Saturday, September 6, 2014

Confirmation, Reception, and Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows

Our Diocesan Bishop, the Right Rev. Andrew Dietsche, will be coming to Zion on October 26th to confirm, receive, and reaffirm the baptismal vows of anyone who desires this renewed commitment to Christ in our community.  I encourage all of us to consider what this step means.  According to our Book of Common Prayer,
* Confirmation is the rite in which we express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop. In addition,
* It is required of those to be confirmed that they have been baptized, are sufficiently instructed in the Christian Faith, are penitent for their sins, and are ready to affirm their confession of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
    Theoretically, we are all “sufficiently instructed” and are penitent and ready, at a moment’s notice, to receive the Bishop’s Confirmation blessing.  However, I enjoy teaching Confirmation Class so much that I am asking all interested parishioners to come to a 6-week class, on Wednesday evenings from 7pm to 8:15pm beginning on September 17th in the Rectory Conference room.
    So, what is Reception and who is eligible?  Anyone who has come to Zion from a different Christian denomination (like Lutheran, Baptist, or Methodist) or from the Catholic or Orthodox Church (the latter two groups do not consider themselves to be a “denomination” at all, but each considers itself the original, or True Church). 
    And, what is Reaffirmation?  This is just what it sounds like - any of us who have already been baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church, but would like to reaffirm that commitment in a public and meaningful way should take the class and receive the laying on of hands.
    Why is this an important step? Most of us were baptized and confirmed at a young age and have forgotten, or never knew, the reasons why Episcopalians do the strange things that we do.  If you ever wondered why our service is similar to the Roman Catholic service; or why some of us cross ourselves and some don’t; or why we say the Creeds; or what the word, “Episcopalian” really means; or what the seven types of prayer are and why we use them every week in our Holy Eucharist, etc, etc, then you would benefit from taking this class.  You would also find consolation, encouragement and joy from kneeling at the rail and receiving the Bishop’s hands on your head, as he says, “May the Holy Spirit, who has begun a good work in you, direct and uphold you in the service of Christ and his kingdom. Amen.”  And, of course, there will be celebrating and congratulations and cake.

The Ministry of Baptism

One of the reasons we celebrate the Baptism liturgy during our main Sunday morning worship service is so we can welcome the entire baptismal family into the inclusive and ever-loving Church of Christ.  Private baptisms (as I was baptized in Beverly Hills, CA) didn’t allow the parish to welcome me as the most important Christian in the room.  It may seem that we are showing the family what a healthy church looks like, but it’s really the other way around.

We, as habitual Episcopalians, run the risk of forgetting who we really are, and what is vitally important to us as Christians.  As we honor the child or adult being baptized we are required to say aloud the things we believe, and why we believe them.  Will we do all in our power to support these persons in their life in Christ?  We will, with God’s help.

Note what we don’t say: we don’t ask if they will go up to communion.  We don’t make them promise to join our congregation.  We don’t require that they stay in touch with us.  We do, however, offer them cake and camaraderie after the service.  We want to thank them for giving us the opportunity to renew our own baptismal vows.  We pray that they will remain faithful Christians, in whatever community they choose.  The ministry of baptism is the core of our faith.  That is why we keep an open and water-filled font in the church as we worship.  We must never forget our own baptism.  We were washed clean of our sins, born again, and marked as Christ’s own forever.  That is our deepest and most magnificent gift. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Jesus and Peter

Sermon from Sunday, August 31, 2014 about Jesus and Peter, rebukes, challenges, and metanoia: