Share |

Enduring the Race

A Five-Part Series on Baptismal Remembrance

In this issue one of our focuses is older adults. Sometimes younger folks think faith comes easily and somewhat naturally for those of more advanced years, not realizing that the faith of older adults is tested just as their own—yet they still believe. But how does one endure? What is it that has sustained these living saints? Though they might not answer those questions this way, I would argue that it is their baptism that has provided the sustaining power needed to endure.

When we witness baptisms, we are happy for the baptizands (those being or having been baptized) and those close to them but sometimes fail to see how that event is meant to remind us of our own baptism. Even if we are called to remembrance and can remember our own baptism we can fail to see how it connects to our lives now.

The problem for many is seeing baptism as the end of a journey rather than a mark of the beginning of our journey with God. So often we think baptism is a once-and-done event rather than a sacramental moment that reverberates throughout one’s whole life. For others the problem is thinking that baptism is primarily about what we are saying or doing rather than what God is saying and doing; thus not dependent on our memory.

This series, then, is meant to do two things: to illuminate the meaning and significance of baptism and to show how baptismal remembrance offers the hope and assurance needed to endure the race.

Call to Worship

This call to worship from Isaiah 43 starts with verse 1 but adds verses each week. Portions should be assigned to separate readers who will read each Sunday their section is included. Reader One, for example, would need to be available all five Sundays, while Reader Five would only need to be available the fifth Sunday. Keeping the readers consistent will help the congregation connect each week’s added verses of Isaiah 43 with the service’s theme. Ideally each reader would have their portion memorized.

NOTE: Readers are added each week but not in order.
WEEK ONE: Reader One
WEEK TWO: Readers One and Four
WEEK THREE: Readers One, Three, and Four
WEEK FOUR: Readers One, Two, Three, and Four
WEEK FIVE: All

Here is the call to worship as it will be read in the final week with all five readers:

Reader One:
God calls us to worship with these words from Isaiah 43:
“But now, this is what the LORD says—
      he who created you, Jacob,
      he who formed you, Israel:
‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
      I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

Reader Two:
When you pass through the waters,
      I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
      they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
      you will not be burned;
      the flames will not set you ablaze.

Reader Three:
For I am the LORD your God,
      the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
      Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
      and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
      nations in exchange for your life.

Reader Four:
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
      I will bring your children from the east
      and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, “Give them up!”
      and to the south, “Do not hold them back.”
Bring my sons from afar
      and my daughters from the ends of the earth—

Reader Five:
everyone who is called by my name,
      whom I created for my glory,
      whom I formed and made.’”

WEEK ONE

Remember Who You Are

Call to Worship

See above

Confession and Assurance

Prayer of Confession

Holy, triune God, we confess that we so often lose sight of who we are. We listen to the voices of the world around us telling us that we aren’t good enough, smart enough, fast enough, pretty or handsome enough. We listen to the voices of the world telling us that life isn’t worth living. We find ourselves lost amid addictions that so cloud our judgment that we don’t even recognize ourselves, and family members grieve our absence even when we are physically present. Holy, triune God, we are a lost people.

So we come to you today and ask you to help us remember. Help us remember that you are the God who brought us out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage—that even before you saved us, you created us; you knit us together in our mother’s womb, and you delight in us.

Holy, triune God, may that small voice of the Spirit grow ever louder so that it drowns out the voices of all who dare call us anything less than what you yourself have named us: your beloved children.

Today we confess that too often we forget who we are. So we take your name in vain, we swear, and we steal—not only physical things, but time from our employers and even the innocence of young children. We are a people who forget that we bear your name when we post on social media and when we gossip in the hallway at school or work. We forget when we lie and when we cheat. We forget when we ignore the promises we have made to children, parents, spouses, and friends. Holy, triune God, we confess that we forget.

Holy, triune God, may that small voice of the Spirit grow ever louder, drowning out all those voices inside us that entice us to act as if we aren’t your beloved child. Forgive us for all we have done and all we failed to do, and remind us that through our baptisms we have become your children.

We pray all this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
—Rev. Joyce Borger

Assurance: 1 Peter 2:9–10

Scripture

Titus 3:1–7; Galatians 3:26–29

Sermon

We hear a fair amount about identity crises, and they aren’t something that affect only teenagers. This sermon provides an opportunity to highlight the reality that through our baptisms we are united with Christ and given a new identity. This identity is our true identity. When we stand before the throne of God, all other identities fade into the background. Our occupations, our stations in life, even our names—nothing is as significant as the identity we gain through our adoption as children of God. As adopted children we are given new names and an inheritance worth more than anything we could ever inherit here on earth. This is the identity that we need to hold on to when others try to label us or when we lose sight of who we are.

