Archive for category Confirmation

Palm and Passion Sunday According to Matthew

The congregation remaining seated, the Passion Gospel is read in parts, led by a narrator who begins by saying: The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.
PALMS and PREPARATIONS

NARRATOR: As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,

JESUS: “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

NARRATOR: This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

PROPHET: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

NARRATOR: The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

THE CONGREGATION: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

JUDAS

NARRATOR: One of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said,

JUDAS: ​”What will you give me if I betray Jesus to you?”

NARRATOR: They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying,

DISCIPLES: “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

NARRATOR: He said,

JESUS: ​”Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'”

NARRATOR: So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; and while they were eating, he said,

JESUS: ​”Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

NARRATOR: And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another,

DISCIPLES: “Surely not I, Lord?”

NARRATOR: He answered,

JESUS: ​”The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

NARRATOR: Judas, who betrayed him, said,

JUDAS: ​ “Surely not I, Rabbi?”

NARRATOR: He replied,

JESUS: ​”You have said so.”

COMMUNION

NARRATOR: While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said,

JESUS: ​”Take, eat; this is my body.”

NARRATOR: Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying,

JESUS: ​”Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

PETER

NARRATOR: When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them,

JESUS: ​”You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,

`I will strike the shepherd, 

and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

NARRATOR: Peter said to him,

PETER: ​ “Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.”

NARRATOR: Jesus said to him,

JESUS: ​”Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

NARRATOR: Peter said to him,

PETER: ​”Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.”

PRAYER IN THE GARDEN

NARRATOR: And so said all the disciples.

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples,

JESUS: ​”Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

NARRATOR: He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them,

JESUS: ​”I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”

NARRATOR: And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed,

JESUS: ​”My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”

NARRATOR: Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter,

JESUS: ​”So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

NARRATOR: Again he went away for the second time and prayed,

JESUS: ​”My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

NARRATOR: Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them,

JESUS: ​”Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

NARRATOR: While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying,

JUDAS: ​”The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.”

NARRATOR: At once he came up to Jesus and said,

JUDAS: ​”Greetings, Rabbi!”

NARRATOR: and kissed him. Jesus said to him,

JESUS: ​”Friend, do what you are here to do.”

NARRATOR: Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him,

JESUS: ​”Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?”

NARRATOR: At that hour Jesus said to the crowds,

JESUS: ​”Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.”
NARRATOR: Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
THE TRIAL

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered. But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said,

ACCUSERS: “This fellow said, `I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'”

NARRATOR: The high priest stood up and said,

HIGH PRIEST: “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?”

NARRATOR: But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him,

HIGH PRIEST: “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

NARRATOR: Jesus said to him,

JESUS: ​”You have said so. But I tell you,

From now on you will see the Son of Man

seated at the right hand of Power

and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

NARRATOR: Then the high priest tore his clothes and said,

HIGH PRIEST: “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”

NARRATOR: They answered,

CHIEF PRIESTS: “He deserves death.”

NARRATOR: Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, saying,

CHIEF PRIESTS: “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?”

NARRATOR: Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said,

SERVANT GIRL: “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.”

NARRATOR: But he denied it before all of them, saying,

PETER: ​”I do not know what you are talking about.”

NARRATOR: When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders,

SERVANT GIRL: This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

NARRATOR: Again he denied it with an oath,

PETER: ​”I do not know the man.”

NARRATOR: After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter,

BYSTANDER: Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.”

NARRATOR: Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath,

PETER: ​”I do not know the man!”

NARRATOR: At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said:

JESUS: ​”Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

NARRATOR: And he went out and wept bitterly.

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said,

JUDAS: ​”I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”

NARRATOR: But they said,

CHIEF PRIESTS: “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”

NARRATOR: Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said,

CHIEF PRIESTS: “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.”

PILATE

NARRATOR: After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him,

PILATE: ​”Are you the King of the Jews?”

NARRATOR: Jesus said,

JESUS: ​”You say so.”

NARRATOR: But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him,

PILATE: ​”Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?”

