Our Apostolic Tradition – a sermon

You can listen to this sermon on the Christ Church website.

While I was in seminary, I stumbled upon a sweet summertime gig.  Every summer, the seminary would hire a couple of students to support the maintenance department during their busy season.  I applied and got the job.  On my first day of work, I went into the office of Dave Mutscheller, the Facilities Director, and got my assignment.  Because I had experience working for a construction company, they put me with Mr. Wayne who would be running several excavation projects that summer.  Mind you, my experience at the construction company was 99% behind a desk and 1% that time I drove the lead escort vehicle for an oversized load.  I had exactly zero hours of experience in the field, and I left Dave’s office pretty sure that I was in way over my head.  I met Mr. Wayne who handed me a grease gun and told me to grease the fittings on the old New Holland farm tractor the seminary used to dig ditches.  Now, I knew for sure I was in serious trouble.  As the summer went on, Wayne discipled me in the stuff they probably thought I knew before I got hired.  I learned how to set a catch basin, how to cement pipe, how to shoot grade, and even how to operate that old New Holland tractor.

One Friday, about mid-way through the summer, we were digging a new French drain behind a professor’s house, when at lunch, Wayne told me he was leaving early and that I should be able to finish digging and laying the drain by the end of the day.  Terror swept over me as I recalled the story from two summers earlier when Wayne dug up an unmarked, underground six-inch electric line in the middle of a field.  Breathing deeply, I hopped on that old blue tractor, and thought to myself, I have no business digging this drain, but if Mr. Wayne trusts me, I can do it.  It wasn’t the straightest ditch you’ve ever seen and we had to backfill with more stone than Dave would have liked, but it got done, and nobody got hurt and nothing got broken in the process.  Mr. Wayne had discipled me as far as he could, it was time to try it on my own.

In two of our lessons for this morning, we find the disciples in exactly the same spot.  Our Gospel lesson comes from the tail end of the long farewell discourse that Kellie mentioned last week.  After several years of day-by-day discipleship, Jesus and his disciples are together for one final meal before his death.  After washing their feet to show them what being his disciple should look like, Jesus spends three chapters giving them final instructions.  He gives them a new commandment, that they love one another.  He assures them that through him, they know the way to the Father.  He promises them the Holy Spirit who will come to guide them into all truth.  And finally, he prays for them.  His prayer isn’t so that God will know what to do with the disciples when he is gone, but rather so his disciples will know that even when he is gone, he has not left them abandoned.  Through the Spirit, the disciples will carry on the work of Jesus in his absence.  After years of discipleship, it was time for them to try it on their own.

Terror swept over them, and when the time came for Jesus to be arrested and crucified, they failed spectacularly.  Peter denied ever knowing Jesus while nine of the other ten disciples fled in fear.  By Easter evening, it was clear the disciples needed a bit more in the way of discipleship.  On Easter 2, we heard the story of Jesus entering the upper room late on that first Easter day.  Despite having heard the news of his resurrection from Mary Magdalene, the disciples were huddled behind locked doors in fear.  Jesus entered and offered his disciples peace.  He breathed the Holy Spirit upon them, knowing they needed it then more than ever.  For forty days, he continued to disciple them, this time not merely as their Rabbi, but as their risen Savior.  On the fortieth day, as our Acts lesson describes, Jesus once again gathered them together.  Aware that it was time for him to leave them again, he prepared one final discipleship lesson, when the group spoke up and asked a question.

“Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”  After years of following him around the countryside.  After the fear and sadness of his crucifixion.  After the panic, joy, and disbelief of his resurrection.  After forty days of intense discipleship, it seems they still didn’t quite get it.  “It is not for you to know how it all will happen,” Jesus tells them, “but when the Spirit comes in power and might, you will have what you need to go out and tell the Good News from here to the end of the earth.”  And with that, despite much evidence to the contrary, Jesus had discipled them all he could on earth.  It was time for them to try it on their own.  As the book of Acts unfolds, we hear stories of the power of the Spirit that allowed these ordinary men and women to do miracles, to preach the Good News, to nurture new disciples, to stand up to oppression and persecution, and to grow the church from the 120 Jesus left behind to thousands of disciples around the known world within a couple of decades.  Like my French drain, it didn’t always happen in a straight line, and maybe it required more heaping a helping of the Holy Spirit than God might have wanted, but they were faithful to their teacher and they did the work entrusted to their care.