Response

Invite people to respond to the sermon by writing on a nametag “Child of God” or “God’s Image Bearer.” They should put the nametags somewhere they can regularly see them as a reminder of who they truly are.

Alternatively, use these words from a sermon by St. John Chrysostom of the 4th century. To keep the responsive reading from plodding, you might want to accompany the litany with a djembe that grows in intensity and volume.

Let there be no gap between us and Christ.
For if there is any gap, immediately we perish.
For the building stands because it is cemented together.

Let us not then merely keep hold of Christ,
but let us be cemented to him.
Let us cleave to him by our works.

Christ is the head; we are the body.
Christ is the foundation, we the building.
Christ is the vine, we the branches.
Christ is the bridegroom, we the bride.
Christ is the shepherd, we the sheep.
Christ is the way; we walk in it.

Again, we are the temple, Christ the indweller.
Christ is the only begotten, we the brothers and sisters.
Christ is the heir, we the heirs together with him.
Christ is the life, we the living.
Christ is the resurrection, we those who rise again.
Christ is the light, we the enlightened.
—from Homilies on First Corinthians, St. John Chrysostom (4th century), adapted

Pastoral Prayer

Don’t forget to include in prayer those whom society often labels as “less than” and to highlight who we are: the adopted children of God.

Song Suggestions

“He Knows My Name” Walker, LUYH 339
“Go, My Children, with My Blessing” Vajda, LUYH 946, GtG 547
“Hello, My Name Is” West
Psalm 139, any setting
“We Have Put on Christ” LUYH 849

Sending

Philippians 2:1–4

Practices That Support This Theme

  • Not using last names when baptizing
  • Baptizands putting on new robes/clothes after baptism (Revelation 7)

WEEK TWO

Remember Where You Belong

Call to Worship

See sidebar on p. 4

Confession and Assurance

Prayer of Confession

O God,
whose will it is that all your children should be one in Christ;
we pray for the unity of your Church.

Pardon all our pride and our lack of faith,
of understanding and of charity,
which are the causes of our divisions.

Deliver us from narrow-mindedness,
from our bitterness,
from our prejudices.

Save us from considering as normal
that which is a scandal to the world
and an offense to your love.

Teach us to recognize the gifts of grace
among all those who call upon you
and confess the faith of Jesus Christ our Lord.
— from the Liturgy of the French Reformed Church, inspired by John 17 and Ephesians 4, P.D.

Assurance of Pardon
Christ is our peace;
those who are divided
he has made one.
He has broken down the barriers of separation
by his death and has built us up
into one body, with God.
To all who repent and believe
he has promised reconciliation.
So live as people reconciled. Amen.
—reprinted from Twenty-Fourth Assembly Closing Service of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (Oct. 2, 1990), 2–3, in GMC, p.19, PD.

Scripture

1 Corinthians 12:12–17; Ephesians 4

Sermon

We need to belong. We were created to be a part of a community. The triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in its three-in-one-ness is the ultimate expression of community, and we are created in God’s image. Scripture says “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (Genesis 1:26, NRSV, emphasis added); it doesn’t say “Let me make humankind in my image.” We were created to be in relationship with others, to live in community. If you Google “the importance of belonging,” you will find many scientific studies to back up what we intuitively know. However, despite being a society that prides itself in its connectedness through LinkedIn accounts and Facebook friends, we are lonely. There are studies that support that too (Google “increase in loneliness”) with ominous phrases like “loneliness epidemic.”

The good news of the gospel is that we do belong—“body and soul, in life and in death—to our faithful savior, Jesus Christ” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 1). Following the logic and the truth taught by Scripture, if I am united with Christ and you too are united with Christ, then we are united together. Indeed, in our baptisms we become part of a community of believers. We belong. This is good news indeed!

It might be helpful to point out as well that often in Scripture the belonging happens before the knowing. Christ invites people in, talks with them, and loves them before they make any profession of faith. This is important for how our churches function and how we treat those who are not yet believers. It is also the truth behind infant baptism. God loves us first; our profession of faith is in response to that reality.