NARRATOR: But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them,

PILATE: ​”Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

NARRATOR: For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him,

PILATE’S WIFE: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.”

NARRATOR: Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them,

PILATE: ​”Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”

NARRATOR: And they said,

CONGREGATION: “Barabbas.”

NARRATOR: Pilate said to them,

PILATE: ​”Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

NARRATOR: All of them said,
CONGREGATION: “Let him be crucified!”

NARRATOR: Then he asked,

PILATE: ​”Why, what evil has he done?”

NARRATOR: But they shouted all the more,

CONGREGATION: “Let him be crucified!”

NARRATOR: So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying,

PILATE: ​”I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”

NARRATOR: Then the people as a whole answered,

CONGREGATION: “His blood be on us and on our children!”

NARRATOR: So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying,

SOLDIERS: ​”Hail, King of the Jews!”

NARRATOR: They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Cross

NARRATOR: As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying,

BYSTANDERS: “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

NARRATOR: In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying,

CHIEF PRIESTS: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, `I am God’s Son.'”

NARRATOR: The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice,

JESUS: ​”Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”

NARRATOR: that is,

JESUS: ​”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

NARRATOR: When some of the bystanders heard it, they said,

BYSTANDERS: “This man is calling for Elijah.”

NARRATOR: At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said,

BYSTANDERS: “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”

NARRATOR: Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said,

CENTURION: “Truly this man was God’s Son!

NARRATOR: Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said,

CHIEF PRIESTS: “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, `After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, `He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.”

NARRATOR: Pilate said to them,

PILATE: ​”You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”

NARRATOR: So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

[ To be continued ]

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1 Timothy 2.1-17 I’m Not Lying 20160918 RSUMC

truth

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all —this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. [NRSV]
Paul gives a rather curious footnote in his letter. “I am telling the truth, I am not lying“. It is usually in our experience that if we think someone needs to hear us say these words that there is some question about our vercity, our truthfulness or trustworthiness.
There are two pieces of instruction to which this appears to be reffering:
  1. First, Paul’s instruction to pray for everyone, including kings and high officials.
  2. Secondly, Paul’s ministry of being a messenger and apostle as a teacher of the Gentiles.

A. Prayer:

Objectively and with humility, it is a simple command to pray for everyone including those who have authority over you and over us all. On the other hand, it is also difficult to carry out with sincerity, to supplicate, intercede and giving thanksgiving for everyone, including those who lead or would choose to lead us.
Two observations:
(1) One Paul is not giving the community of faith the excuse, a pass, to ignore those who oppress, make difficult or misuse their authority, rather it is the community of faith’s role to keep the conversation in the context of God’s grace and God’s working of bringing peace through all people, to all people.
(2) Paul is neither saying the everyone, including those in high offices, are not in need of prayerful help from God and God’s people. Therefore, pray with, pray for and pray into the thanksgiving to which we are called to become.
I challenge to pray for God to be known to our leaders, for our leaders and through our leaders so that God might be known, praised and thanks given to God.

B. Ministry Authority:

Paul appointed: hearld, apostle and teacher.
  • (In readying how Paul was persicuted, jailed, shipwrecked, run out of town, dismissed by others in the Way, in the church: for his earlier persicustion of Jesus, Paul is claiming athority by appointment from God.)
  • As Wesleyan Methodist we see God’s preventative, justifying and sanctifying graces at work. As well as an affirmation that some authority is revealed directly in our experience of the Holy Spirit.
  • God using someone that was the least likely person to reach the Jewish community and certainly not the Gentile community.
  • I believe this is the connection Paul wants to affirm to Timothy because he is conferring this authority Timothy, to the rest of the church and to you and me gathered here today.

Paul’s reminder to Timothy is also a reminder to each of us and to those who believe and trust some other gods, doctrines or principles.