Some two-thousand years later, we are the recipients of that ongoing pattern of discipleship.  We take our place in the Apostolic Tradition by way of having the faith once shown to the Apostles by Jesus patterned to us by our parents, clergy, Sunday school teachers, and elders.  Throughout history, one generation of disciples has raised up another, teaching them what it means to love God and love our neighbor, showing them what compassionate service looks like, recounting the stories of God’s saving grace in the person of Jesus Christ, and baptizing new believers in water and the Spirit in the name of the Triune God.

Lest we think that discipleship training is only the purview of the clergy, our baptismal liturgy makes it clear that we all have a part to play in this ongoing Apostolic Tradition of discipleship.  This morning, we will welcome into the household of God two new members.  It would be easy enough to leave the discipleship work for these two young children to their parents, grandparents, and godparents.  Or, we could just rely on their being raised in the church and hand responsibility over to their priests, deacons, Sunday school teachers, Christian Education Directors, and youth leaders.  But I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus had in mind when he told his ragtag group of disciples that it would be up to the Spirit and them to spread the Good News of his saving grace.  It certainly isn’t what our Prayer Book teaches when it asks of the congregation gathered, on behalf of the Church universal, to “do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ.”[1]

It is the job of all Christians to disciple the next generation in the model of Jesus.  We teach through our words: not only in what we say, but in the way we talk to our families, our friends, and total strangers.  We teach through our actions: through the way we care for those in need, where we donate our money, how we vote, even what car we drive.  We teach through our love: caring for all those whom God has put in our lives.  We teach by living the example of Jesus Christ: telling and showing the Good News that God loves everybody, no exceptions.  And one day, we will come to the point where we will have discipled them enough and they will have to try it on their own, through the power of the Spirit, taking their place in the Apostolic Tradition.  Like the disciples’ story, theirs’ won’t always be perfect, but thankfully God is good at forgiveness.  Empowered by the Spirit, today and every day, we each take our place in the long line of Christians discipling new disciples to the honor and glory of God.  Amen.

[1] 1979 BCP, 303.

Sermon: Have you heard the Good News?

After some website delays, you can now listen to the audio on the Christ Church website, or read along here.

Do you remember the first time you heard the Good News that God loves you?  Having basically grown up in the church, I can’t identify the precise moment when I first heard those words, but I do have early memories.  I remember one Vacation Bible School: the theme was some sort of undersea adventure, and inside a giant blown up plastic tube that was painted to look like the ocean, we sang “Jesus loves me, this I know.”  I remember another VBS, sitting the pews at St. Thomas Episcopal Church singing, “If I were a butterfly,” and thanking God for “making me me.”  I remember Sunday school classes and sermons and confirmation classes that all, in their own way, showed me the love of God.  I also remember those stories, sermons, and lessons that reminded me of God’s judgment as well.  I remember the story of Adam and Eve: how they had eaten of the tree of good and evil and were punished.  I remember hearing the story of Noah: how God had become so disappointed with the world that God decided to start over by flooding it, killing nearly every living thing.  Some of those stories are difficult for us adults to understand, let alone children, but they, like the numerous stories of God’s love, are important for us to hear.  The fullness of God’s story is a story of God’s hope for a full and perfect relationship with humankind, our ongoing ability to screw that up spectacularly, the repercussions of broken relationship, and God’s loving work to restore the hope of a full and perfect relationship.

It is right in the middle of that ongoing pattern that we find ourselves in the lesson from the Acts of the Apostles this Third Sunday of Easter.  Each Easter season, instead of reading from the Hebrew Bible, we read selections from Acts.  In Year A, we spend three weeks on Peter’s Pentecost sermon.  Last week, it was a pretty in-depth exegetical study of the prophet Joel.  This week we hear a summation of Peter’s sermon and the crux of salvation history.  Because of God’s passionate desire for right relationship, God the Father sent God the Son in the person of Jesus.  Although humanity killed Jesus, God raised him to his rightful place as Lord and Messiah.  Peter preached this sermon to a fairly significant crowd.  It was the Day of Pentecost, a Jewish festival that occurs fifty days after the Passover during which they remember the gift of the Law and offer God the first fruits of the grain harvest.  Jerusalem was teeming with spiritual tourists.  Jews from around the known world were gathered to offer their first fruits in hopes of a successful harvest when the city was brought into confusion by a loud noise like a rushing wind, and a cacophony of voices, each speaking in a different language.  Every visitor for blocks heard the Good News of God’s mighty acts in their own native tongue.  Thousands packed in tightly around the disciples’ house to see what was happening.