Response

As a visual testimony to the truth of our unity, invite those present to write their names on slips of paper and then, during the singing of a song or two, have everyone come forward to create a large linked-paper sculpture to represent how we are all joined. Feel free to loop multiple links together; they don’t need to form a chain. The more colorful the linked sculpture, the better!

If celebrating the Lord’s Supper this week, highlight how our partaking testifies to the truth that we are all one in Christ. We belong one to the other. To further highlight that truth, consider using the following as part of the invitation to the table:

Grain is gathered from the field;
threshed and milled for flour.
We are formed from the grain of God’s harvest.
Flour is mixed with water to produce basic dough.
The water of baptism unites us.
Yeast is added to transform the mixture.
The vision of God’s realm draws us onwards.
Oil softens the dough and makes a new texture.
The Holy Spirit anoints us as the body of Christ.
A little salt improves the taste.
Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth.
The bread is kneaded and shaped, molded and baked.
It is God who makes us a holy communion.
Grapes are harvested and crushed for juice.
You are the vine, we are the branches, O Christ.
Juice and skins are mixed with yeast for fermentation.
God’s reign is coming. God’s hope is here.
There is a time of waiting; then a time of pressing.
God’s new life presses forth through the sediment of our lives.
And finally, the feast is here!
Let us celebrate the feast of our life in God.
—Rev. Dr. Anita Monro, from her blog MAD-e-Lena (mad-e-lena.blogspot.com), used by permission.

Pastoral Prayer

Consider using “A Prayer for Healing in Relationships” Haupt, LUYH 304

Song Suggestions

“One People, Here, We Gather” Bringle, LUYH 243
“Church of God, Elect and Glorious” Seddon, LUYH 252, PsH 533
“Somos uno en Cristo / We Are One in Christ Jesus” Anonymous, LUYH 255, GtG 322
“They’ll Know We Are Christians” Scholtes, LUYH 256, GtG 300
“Koinonia” McKay, LUYH 258

Sending

In the loving of neighbour
and the sharing of love
together we shall go on

In the celebration of life
and the sharing of that life together
together we shall go on

In the caring of the earth
and the sharing of her harvest
together we shall go on

In the variety of people
and the sharing of our talents
together we shall go on

In the laughter we make
and the sharing of the journey
together we shall go on

In the love of this community
and the sharing of our faith
together we shall go on
—Rev. Roddy Hamilton, New Kilpatrick Parish Church (nkchurch.org.uk). Used by permission.

Practices That Support This Theme

  • Carrying babies through the congregation after their baptisms to introduce them to their new family.
  • Having the community come forward to surround older children or adults in prayer. (If it’s too large of a group, invite representatives from various parts of the community to come forward.)
  • When studying themes of the body of Christ or Christian community in any educational classes, holding those classes in the sanctuary next to the baptismal font (or, if the font is small enough, bringing it to the classroom).

WEEK THREE

Remember What You Are

Call to Worship

See sidebar on p. 4

Confession and Assurance

Call to Confession: Hebrews 10:21–23

Prayer of Confession

Gracious God,
our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo.
Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear,
and what has become for us a consuming fire
of judgment.
Set us free from a past that we cannot change;
open to us a future in which we can be changed;
and grant us grace to grow more and more in your
likeness and image,
through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen.
—Reprinted by permission from the Book of Common Worship, © 2018 Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.

Assurance of Pardon: Ezekiel 36:25–26

To highlight the connection between the forgiveness of sin and our baptisms, consider pouring water into the baptismal font following the spoken words of assurance. This is a ritual to consider doing more often whether or not the words of assurance speak of water.

Scripture

Titus 3

Sermon

One connection we make between the waters of everyday life and the waters of baptism is their cleansing qualities. Titus 3 is a great passage for highlighting the connection further. It reiterates some of the themes from previous weeks such as God’s grace and mercy. The phrase “washing of rebirth” may need some explanation, but it is a clear echo of Jesus’ teaching Nicodemus that he must be “born again” to receive eternal life (John 3). All of this is dependent on the Holy Spirit who renews us. Again it is important to note that God is the initiator, the first cause. Our renewal—the grace and forgiveness we experience—does not depend on anything we do. This is the great news of the gospel that we sometimes forget. Just as we were born through the waters of the womb through no choice of our own and with no ability to control what happened, so it is with our rebirth.