The truthful and trustworthiness of our authority is under attack:
  • Externally, When we listen to the civil view of the church’s role it has become one of many voices.
  • Internally, When we pray only for whom and what we want, rather than for God’s will and work.
  • Communally & Personally, When we listen to fears and hate rather than prayer we attack truth and trust
The instruction is to remember that you and I are appointed to the same work:
Herald: The messengers, witnesses, and advocates for Christ’s presence in the world.
Apostle: Leader, delegator, and  one who shares Christ’s living present in the world.
Teacher: Instructor, one who models the heart of Christ internally and externally, to church and world. for everyone, including the king and other leaders.

Challenge:

Live as people of the Truth of Christ. (Not fighting over what is the principles of truth, rather trusting the truth of Christ to be lived out in how we interact, prayer, prepare and instruct each other.
The challenge to Timothy and to us is one of action. This is where Paul is not lying, not teasing, not suggesting, not holding back!

 Bottom Line:

You and I are the Heralds, Leaders, and Teacher that are called model a life of prayer for this world: teaching, revealing and modeling the grace and power of Christ to save, save us all. Amen.

LinK: I could lie, but I won’t liey to you. God is with us and calls us to tell Christ’s truth. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wherever_I_Go_(song) OneRepublic Lyrics:

I know I could lie, but I won’t lie to you
Wherever I go, you’re the ghost in the room
I don’t even try looking for something new
Cause wherever I go, I’ll be looking for you

Some people try but they can’t find the magic
Others get down on their knees and they pray
I come alive when I’m close to the madness
No easy love could ever make me feel the same
Make me feel the same

Traditional Music : UMBH

  • I Exalt Thee
  • 399 Take My Life
  • 395 Take Time to be Holy
  • 402 Lord I Want to be a Christain

 

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2 Peter 1:16-21 and Matthew 17:1-9 What I Want JUMC. 20140303

image

2P: For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. [NRSV]

MT: Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” [NRSV]

Context of coupling of text
Firsthand Gospel Application

This is a very interesting couple of passages because we have the gospel account of historical, miraculous events and a second text in 2Peter where there is a teaching tot he church that directly based on that first hand experience.

The context of the Transfiguration mountain passage is part mystery and miracle of incarnation. My question of the text is: are Peter James and john those who can most appreciate and understand the reevaluation or are they those who most need it.

Transference
Transfer of authority and story, Avoid transferring the authority

The story clarifies Gods method do revelation through people and relationships as the central mode of communicating Gods word and presence. This is replicated in Peters rebelling to those in his letter and input hearing.

A secondary teaching mode is the Journey

The disciples are taught different parts of the story along the way, not all at once. Peter shares the journey with others affirming their journey in belief and understanding.

We leave the story here and it would be clean, neat and safe doe us all. But the heart lesson is the transformation of Peter between the two accounts.

What I want vs what God wants for me

God wants Peter James and John to see and share a moment with Jesus Moses and Elijah.
In this moment they have the true reality of Jesus’s identity and role, the confirmation of OT laws and prophet AND the ultimate confirmation from God divine pronouncement. It does not get any clearer.

Only Peters response is vocalized among the disciples. Just because the others are silent doesn’t mean their response was different.

God is about revealing the connection and Peter presents a disconnection.

< Story of connection >

Peter hears the voice of God, sees the pieces of old and new fit together before his eyes, and his response is to build, make, do, control the situation.

Let’s make some monuments

The movie, Monument Men, a WWII drama about protecting the accomplishments of artists and sculptors work from destruction by the failed Hitlers orders at the end of the war. It is a moving witness of bravery and boldness to save the evidence of our culture and accomplishments. It is worth the ticket price for sure.

Peters response is not so different. We need to capture this moment and memorialize it so that others can come to those holy place.

Recount my trip. Worth going to the holy ground but what stands today are the very thing that Peter wanted. Including fragments of crusader walls defending the structure, a monastery, double decker church and a gift shop and roaming peacocks revealing their splendor and hidden glory. The very monuments that Peter hoped for are present.

But these are not the things God declared as important or necessary on that spot. The instruction was to listen and understand, to hear and believe.

