 and the “Remembering Baptism” liturgy of the Reformed Church in America; see also the “Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows” in Sing! A New Creation 240.)

I ask you now, in the presence of God and this congregation:

Do you renounce sin and the power of evil in your life and the world?

I renounce them.

Who is your Lord and Savior?

Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.

Do you, by the grace of God, promise to be Christ’s disciple, to follow in Christ’s way to show love, to practice justice, to resist evil, and to witness to the living Christ?

I promise, with the help of God.

Do you promise to devote yourself to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayer, to celebrate Christ’s presence and to further Christ’s mission in the world?

I promise, with the help of God.

The Invitation

“Come to the Water” SNC 234

Parting Blessing

Parting Song of Praise

“Praise, Praise, Praise the Lord!” SNC 28

Postlude