There, amidst an increasingly raucous crowd, Peter shared the Good News of God’s love.  They were cut to the heart by his message.  They had never heard such preaching.  Sure, like many generations before them, the crowd gathered had hoped for the Messiah.  They had prayed that God would restore the fortunes of Zion.  They longed to find right relationship with God, but few of them really expected anything to change.  Yet here, on this Pentecost Day, something was different.  This word from Peter was like a word straight from God’s own lips.  This word was both judgment and love.  It cut them to the very core, and they pleaded with Peter and the rest, “Brothers, what should we do?”

As it turns out, the proper response to God’s love is actually quite simple: “repent and be baptized.”  Repent is a ten-cent church word that has lost much of its meaning over time.  After years of only hearing it from television preachers and street corner evangelists, repentance has come to mean something like “feeling guilty because you’re a wretched mess of a sinner,” but that isn’t exactly what Peter meant when he told the crowd to metanoio.  The first step toward right relationship with God is to change your mind, to change your direction, to change your focus, and ultimately, to change your actions.  That’s what repentance is all about.  It has very little to do with feeling guilty or sad, and everything to do with turning away from the old life of sin and turning toward life eternal in right relationship with God.  You can feel sorry for doing something, and go right on doing it.  What God desires is a transformed life.  “After that,” Peter says, “then you should be baptized in the name of Jesus so that your sins can be washed away and receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.”  That’s it.  Repent and be baptized.  Eventually, this two fold action of repentance and baptism was made symbolic in the baptismal liturgy itself.  Immediately before being immersed, the new Christians would face west, the direction of the sunset and gathering darkness, and be asked three times to renounce Satan and the forces of evil.  They would then turn to face east, the direction of the sun rise and the return of the light of the world, and three times would proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ.  To this day, the liturgy for Holy Baptism mirrors that ancient rite, which makes today is a perfect day for a baptism.

Our newest Christian is Christopher James Chaffin [who will be baptized at 10 o’clock this morning]. He isn’t even two months old yet, but I’d be willing to bet that he has already heard the Good News that God loves him more times than we can count.  He’s experienced the love of God through the care of his parents, Justin and Jamie, and his siblings Meredith and Benjamin, his extended family, and the people of Christ Church.  In a few minutes, [it’ll happen at the later service, but you still have a part in this] we will join with his parents and Godparents in promising that we will do all in our power to support Christopher in his life in Christ.  We, the people of Christ Church, on behalf of all Christians, will promise to make sure Christopher knows that God loves him both in word and action.

There isn’t much that a less than two-month old baby gets to decide on his own.  His days are basically made up of automatic bodily functions and being carried from one place to another.  He is not in need of repentance… yet.  Likewise, there isn’t much sin that needs to be washed away from Christopher… yet.  But it will come.  When Christopher does begin trying to walk in his own path, it’ll be his family: nuclear, extended, and church that will be here to remind him of the right pathway to God.

What will come true today is the final promise of Peter to the crowd gathered to hear that Pentecost sermon.  Christopher James Chaffin will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit this morning.  The Spirit will work alongside the rest of us to remind him of God’s unending love.  The Spirit will convict him when he begins to stray the wrong way.  The Spirit will help him to repent by making right choices and walking toward God’s love.  And the Spirit will do the work of fulfilling our prayer for Christopher this day, that he might be given “an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love [God], and the gift of joy and wonder in all [God’s] works.”

Some of us are blessed to remember the first time we heard the Good News that God loves us, but for many of us, that news has been a part of our lives since before we ever existed.  Christopher Chaffin is blessed in knowing God’s love every day of his life, and we are blessed to be a part of sharing that love with him.  He won’t always do the right thing.  God’s redemption story will be just as true for him as it is for me and you, but in the end, the only truth that really matters is that God loves him, God loves you, and God wants to be in perfect relationship with all of us.  So, repent, remember your baptism, receive the forgiveness of sins, and lean into the gift of the Spirit for discernment, courage, love, joy, and wonder.  Amen.