In the moment Peter changing a from confident planner and designer in charge to one falling to the ground in fear and trembling.

The gift of Perspective in Time

It is in the 2P passage that Peter has learned and is teaching from his weakness.

You would do well to listen to use who know what we are talking about.
It’s not about you
Your plans
Your rules
Your traditions
Your good deeds
Your Intensions.

It is about the Holy Spirit, No you.

We come to the table of holy communion and it is about connecting with God
It’s not about our sin, or worth, or fault, no blame
It is a table of love and grace.

So come and be filled, be connected, be loved and claimed by the God who sends us Gods only child that we might believe, trust and live I return. Come, let go, and allow God to fill you today.

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Matthew 3:13-17 “I Need to be Baptized..” JUMC 20140112

baptism3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.  And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” [NRSV]

Baptism Text: The text from Matthew focuses on the relationship between Jesus and John and the fulfillment of scripture. It also describes the humanity of Jesus and affirms that baptism is not simply a cleansing ritual, but rather a presence and claim experience between us and God.

We celebrate and practice communion on a monthly basis. Each month we have the visual and tangible experience of finding Christ’s presence and it is a refresher or booster of our baptism.

Our communion table is Christ’s table and it open to all persons, for we are all in need of that grace and power of God’s claim on our lives.

Baptism is not a hoop to be checked-off as a membership requirement, although baptism is a sign that we are indeed members of the faith and joint heirs with Christ.

In Jesus’ baptism, it was not proof of his divinity, it is affirmation that we all need to be claimed by God.

Have you been baptized?

Do you remember?

I do not as I was only three months old and wore a linen dress on a hot south Georgia Sunday. Some strange man took me from my mother’s arms and poured cold water on my head and dress. Messed up my hair and caused me to scream and cry my eyes out. Finally I was returned to my father’s arms and was soon blinded by flash bulb from my grand parents who were then scolded for taking pictures in the sanctuary.

When I was thirteen I wore my sued chuck-a-boots, lime green leisure suit and parrot-paisley knit shirt to gather at the alter with my confirmation class lead by Sergeant Elizabeth Smith. I don’t know if she was ever in Uncle Sam’s army but she was certainly in the Lord’s Army and she prepared us to answer the perfect answers to the questions of examination of the faith. I don’t know if anyone at that altar that morning had a Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus experience, but we were well dressed, well prepared and knew exactly where to stand.

It was more likely that I felt the presence of God’s Spirit in a recognizable way, for the first time, while a camper at Camp Glisson a year after my confirmation.

Divine Divide of Grace and Time

In the Matthew Text the timing between the human-to-human conversation and ritual of coming to John at the river is not about a confession of sinfulness for Jesus.

  • 1. John’s invitation to believers and followers was to turn toward God, repentance. It is a spiritual alignment.
  • Placing ourselves aimed toward God, from where ever we are and face where we are going and becoming in God’s grace.
  • 2. There is the response of Jesus accepting the ritual and practice of belonging to those who need God’s claim of their lives.
  • There is a transformation from John’s invitation to get cleaned-up to Jesus’s choosing to commit his life to the ministry of God’s choosing. So the water becomes not only cleansing; it also is a preparing for part two of our lives.
  • 3. Is God’s claim of our willingness to place our lives and trust in God’s hands and heart.
  • This is my child. When we are baptized, we also become child of God.

This is My Child

The most powerful part of the text is the claiming part of baptism. God declares, this is MY child. This person that John baptize is claim by God, not by John. Baptism is not so much a church ritual as it is a divine parental defining of our identity and relationship with God. We are the kids, God is the parent. We are the family together.

Questions and More Questions:

So are we not Children of God before we are baptized?

The simple answer is no, but that is not a completely helpful answer.

Yes we are children of God’s creation, filled with grace and hope of becoming one who chooses God’s heart to guide our lives. But God does not force the inheritance upon us. But it is ours for the taking.