Many people struggle to forgive themselves and others. Remembering our baptism is a helpful way to recall the truth of who we are: God’s children, saved by grace. No sin is too big to be forgiven. Once we understand that reality in our life, we can extend that same grace to others. (It might be worth pointing out that forgiveness does not mean forgetting; neither does it mean forgoing justice.)

Other passages to consider: Psalm 103; Matthew 18; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Hebrews 10:22.

For you Jesus Christ came into the World;
for you he died and for you he conquered death;
all this he did for you, little one,
though you know nothing of it as yet.
We love you because God first loved us.
—from the baptism liturgy of the French Reformed Church, P.D. LUYH 787

Response

Consider highlighting at the end of the sermon the prayer from the French Reformed liturgy for baptism (see above) or even read aloud the children’s book At Your Baptism (Carrie Steenwyk and John D. Witvliet, Eerdmans, 2011).

You could also invite people to remember their baptisms by coming forward during a song and touching the water in the baptismal font. Underscore that this is not the sacrament itself or a “rebaptism”; it is done in remembrance of their baptisms or in anticipation of joining with God’s body and experiencing his forgiveness.

Pastoral Prayer

Consider modeling the pastoral prayer after “Prayers of the People: Proper 15A” by Christine Longhurst, from the re:Worship blog.

Song Suggestions

“Wash, O God, Our Sons and Daughters” Duck, LUYH 802 (v. 1), GtG 490
“How Vast the Benefits Divine” Toplady, LUYH 688, PsH 497
“There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” Faber, LUYH 689, GtG 435
“Not What My Hands Have Done” Bonar, LUYH 624, PsH 260
Psalm 103, any setting

Sending

As you leave this place of worship, know that you leave as the ones saved through the washing of rebirth and renewed by the Holy Spirit. So live that way, extending to others and to yourself the same grace and forgiveness that God first extended to you.

Now receive these words of blessing and grace from God: . . .

Practices That Support This Theme

  • Wearing white at baptisms
  • Giving baptizands a white towel as a memento

WEEK FOUR

Remember What You Have

Call to Worship

See sidebar on p. 4

Confession and Assurance

Eternal and merciful God,
you have loved us with a love beyond our understanding,
and you have set us on paths of righteousness for your name’s sake.
Yet we have strayed from your way;
and we have wandered from your pathway.
We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed,
through what we have done and what we have left undone.
As we remember the cleansing water of baptism, O God,
we praise you and give you thanks that you forgive us yet again.
Grant us now, we pray, the grace to die daily to sin,
and to rise daily to new life in Christ,
who lives and reigns with you,
and in whose strong name we pray. Amen.
—from Arlo D. Duba, Reformed Worship 52, p. 18.

Scripture

Romans 6:1–11

Sermon

When we most often see cute babies being baptized and when the baptizand is more often sprinkled with water rather than immersed in it, it’s easy not to connect baptism with drowning, with suffering, and even with death. But water is powerful and at times destructive. It isn’t always safe. So we must be clear that being united with Christ also means that we are united with him in his suffering and death. As Christians we are to live a cruciform life, one modeled after Christ’s willingness to lay down his life, to put others ahead of ourselves, even to be willing to die for our faith. In this life we will not escape suffering. But the good news is that as a baptized child of God, united with Christ, we don’t journey alone. Of even greater news is that we are also united with Christ in his resurrection. So just as surely as Christ has been raised and sits at the right hand of God the Father with his resurrected, scarred, physical body, so too will we be raised from the dead and one day stand before God’s throne. This is fantastic news that should bring us much hope and courage for all we face in this life—including death.

Other passages to consider: Colossians 2; 2 Corinthians 4:16–18

Pastoral Prayer

Consider using Psalm 69 as the basis for your prayer. When it feels as if we are drowning as the psalmist did, let us also not lose hope. At the end of this psalm of lament the psalmist turns to God in praise. Baptism assures us that even as we experience suffering, we also experience resurrection because we are united with Christ, so we can lament as a people of hope.

Response

Consider spending time in a remembrance of baptism as part of a response to the preached Word of God. You may use a form like the one found in Lift Up Your Hearts 848 or use this invitation followed by the recitation of a creed:

Invitation to Baptismal Remembrance

Sisters and brothers in Christ,
our baptism is the sign and seal
of our cleansing from sin
and of our being grafted into Christ.
Through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ,
the power of sin was broken
and God’s kingdom entered our world.
Through our baptism we were made citizens of God’s kingdom
and freed from the bondage of sin.
Let us celebrate that freedom and redemption
through the renewal of the promises made at our baptism.
I ask you, therefore, once again
to reject sin,
to profess your faith in Christ Jesus,
and to confess the faith of the church,
the faith in which we were baptized.
—Reprinted by permission from the Book of Common Worship, © 2018 Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.