The Power of Baptism

John the Baptist, as has been well document, is a popular character in the Revised Common Lectionary.  So popular, in fact, that in Year A, we get to hear the same story about his encounter with Jesus two weeks in a row.  Last Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, gave us Matthew’s version.  This week, we get John the Evangelist’s take on the events.  Usually, I would begrudge this situation, and that will likely come as the week wears on and a sermon feels out of reach, but this morning, I’m still basking in the glow of the power of a baptism.

See, a funny thing happened on my way to my first service at Christ Episcopal Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  As these things happen, the Senior Warden and I negotiated a start date that allowed me some time to move and settle, while not crushing either my savings account or the church’s willingness to wait for me.  The Feast of the Baptism of our Lord seemed appropriate, given that it too marked the beginning of something new.  Immediately, I decided that we would follow the rubric on 312 of the Book of Common Prayer and substitute the Renewal of Baptismal Vows for the Nicene Creed at both services.  Ah, but wait, there was a young child whose parents were desirous of baptism, and so it was scheduled at the 8 am service.  But wait again, the godparents were unavailable on the 8th, so we would wait.

At about 7:45 on Sunday morning, a godparent arrived, gift bag in hand, certain that the baptism was happening.  Roughly 5 minutes later, mom, dad, and baby arrived.  Grandparents were there too, but none of us really thought a baptism was happening.  It had been postponed.  Then, at 7:57, as the altar party gathered for prayer, one of the chalice bearers, who was facing the family, spoke up.  “They are putting a baptismal gown on that baby,” she said.  So guess what?  We baptized a baby at 8am.  Thanks to a great team of altar guild members, an awesome deacon, and others who were willing to simply go with the flow, we pulled off baptismal prep in 3 minutes.

As we reached the point in the service when the baptism happens, I took baby Ryder into my arms, and something powerful happened.  There wasn’t a dove descending from heaven.  No voice spoke from above.  Instead, as I held that unfamiliar child in the middle of an unfamiliar space, I saw the face of Jesus.  Just like John the Baptist in our Gospel lesson for Sunday, I realized that God shows up in unexpected places and at unexpected times.  It was, as I told friends later, glorious and hectic and maddening and all the stuff the church is supposed to be, and it was so because God arrived, in the person of a little baby, and invited us to show him hospitality.  Thanks be to God for a wonderful start, even if it was a little harried, and for the opportunity to see Christ in the face of one of his most precious children.

Sealed for the Day of Redemption

If you’ve hung around this blog for even a short period of time, you probably know by now that I am an unabashed church nerd.  I love our liturgy and I love to study liturgy.  I love our history and I love to study history.  I’m not big on vestments, but I love to know the theology and history behind them.  In The Episcopal Church, there is one service that stands above all the others when it comes to church nerdery at its finest, the Ordination of a Bishop.  Here in the Central Gulf Coast, we had the opportunity to celebrate just such a service a few weeks ago, as we welcomed our Fourth Bishop, the Right Reverend Russell Kendrick.  For all the pomp and circumstance that went on during the more than two-and-a-half hour service, the piece that I find most intriguing happened hours earlier and for the most part, went totally unnoticed until the official pictures were posted today.

Photo by Cindy McCrory of Blue Room Photgraphy.

The Signing and Sealing of the Ordination Certificate is, for me, one of the coolest parts of an episcopal ordination.  It signifies that new bishop’s place in something much larger than the particular diocese two which they have been called.  The wax seals, made with the ring of each bishop in attendance, shows that the new bishop is part of a bigger church, the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church that encompasses every denomination and every Christian since the disciples stood, staring slack-jawed at the bottom of Jesus’ feet on Ascension Day.