The Door is Open

Think of Baptism as a doorway. You can walk in and see the life God has prepared for us. And once you have seen it you know what life God has for you. It is reflected in the life and teaching of Jesus.

We might think we can walk through that door, but the only way to undo awareness of coming of age is to choose rejection or apathy. But the Door of Baptism never closes.

There are those who would teach that you better utter the magic words, “I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior” before we draw out last breath because then it is too late. But they does not actually follow with a Gracious Parent who crosses the chasm of death to make a way for us.

A View from the Lap of God.

If you are seated in God’s lap, embraced in arms of love and mercy, kneely at the feet of the one who breathed breath from your first and last, if you look into God’s eyes and say: “I want no part of you, let me go.” I believe God lets us go.

If you are face to face with God in judgement and God asks, “Do you love me” and we reply “I hate you.” God does not force us to love.

If we are faced with the full picture of our life filled with failures, fears, sins and struggle and we say “Lord have Mercy” Why would God of Grace revert to the ways of the Law? God will have mercy

SO WHY NOT WAIT UNTIL THEN?

It is the power, life, claim, assurance, comfort, peace, grace, love that we live without if we wait.

God wants for each of us to be part of the family, why would someone want to just be a guest when they could be kin?

Salvation is a process. (Baptism is the start)

We are claimed and saved so that we can grow in relationship with God and God’s people.

This is why we are a church.

To claim the outsider, the orphan, the widow, the forgotten, the rejected, the proud, the hard-hearted, that together we grow together toward God.

When there are those outside the family, how can we celebrate in the house?

(The unwritten part of the Prodigal Sons story: The father can’t be in the party when there are those on the outside looking in with anger, jealousy, fear, division, confusion, hate, etc.)

Baptism is our entrance into the party of salvation.

Come on in, the Party is on!

 

 

 

Notes from UMC.org and GBOD.org

In all forms of Christian baptism, God claims those being baptized, whatever their age or ability to profess their faith, with divine grace. Clearly an infant can do nothing to save himself or herself, but is totally dependent on God’s grace, as we all are — whatever our age.

Most traditions that practice or recognize as valid the baptism only of believers — those who have professed faith in Jesus Christ for themselves in some public way — practice baptism not as a means of grace by which God saves and claims us, but rather as a further act of public profession and/or an act of obedience to the command of Christ that his followers be baptized. That is why these “believer’s baptism only” traditions generally refer to baptism as an ordinance — an act ordained or commanded by Christ — rather than a sacrament. The term sacrament means “an oath” and refers to God’s covenant with us (first of all) and ours in response to God’s gracious provision of salvation in Jesus Christ.

United Methodists recognize the baptism of “believers only” traditions, provided those traditions baptize people in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as generally understood in historic Christianity. We offer baptism to people of all ages who have not previously received Christian baptism in any form. We do not rebaptize those who have already received Christian baptism in any form. Even when the people being baptized are believing adults and are ready to profess their faith, our first emphasis is upon the gracious action of God who establishes the covenant of baptism with us rather than upon the individual’s decision.

Who tells you who you are?
We receive our identity from others, from the expectations of friends and colleagues, from the labels society puts upon us, and from the influence of family.

To become Christian is to receive a new identity. You no longer allow others to tell you who you are. Christ now claims you and instructs you. A Christian is one who has “put on Christ.”

Baptism celebrates becoming that new person. That is why the church’s ritual begins with putting off the old, renouncing sin and the evil powers of the world, and pledging our loyalty to Christ.

God Initiates the Covenant
We also believe that in baptism God initiates a covenant with us, announced with the words, “The Holy Spirit works within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.” This is followed by the sign-act of laying hands on the head, or the signing of the cross on the forehead with oil. The word covenant is a biblical word describing God’s initiative in choosing Israel to be a people with a special mission in the world, and Israel’s response in a life of faithfulness. The baptismal covenant calls us to a similar vocation.

