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Remembering our baptism…

September 24, 2010

Over the last number of months, Sunnyside Mennonite Church has been talking about a membership covenant. We have been talking about this in the context of remembering our baptism. Our gathered worship service on Sunday, October 3 (World Communion Sunday) will be a time to remember our baptism into Christ and the Church. This time of covenant renewal is for all who desire to reaffirm their baptismal identity as members of Sunnyside Mennonite Church. Here is the way we have articulated this.

Scripture

1. But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized… (Mark 10:38-39)

2.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  (Matthew 28:19-20)

3.  The parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:12-24)

4. Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:38-39)

5. Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4)

6.  For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.  (Romans 12:4-5)

7.  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.  (1 Corinthians 10:17)

8.  Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.  (1 Corinthians 11:28-29)

9.  For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.  (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

10. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)

Tradition

11.  Concerning Baptism. And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.  (Didache, Chapter 7, as early as 120 A.D.)

12.  “You cannot have God for your Father if youdo not have the Church for your mother…. God is one and Christ is one, and his Church is one; one is the faith, and one is the people cemented together by harmony into the strong unity of a body…. If we are the heirs of Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are the sons of God, let us be lovers of peace.”  St. Cyprian of Carthage (190-258 A.D.)

13.  “Baptism is… a pledge before the church of their covenant with God to walk in the way of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Believers are baptized into Christ and his body by the Spirit, water, and blood.

Baptism is a testimony to God’s gift of the Holy Spirit and the continuing work of the Spirit in the lives of believers.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit enables believers to walk in newness of life, to live in community with Christ and the church, to offer Christ’s healing and forgiveness to those in need, to witness boldly to the good news of Christ, and to hope in the sharing of Christ’s future glory.

Christian baptism is for those who confess their sins, repent, accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and commit themselves to follow Christ in obedience as members of his body, both giving and receiving counsel in the church.” Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (1995)

14.  “There are times when church membership loses its meaning.  Members may become inactive and withdraw their practical participation from the congregation.  Sometimes the believer’s original commitment lacked depth; at other times there has been serious hurt resulting in alienation; sometimes the church has failed in its attempt to be redemptive in discipling its members.  If we have made sensitive attempts to heed people’s hurts, needs, and concerns, we should respect their choice to discontinue their association with the church and release them graciously.  For those who continue their membership and participation, it is desirable to provide periodic opportunities for celebration and renewal of the membership covenant.”  Minister’s Manual, Edited by John Rempel, Herald Press, 1998

15.  “Great Command Christianity invites us to participate in a living tradition, to reconsider faith as a community of people who practice God’s love and mercy through time.  …lived Christianity cannot be understood in terms of the Big-C story; rather, it is best experienced as a community that remembers the ways in which Christian people have enacted the Great Command in different times and places.”  Diana Butler Bass, A People’s History of Christianity (2009)

Why remember our baptism?  (the voice of communal discernment)

16.  Because our baptism calls us to more than individualized Christianity where church is another consumer choice that revolves around individual preferences.

17.  Because God’s mission calls us to practice discernment together as committed participants in a common life.

18.  Because trust is built when there is commitment.

19.  Because the body of Christ is no more invisible than human beings are invisible.

20.  Because God is making all things new in Jesus Christ and we are a part of that new creation through our baptism.

21.  Because in a world shaped by pragmatic realism and cynicism, we believe in Christian realism that calls us to live as a part of an alternative community where God’s love and God’s ways are made visible in our way of life together.

22.  Lest we be lulled into thinking that our primary identity in this world is based on our socio-economic status, our education, our family heritage, a political affiliation or a nation-state.

We will remember our baptism into Christ and the church as we celebrate Holy Communion on October 3. We are invited to bring a symbol that represents something of who we are and how God’s story has shaped our story. We will receive the bread and the cup and remember that through our baptism we are members one of another along with all others who confess Jesus as Lord. We will eat and pray. We will worship and laugh. We will be sent back into the world to live as the body of Christ in the world. This will be about so much more than who gets an asterisk by their name in the church directory. It is about more than who gets to vote or have certain ministry roles in the church. This is a celebration of who we are in Christ and who we are called to be. We are invited by love and sent by love.

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