It also signifies the seal that every disciple of Jesus wears upon their forehead, the seal that Paul speaks on in his letter to the Ephesians that we will hear read on Sunday.  We who have been baptized are sealed by and with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption.  We are marked as belonging to the tribe of Christ, the family of God.  We wear upon our foreheads the sign and symbol of the redeemed, the same seal worn by Peter, Paul and Priscilla; Augustine, Francis, and Teresa; William Reed Huntington, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The seals on Bishop Russell’s ordination certificate should remind each of us of the seal we wear upon our foreheads, the seal that sets us apart as sinners restored and disciples of Jesus Christ.  The seals should remind us of our place in the Church catholic throughout the generations.  The seals should remind us of the work to which each of us has been called, reconciling the human beings to God and to each other through the love of God, the mercy of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

“You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own for ever.”
The Book of Common Prayer, page 308

Summing Up Discipleship

Most Episcopalians are familiar with the opening rite to the baptismal service.  Most probably dont realize that “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Perhaps they will notice on Sunday when the fourth chapter finds its place in the Lectionary.  I may say more about those famous lines later in the week, but today I’m struck by the sentence that comes immediately prior in which Paul does his best to summarize what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Humility, gentleness, patience, love, unity, peace and above all the Spirit: these are the hallmarks of a live seeking after the kingdom whether you’ve been a disciple for 15 minutes or 100 years; whether you are a layperson or a bishop.  It starts with the Spirit through whom we are strengthened to endure the hard work that is peace and love and patience. Inviting Jesus into your life is only the first step in the path to salvation. The lifelong journey that begins in baptism assumes that your will join with the Spirit in seeking after the goals of the kingdom.

I wonder why the baptismal liturgy doesn’t go back to include Ephesians 4:1 explicitly?  The Bapismal Covenant assumes many of the items from Paul’s discipleship but oddly we skip the overt biblical citation, we pass over these beautiful words and never look back.  I’m not preaching on Sunday, not for another five weeks in fact, but if I were, I might spend some time on these seven keys to discipleship. After all, you’ll have plenty of time to deal with the Bread of Life Discourse.

Experiencing Resurrection – #Acts8 BLOGFORCE

This week’s Acts 8 BLOGFORCE Challenge invites us to share stories of resurrection:

As we move through the latter weeks of the Easter season, it’s important to keep the story in our heads.  There’s a lot of doom and gloom around cultural change and restructuring, but we are a people of the Resurrection.  The BLOGFORCE question before us:  “Where have you experienced resurrection, either in the church or otherwise, this Holy Week and Easter Season?”

I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this week’s question; thinking back over the particularities of Holy Week and Easter.  We had our first “real” Palm Sunday procession this year: eight blocks from the main intersection in town to our front walk.  Evening Prayer was delightful, with meditative music, provocative lessons, and earnest prayers.  Maundy Thursday is always challenging, but I got away with not having my feet washed, and I knew that God loves me.  Good Friday, as I read the Passion from John’s Gospel, I felt the tears welling up, and remembered what it was all about.  And then there’s Easter Day, what can you say about a day so bright and glorious.

Even as I took the time to remember all those events, I felt like I was still missing the point.  I had done plenty, but I wasn’t sure I had actually experienced resurrection.  Sometimes I’m not even sure I know what that means.  Life is just so busy, I wonder how much I really experience anything.  And then I remembered this weekend.

On Saturday morning, we buried a Saint.  It was one of those times where the procession leaves the church, but doesn’t require police assistance or a pretty white hearse.  We left the Narthex and turned right into the Memorial Garden where the Committal immediately followed.  As the service concluded, I raised my arm to offer the blessing, which is one of my favorites:

The God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant: Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight; and the blessing of God almighty: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you this day now, and forever more.  Amen. (BCP 486-7, I’ve apparently changed the ending in my memory, this is the version I say, which is not what is actually in the Prayer Book)

On Sunday morning, we baptized a Saint.  We welcomed the three-month old granddaughter of our Rector into the household of God.  The church was packed, the music was glorious, and my arms felt as if they were floating as I stood in the Orans position during the Eucharistic Prayer.  As the service concluded, I raised my arm to offer the blessing, the same blessing as the day before, the blessing appropriate for Eastertide, for Good Shepherd Sunday, and for a baptism, and I almost didn’t make it through.  It was in that moment, as I pronounced God’s blessing upon the gathered body of Christ, that I experienced resurrection.

Things aren’t perfect at Saint Paul’s.  Finances are tight.  Average Sunday Attendance has plateaued.  A group of people don’t like the music or the noisy children or whatever.  As much as I hate to admit it, Saint Paul’s is pretty much like every other church in the world.  We have our ups and down: good times and bad.  I’ve been bummed about this realization.  After eight years of hard work, I want to only have good stories to tell.  I want it to be fun all the time, but as I raised my hand to bless the people on Sunday, I felt peace and joy that only comes from God.  As I struggled to get those words out, I knew that God was in control, that his work and his will are to be done, that even when it isn’t going the way I want it to, as long as we remain faithful, it will head in the direction God wants it to.  I felt relieved, and for the first time in longer than I’d like to admit, I got out of my head and experienced the moment again.  I experienced God’s blessing pouring down upon his people, and upon me.  I experienced all of heaven rejoicing at the baptism one tiny little baby.  I experienced resurrection.