God Has Chosen Us
Christians have also understood the baptismal covenant in light of Jesus’ baptism. At Jesus’ baptism, God said: “This is my son.” While Jesus’ relation to God as Son is unique, for Christians baptism means that God has also chosen us as daughters and sons, and knows us intimately as a parent.

So the most important things about us, our true identity, is that we are now sons and daughters of God. That is why the introduction to the United Methodist Baptismal Covenant states, “We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit.”

The introduction also says, “Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are initiated into Christ’s holy church.”

Baptism Is the Door
From the beginning, baptism has been the door through which one enters the church. It was inconceivable to many that one could respond to God’s grace by reciting the renunciations, affirming one’s faith in Christ and loyalty to the Kingdom, without joining the fellowship of those who are committed to mature in that faith. As the “Body of Christ” in the world, baptism commissions us to use our gifts to strengthen the church and to transform the world.

Why Baptize Babies?
From the earliest times, children and infants were baptized and included in the church. As scriptural authority for this ancient tradition, some scholars cite Jesus’ words, “Let the little children come to me…for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14). However, a more consistent argument is that baptism, as a means of grace, signifies God’s initiative in the process of salvation. John Wesley preached “prevenient grace,” the grace that works in our lives before we are aware of it, bringing us to faith. The baptism of children and their inclusion in the church before they can respond with their own confirmation of faith is a vivid and compelling witness to prevenient grace.

Baptism Is Forever
Because baptism is a sacrament of God’s grace and a covenant that God has initiated, it should not be repeated. However, God’s continuing and patient forgiveness, God’s prevenient grace, will prompt us to renew the commitment first made at our baptism. At such a time, instead of rebaptism, The United Methodist Church offers the ritual for the reaffirmation of baptismal vows, which implies that, while God remains faithful to God’s half of the covenant, we are not always faithful to our promises. Our half of the covenant is to confess Christ as our Savior, trust in his grace, serve him as Lord in the church, and carry out his mission against evil, injustice, and oppression.

Baptism Is the Beginning, Not the End
You have heard people say, “I was baptized Methodist,” or “I was baptized Presbyterian,” which could mean that in baptism they got their identity papers and that was the end of it. But baptism is not the end. It is the beginning of a lifelong journey of faith. It makes no difference whether you were baptized as an adult or as a child; we all start on that journey at baptism. For the child, the journey begins in the nurturing community of the church, where he or she learns what it means that God loves you. At the appropriate time, the child will make his or her first confession of faith in the ritual the church traditionally calls confirmation. Most often, this is at adolescence or at the time when the person begins to take responsibility for his or her own decisions.

If you experienced God’s grace and were baptized as an adult or received baptism as a child and desire to reaffirm your baptismal vows, baptism still marks the beginning of a journey in the nurturing fellowship of the caring, learning, worshipping, serving congregation.

What Is a Sacrament?
The word sacrament is the Latin translation of the Greek word mysterion. From the early days of the church, baptism was associated with the mystery that surrounds God’s action in our lives. That means that at best our words can only circumscribe what happens, but not define it. We cannot rationally explain why God would love us “while we were yet sinners” and give his only begotten Son that we should not perish but have eternal life. That is the most sacred and unfathomable mystery of all. We can experience God’s grace at any time and in any place, but in the sacrament of baptism we routinely experience that amazing grace.

From A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism by Mark C. Trotter.

Q. Does The United Methodist Church now have an accepted understanding of baptismal theology and practice?

A: Yes. Our church’s position is expressed in the services of the Baptismal Covenant (especially Baptismal Covenant I) in The United Methodist Hymnal, 1989, and The United Methodist Book of Worship, 1992, and in By Water and the Spirit. All of these have been approved by the General Conference — the only body that can speak for the whole denomination.

Q: What does United Methodism fundamentally believe about baptism?

A: Baptism is a sacrament. In a sacrament, God uses common elements — in this case, water — as means or vehicles of divine grace. Baptism is administered by the church as the Body of Christ. It is the act of God through the grace of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Q: What is the difference between infant baptism and believer’s baptism?

A: In all forms of Christian baptism, God claims those being baptized, whatever their age or ability to profess their faith, with divine grace.Clearly an infant can do nothing to save himself or herself, but is totally dependent on God’s grace, as we all are — whatever our age.

Most traditions that practice or recognize as valid the baptism only of believers — those who have professed faith in Jesus Christ for themselves in some public way — practice baptism not as a means of grace by which God saves and claims us, but rather as a further act of public profession and/or an act of obedience to the command of Christ that his followers be baptized. That is why these “believer’s baptism only” traditions generally refer to baptism as an ordinance — an act ordained or commanded by Christ — rather than a sacrament. The term sacrament means “an oath” and refers to God’s covenant with us (first of all) and ours in response to God’s gracious provision of salvation in Jesus Christ.

United Methodists recognize the baptism of “believers only” traditions, provided those traditions baptize people in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as generally understood in historic Christianity. We offer baptism to people of all ages who have not previously received Christian baptism in any form. We do not rebaptize those who have already received Christian baptism in any form. Even when the people being baptized are believing adults and are ready to profess their faith, our first emphasis is upon the gracious action of God who establishes the covenant of baptism with us rather than upon the individual’s decision.

Q: May we have our baby dedicated instead of baptized?

A: No. The theological understandings of the two services are very different. Dedication is a human act — something we pledge or give to God. Baptism is a divine act, a pledge and gift God gives to us. Baptism of infants includes the reaffirmation of the vows of the baptismal covenant by parents, sponsors, and the congregation; but chiefly it celebrates what God is doing and will do in the life of the infant.

Q: Isn’t it better to wait until they are older and let our children decide for themselves whether or not they want to be baptized?

A: No. We no more wait for our children to decide about being in the family of God than we wait for them to decide if they would like to be a part of our human family. As parents, we make many decisions — in matters of health, safety, education, for example — for our children. Of course, they may later reject what we have done for them. But this possibility does not relieve us of the responsibility to do all that we can for them spiritually, as we do in other aspects of their lives.

Q: How about christening?

A: Christening is not a separate ritual, but rather historically part of the ritual of baptism. The use of the term christening for the sacrament probably comes from two sources: chrism is the word for the anointing oil traditionally used in baptism as a sign of the sealing by the Holy Spirit; second, in the past, children were sometimes actually given their (Christian) names in baptism. In our current ritual, parents are not asked for the name of the child, but the pastor does baptize with that name and without using the family or surname. This meaning of christening is expressed, for example, in a ceremony for the naming of a ship. Unfortunately, the term christening has been used sometimes in our history as a way of diminishing the significance of infant baptism or of indicating that it is something different from and less than the baptism of an adult. This view is completely inconsistent with the Wesleyan understanding as expressed in By Water and the Spirit, the Services of the Baptismal Covenant in our hymnal and book of worship, and The Book of Discipline.

Q: Is sprinkling the only way that United Methodists baptize?

A: No, our church has always offered to people being baptized and to the parents of infants the choice of sprinkling, pouring, or immersion.

Q: May I be baptized again if I feel the need?

A: No, baptism is an act of God, and God does it right the first time.Our side of the covenant relationship with God will need recommitment and reaffirmation, but God always remains faithful to the divine side.

Q: How can I “remember [my] baptism and be thankful” when I was baptized as a baby?

A: What we are called to remember in reaffirmation is the gift of God’s grace, not a particular event. Through appropriate remembrances and celebrations, our children can be enabled to “remember” their baptism as much as they “remember” their physical birthday.

Q: May a person who has not been baptized participate in Holy Communion?

A: Yes, our church does not seek to close God’s Table, although the historic and normal Christian order of the sacraments is baptism first — as birth into the family — and Communion following, as continuing nurture at the family table. Pastors and congregations reach out and encourage those who partake at the Table to share fully in the life of God’s people, including coming to the font after appropriate preparation.

Q: Should every baby be baptized?

A: No, the baptism of a baby assumes that the child will be nurtured and formed in the faith at home and at church.