Profession of Faith

For a profession of faith consider using the Apostles’ Creed in a question and answer format (see TWS 7.3.8 or LUYH 783C).

Song Suggestions

“We Know that Christ Is Raised” Geyer, LUYH 485, GtG 485, PsH 271
“Neither Death nor Life” Haugen, LUYH 450
“Wash, O God, Our Sons and Daughters” Duck, LUYH 802 (v. 1–2), GtG 490
“Baptized in Christ” Hagan, LUYH 846
“Day by Day” Berg, LUYH 437
“My Life Flows On in Endless Song” Lowry, LUYH 443, GtG 821
“When Peace like a River” Spafford, LUYH 451, GtG 840, PsH 489

Sending

The same voice that speaks
      over the waters and shakes the wilderness,
the same voice that says,
      “I am your God, you are my people,”
the same voice that said,
      “this is my beloved Son”
now blesses the people with peace:
      “So do not fear, for I am with you;
      do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
      I will strengthen you and help you;
      I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
—Text (LUYH 954) based on Psalm 29:2; Exodus 20:18; Matthew 3:17; Isaiah 41:10

Practices That Support This Theme

  • Creating a banner to be used at baptisms and in the Easter season but also to cover the casket at funerals (or to drape a table on which the urn with the cremated remains rests). See back cover of Come and See

WEEK FIVE

Remember How to Live

Call to Worship

See sidebar on p. 4

Confession and Assurance

Loving God,
we confess before you and each other
that our lives are not pure and holy
apart from the cleansing we have from the work of Christ.

And we confess that too often Christ in us
is hidden by our actions
      that wound rather than heal,
      that tear down rather than build up.

Open our eyes,
that we may see you in the ones we say we love.
Open our ears,
that we may be quicker to listen than to speak.
Open our mouths
to speak good rather than evil of our neighbors.
Open our hands
in generosity and help us let go of clenched fists.
Open our hearts
to a desire to follow Jesus
in full obedience to your will and your way.

We pray trusting in your forgiveness and
in the power of your Holy Spirit to lead and guide us
in paths of justice and righteousness
for your name’s sake. Amen.
The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources. Section 2.2.35. Used by permission.

Scripture

Colossians 3

Sermon

We don’t often think about the implications of baptism for how we live the rest of our lives, but Scripture draws a clear connection between the two. Having been united with Christ in his death and resurrection, we need to live as Christ’s representatives here on earth. Colossians 3 says: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. . . . Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature. . . . Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Baptism has both missional and ethical implications. Remind the congregation that their baptismal identity in Christ is one of being anointed prophets, priests, and kings, and that all of us need to live into that reality.

Other passages to consider: Matthew 28:19–20; 2 Corinthians 5:18–21

Response

Consider using a portion of the Belhar Confession as an affirmation of faith (“The Unity of the Body” LUYH 259).

To help congregants remember that they are anointed as Christ’s representatives here on earth— that they are indeed prophets, priests, and kings—invite them to come forward to have oil put on their forehead by pastoral staff or elders.

Pastoral Prayer

Include prayers for all Christians as they seek to function as prophets addressing injustices in the world, priests speaking into and praying for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those they come in contact with, and kings called to be caretakers of all they find in their spheres of influence.

Song Suggestions

“Wash, O God, Our Sons and Daughters” Duck, LUYH 802 (v. 1–3), GtG 490
“Church of God, Elect and Glorious” Seddon, LUYH 252, PsH 533
“God of the Prophets” Wortman, LUYH 853, PsH 521
“I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me” Spiritual, LUYH 854, GtG 700,
“May the Mind of Christ, My Savior” Wilkinson, LUYH 334, PsH 291
“Go to the World” Dunstan, LUYH 925, GtG 295
“See My Hands and Feet” Bringle, LUYH 929

Sending

Ephesians 4:1–6

Practices That Support This Theme

  • Speaking about baptismal living.
  • Lighting a baptismal candle at baptism that is then gifted to the baptizand as a reminder to be the light of Christ (the candle can also be lit on baptismal anniversaries).
  • Anoin