Serving Christ

Thanks to the Holy Spirit and scheduling conflicts, we’ll be baptizing three people at the 10am service on the Fifth Sunday in Lent.  I can hear the grumbling from my Anglo-Catholic friends, and while I agree baptisms on Easter would be preferred, I think a baptism smack in the middle of Lent works just fine, especially on Lent 5B.

Here’s what Jesus says about discipleship in Sunday’s Gospel lesson. “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”

Here’s what the Baptismal Covenant says, at least in part, about discipleship, “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.”

The life of discipleship is a life of service to Christ and neighbor.  Jesus tells us that plainly as he approaches the cross, and the Church makes it equally clear for those who would come to be baptized in Christ, sharing in his death and resurrection.  So what does it look like to serve Jesus?  Like I said on Monday, it is about loving our neighbor so much that they are compelled to ask why.  Serving Jesus looks like caring for the poor through food pantries, homeless shelters, and advocacy.  Serving Jesus looks like caring for the middle class by teaching them that the American Dream isn’t the be all and end all, that he who dies with the most toys still dies, that life is more than soccer games, good grades, and eating dinner in the car.  Serving Jesus looks like challenging the rich to share their blessings with those less fortunate, to give generously to the Church, and to take good care of those in their employ.  Serving Jesus looks like reaching beyond our selves to ensure that the whole world can see and know that Jesus Christ loves everything and everyone he created.

What should we do?

I grew up in one of the few remaining strongholds of the Anabaptist faith tradition.  From the Greek meaning “to re-baptize,” the name Anabaptist was a pejorative used by their opponents to highlight what was deemed the heretical nature of their baptismal theology.  Not unlike our conservative evangelical brothers and sisters, for the Anabaptist, if baptism is to be considered genuine, it must be coupled with an adult profession of faith.  The Anabaptists took this to the extreme, re-baptizing those who had been baptized as infants.  Of course, they don’t see it as re-baptism, since the first washing couldn’t have been a baptism because it lacked an adult confession.  It’s complicated.

Anyway, not too long ago someone who was baptized after the age of reason, but now as an adult is realizing that the faith of their youth has long since been stagnant, asked if one could be baptized more than once.  Of course, the answer is no, we believe in “one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all,” but as I re-read the end of Peter’s great sermon in Acts 2, I realized what my friend was really asking is, “brother, what should I do?”

The life of faith is lived minute but minute, one decision at a time.  We often fall short of the ideal, that is to say, we’re all sinners, and there are moments when the depth of our sinfulness becomes a weight too heavy to bear.  What should we do?

Peter tells the crowd to “Repent and be baptized.”  Those of us who have already been washed clean in the waters of baptism, don’t have that choice, but we certainly can “Repent and recall or renew our baptisms.”  Since we didn’t do the Easter Vigil, it has been a while since the Saint Paul’s community has had a chance to renew our baptismal vows, and since we’ve got this great moment from Acts as our first lesson on Sunday, since we’ll be at one of our favorite baptismal spots, on the shores of Week’s Bay


it seems like a perfect opportunity to remember our own commitments, to renew our vows, and to decide yet again to live for the Kingdom of God.

The Renewal of Baptismal Vows

Celebrant  Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil and
renew your commitment to Jesus Christ?
People      I do.

Celebrant  Do you believe in God the Father?
People        I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

Celebrant  Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
People        I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Celebrant  Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
People        I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Celebrant  Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and
fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the
People        I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant  Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever
you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People        I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant  Will you proclaim by word and example the Good
News of God in Christ?
People        I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant  Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving 

               your neighbor as yourself?
People        I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant  Will you strive for justice and peace among all people,
and respect the dignity of every human being?
People        I will, with God’s help.

The Celebrant concludes the Renewal of Vows as follows

May Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and
bestowed upon us the forgiveness of sins, keep us in eternal
life by his grace, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.