Q: How do we express our own decisions to be Christian disciples if we have already been baptized as infants?

A: In services of profession of faith and confirmation before the congregation, we respond to God’s grace by repenting of our sins, declaring our faith in Jesus Christ, and becoming professing members of the church.

Q: Does baptism mean that I am saved?

A: No, salvation is a lifelong process during which we must continue to respond to God’s grace. Baptism offers the promise that the Holy Spirit will always be working in our lives, but salvation requires our acceptance of that grace, trust in Christ, and ongoing growth in holiness as long as we live.

Q: Do I have to be baptized in order to be saved?

A: No, but baptism is a gift of God’s grace to be received as part of the journey of salvation. To refuse to accept baptism is to reject one of the means of grace that God offers us.

Q: How can I recommit myself to Christ when I have had a powerful spiritual experience?

A: Confirmation and profession of faith are only the first of our affirmations of faith. As we experience God’s work in our ongoing lives of discipleship, we can express our commitment through participation in services of baptismal reaffirmation (Baptismal Covenant IV).

Q: Does baptism make me a member of the church?

A: Yes, baptism is the act of initiation and incorporation into the universal church of Jesus Christ, The United Methodist Church, and the local congregation, as our ritual makes very clear.

Q: Is there more than one category of church membership, according to By Water and the Spirit?

A: Yes, all people who are baptized become baptized members. Those who are baptized at an age at which they are capable of professing their faith must do so and become professing members as well (they cannot choose to be baptized members only). Those baptized as infants or young children do not become professing members until they are able to profess their own faith.

Q: Does this mean that little children can vote and hold office in the church?

A: No, the governance of the church and other such matters will be the privilege and responsibility of professing members. A similar distinction operates in secular government: Children become American citizens when they are born, but they cannot vote or hold office until later in life.

Q: Will our church start counting baptized members and regain the membership numbers we have lost in the last several decades?

A: No. While other records will certainly be kept, only professing numbers are to be counted in statistics of church membership.

Q: How will our system of rolls and record keeping be changed?

A new system of record keeping designed by the General Council on Finance and Administration went into effect in January 2005. These new records and forms are in accord with actions of the General Conference regarding our theological understanding of baptism and membership. The most salient changes are the development of a “Record of Faith Journey” for each member and of a “Permanent Church Register. ”

Q: What is the difference between “full member” and “professing member”?

A: The difference is the distinction between an institutional orientation and a communal orientation. To be a “full member” is something anyone can be in any secular (or volunteer) organization. Being a “full member” usually means simply that “I have joined the institution; I have paid my dues.” To be a “professing member” is to make a statement of commitment and participation in a community of disciples. Being a “professing member” expresses continuing action both within the faith community and in the world. It is a statement about an individual’s ongoing relationship and commitment to God and the church through Jesus Christ.

Q: Is a “baptized member” and a ” preparatory member” the same thing?

A: No. “preparatory members” are people the church views as candidates for membership. That category includes “baptized children and youth of the church eighteen years of age and under who are not full members, and other persons who have been enrolled in confirmation preparation.” (2000 Book of Discipline ¶ 229.2 ) “Baptized members” communicates our sacramental understanding that in baptism people ” are initiated into Christ’s holy church.” (“Services of the Baptismal Covenant,” Service I and II)

Q: Why does The United Methodist Church so understand baptism, membership, and salvation?

A: United Methodism stands in the historic heritage of the Christian faith through the ages and, specifically, in the legacy of John Wesley.Wesley was an Anglican priest. As a result, United Methodism has inherited a “high” understanding of the church, the sacraments, and other aspects of worship. Wesley was also an evangelical revivalist. As a result, United Methodism emphasizes the necessity of conversion, personal relationship with Christ, and witnessing to others. Neither of these aspects alone represents who we are. As United Methodists, we hold the two together in our baptismal theology and practice and in our broader understanding of how God works in our lives for salvation.

Worship Resources with The General Board of Discipleship.

 

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