Yesterday, I celebrated one of the two sacraments of the Church, Holy Baptism. Normally, baptisms are celebrated in the context of corporate worship, where the church is gathered together. It is an act of worship the whole congregation participates in. I won’t normally baptize persons outside of regular morning worship. I made an exception for our newest member of the family of God, Brooke Youngman. It was a bit of a hurried and time crunched situation. Brooke was born May 14th of this year to Cole and Jaclyn Youngman. The Youngman’s are moving to Nashville for Jaclyn’s medical fellowship at the beginning of July. The importance of Brooke being baptized at Preston Hollow is that Cole was baptized as an infant here and wanted to continue that legacy with his daughter Brooke. It was my joy to welcome another member into the family. Having visited with Cole, I have no doubt Brooke will be brought up in the faith, no matter where the family is located.
In the context of worship, there are lots of moving parts, and the Sacrament of Baptism becomes a part of the overall worship. Having a separate service for this baptism allowed us all to concentrate on the baptismal ritual. There are some very meaningful words in the ritual, if you haven’t had an occasion to visit them lately. These are foundational words we say and ascribe to when we are baptized and confirmed in the faith.
The beginning statement says, “Brothers and sisters in Christ: through the Sacrament of Baptism we are initiated into Christ’s holy church. We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit. All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.” What I find powerful in this statement is that we are a part of God’s mighty acts of salvation. You and me, we are living examples of the salvation God has given all of us.
Do we live as examples of salvation? Let’s look a little further in the ritual for answers. Under the section of the ritual entitled Renunciation of Sin and Profession of Faith, we as parents, sponsors, and those who are being baptized at an age of accountability give our assent to several foundational questions.
“On behalf of the whole church, I ask you: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sins?” Our answer being, “I do.” But do we really? It all sounds so mystical and otherworldly. But, we’ve said I do, so we move on.
“Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and
Oppression in whatever forms they may prevent themselves?” Our answer being, “I do.” Ah, here we are, a more concrete question, with real world application. We have accepted the power of God to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they may prevent themselves. There’s a whole lot in our agreeing to this baptismal question. We are saying when those who society pushes to the margins; the homeless, the minorities, the illegal aliens, the powerless, the disenfranchised, the poor, the hurting, the lonely, the outcast, we are saying we will stand up for them and fight so they too can be treated fairly, equitably, with dignity and love. We say “I do,” but do we really?
This is what caught in my throat as we went through the ritual. If I am a living example of God’s salvation in the world, do I live up to being that? Even though my vow at my baptism and my confirmation says yes, I will do those things, have I? I think maybe I fail miserably each and every day as one who said I would stand up and seek justice and overturn oppression wherever I see it. I see it all around me, but I go about my day as if I haven’t encountered these things. My baptismal vow weighs heavy on me. When I see those around me struggling without assistance in their plight, I realize I have shirked my responsibility, but more importantly, I have not held true to the vow taken before God. I am my sister and brother’s keeper. If I have been saved by God and included into the household of faith, am I not supposed to act out that salvation in connection to those I come across?
I want desperately to live into my baptismal vows. I want to be that example of what it means to be a true follower of Christ. To act as Christ would act in the world. Indeed, I am to be the living example of the One I profess to follow. I guess I better clean up my act, and get with it. I thank God that every day, I’m given one more chance to get it right. One more encounter to show the love, grace, mercy and forgiveness I’ve been given.
May God work in and through Brooke Youngman as she grows and matures into a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ!
Your fellow traveler on the Way,