Scriptures: Isaiah 43:1-7 and Acts 19:1-7
We are going to do something a little different today with our sermon time. Instead of waxing eloquently about the text, I’m going to read you a question and answer from the study catechism
Now, a catechism is used to teach the faith, usually with a series of questions with their answers. And there was a time that in order to become a member of the church, you had to memorize the catechism. Some of you may not remember your baptism, but may recall having to memorize the Westminster Catechism.
Allison Moody, the pastor in Louisiana where we did our internship, shared with us his experience as a youth studying and memorizing the Westminster Catechism, all 107 questions. And when the day came he was to go before the pastor and the elders, his mind was a blank slate. Everyone was going to be asked one question, just one question. But no one knew which one of the 107 questions they would be asked. He sat there with his confirmation class, as the pastor and elders went around the room asking their questions. Cold sweat rolled off his forehead. Fear welled up inside him. He would never become a member of the church. His family would disown him. He would become an outcast in society because he wouldn’t be able to answer his one question.
“Mr. Moody,” the pastor said as Allison stood up. “What is the chief end of man?”
He was being asked question number one! “Sir, man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” He sat down with a huge sigh of relief.
Now, we haven’t asked the soon to be baptized to memorize the catechism nor did we have the confirmation class last year memorize it either. But that class revolved around one question: question number 4, “How do you live in the communion of the Holy Spirit?” As I read the answer, I want you to take it in. What is it saying to you? What did you hear? I’ll give you a moment after I read it to let it sink in. Then I’ll read it again.
“By the Holy Spirit, I am made one with the Lord Jesus Christ. I am baptized into Christ’s body, the church. As a member of this community, I trust in God’s Word, share in the Lord’s Supper, and turn to God in prayer. As I grow in grace and knowledge, I am led to do the good works that God intends for my life.” (Read twice-Ask church folks what they heard…)
Today, we are celebrating the sacrament of baptism and the welcoming of new members into this community. This is a time when we as individuals and as a community can come back before the waters and remember our baptism.
It is also a time to remember that we are all on a journey with Christ, growing in the gift of his grace and knowledge of his love and heeding the call to follow him out into the world. Never in this life can we say we are done growing and learning. Never in this life do we stop turning to God in prayer. Never in this life can we say we are going to go it alone.
We will make vows to the newly baptized, children and adult alike, that they have been claimed by God and that we will walk the journey with them. This baptismal journey is our life of discipleship with the community of believers and is only fulfilled at our death.
My prayer this morning is that those being baptized, and those who are becoming official members of this little outpost of the body of Christ, and everyone here will experience a rekindling of the love of God in Christ and reaffirm their faith in him as we again come before the font.
Remember, the waters do not save us; they are an outward sign of inward grace of God moving and acting in our lives. For it is by God in Christ by the Holy Spirit that we become part of his body, his community, his church. It is by his death we experience new life. And it is by his amazing love we experience his amazing grace.
In the name of the one who, who in the beginning, created over the chaotic waters, and in the name of the one who offers us new life as living water, and in the name of the one who seals us in the waters of baptism, Amen.