Old Habits Die Hard April 25, 2011Posted by Matt in church, family.
Tags: baptism, correction, universal church
Consider this a slight correction on my earlier post about Easter Sunday and the baptisms of our children.
In the posting, I made the statement that my kids were baptized into The Episcopal Church. A nice lady from our church (the same one whose feet I washed on Maundy Thursday) gently corrected me and said that they are considered to have been baptized into the universal church, not a specific group. I like that sentiment even better.
Coming from a background that is oftentimes best described by its exclusivity, the idea that people are baptized into a specific church, whether Church of Christ or Baptist or whatever else, is second nature. I guess vocabulary will be yet another hurdle that we will need to overcome.
But, I’m okay with that. The idea of a universal church is so much more appealing anyway.
Another Easter Note April 25, 2011Posted by Matt in Holy Week.
Tags: baptism, Easter Sunday, hot candlewax hurts, St. Timothy's Episcopal Church
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Or, how my daughter almost burned down the church
Our six year old daughter Bekah has two unfortunate personality traits: she is both highly dramatic and terribly accident-prone, so we should have realized from the beginning that the Sunday baptism of our three kids would not go on without a hitch.
The baptisms were complete and Fr. Patrick called us over to him, saying that he had something else for them and that was when he handed each of the children (well, he gave Jackson’s to me) a special candle that was lit to commemorate our special day. Bekah made it almost back to our front row pew before she let out a blood-curdling scream, piercing through the quiet atmosphere of the church like a sharpened blade. I turned just in time to see her drop the lit candle to the carpet beneath.
It turns out that the hot candle wax dripped past the protective ring and landed on her hand, giving her a painful jolt that she overreacted to in a manner keeping with her character. Diana quickly grabbed her up and ran the screaming child to the bathroom to wash away the waxy remnants of the candle causing her such pain. As they made their exit, I looked down at the spot where the burning instrument had landed, fearing that soon the entire nave would be engulfed in a Dantean inferno.
But soon my fear gave way to relief as I saw that somehow, someway, the candle had been extinguished. Maybe the rushing air from its fall put out the flame, perhaps the carpet was not as flammable as I feared, or, who knows, maybe there was even a little divine guidance, but whatever the reason, the candle was out.
Accident averted. Whew.
Easter: The New Life is Now April 24, 2011Posted by Matt in family, Holy Week.
Tags: baptism, conversion story, Easter Sunday, family, Sacrament, St. Timothy's Episcopal Church
At the conclusion of our Maundy Thursday service and all throughout our Good Friday one, the altar stood bare and naked, devoid of the usual ornamentation to bring about any sort of celebratory mood among the parishioners. And though we attended the Easter vigil at sundown (7:44pm) the night before, it was this morning that the gates were thrown open and the glorifying gaiety poured out across our little spot in Southaven, Mississippi.
Of course Easter is the day on which we celebrate that most important Christian symbol: the empty tomb of Jesus. This idea of resurrection and rebirth permeates the entire service, reverberating through now lavishly decorated nave and embedding itself in the very spirit of all those present. The celebration itself is consummated by the proclaiming of Alleluia, a word not uttered throughout the entirety of Lent, building the anticipation for this celebratory moment of moments.
For our family, this day had another all-important meaning infused into it, for this was the day when our three children would be baptized, thus cementing our place in the Episcopal Church and with the wonderful people of St. Timothy’s. It was a transformative day, a time that will no doubt stand as a turning point in all our lives as we move forward into the world, our newfound faith accompanying us. We were joined at today’s event by my mom and the Dennis family, one set of godparents for our children (the other set, Patrick and Jennifer, were of course already there). We sat on the front row on one side of the nave and the other young child being baptized and his family sat on the other.
We began the morning with the flowering of the cross when the children of the church covered a cross near the altar with flowers (Patrick gave us permission to take them from our neighbors if necessary. He said we could just tell them that the “Lord needed them.”) Once complete, the opening procession came down the aisle and Patrick stood before everyone with energy visibly coursing through him and let out the word that had gone unsaid for some 40 days plus Sundays, “Alleluia! Christ is risen!”
Following the readings (Jeremiah 31:1-6, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, Acts 10:34-43, and the Gospel reading: Matthew 28:1-10), Patrick gave his sermon for the week. His lesson for today’s service was a two headed creature, though he tied them both together well and in a way that I found to be quite profound. As you might expect, he spoke of the significance of the empty tomb and tied it to a discussion of baptism, specifically that of infants. “Baptism, is not for them,” he said as he motioned toward our children on the front row, “it is for us,” and he waved his hands toward the larger-than-normal crowd of parishioners. “They and you are already forgiven. That’s been taken care of. Jesus brought salvation to the entire world. Everybody. So, baptism is not about the individual, it’s about the community.” Baptism is then an affirmation, by the community, of what Jesus has already done for the world.
You know why I love this church? Because I’ve been saying some of these same things for years and it’s nice to actually get some sense of validation.
When the time came for the Sacrament to take place, those of us taking part in the service stood up across the front rows of the building and pronounced that we were presenting them to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. In case you’ve never witnessed an Episcopal Baptismal ceremony, it truly is a beautiful and meaningful thing and one in which the person being baptized, their parents and godparents, and the entire church takes part. It begins with the priest asking a series of questions of those being baptized and of those (parents and godparents) representing them. For example:
Priest: Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is brought up in the Christian faith and life?
Parents and Godparents: I will, with God’s help.
Priest: Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ?
Parents and Godparents: I will, with God’s help.
The questions then go through a litany of renouncing evil and promising to follow Jesus as Lord.
Next the entire congregation renews their own Baptismal Covenant, which is very similar in content to the Nicene Creed, in a question and answer format, and then say a prayer of thanksgiving over the water.
After all of that, it was time for the baptisms. Patrick took one child at a time, holding the youngest ones and letting our oldest two step up to the baptismal font on their own. He then cupped the water in his hand and poured it over the child’s head three times, saying, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”
Following that, he then marked their foreheads with the sign of the cross, saying, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. Amen.”
Lastly he presented them to the congregation, saying, “Let us welcome the newly baptized.” The congregation then answers, “We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.”
It was really an awesome thing to witness.
The only thing that might have made it more memorable would have been if more family had been able to make it, but my dad injured himself last week, my brother and sister-in-law were out of town, and others declined. We were so glad to have mom there, though, and I wouldn’t have traded that for anything. Even though our practices in the Episcopal Church are somewhat foreign to her, she still wholeheartedly supports us and that means a lot.
So, I guess this means it’s official now. We are Episcopalians. I don’t think we could have made a better decision.
Godparents April 18, 2011Posted by Matt in church, family.
Tags: baptism, conversion, Easter Sunday, Episcopal Church, godparents
Coming from a Church of Christ background, the concept of godparents has always been foreign, seen as just a title reserved for Catholics and mafia dons, but with the baptisms of our children into the Episcopal Church quickly approaching, people began asking us who we were going to choose. First, of course, we inquired about what they are and who should be considered. As with most things, there isn’t a hard and definite answer (one more thing I love about the Episcopal Church), but we found that a godparent is someone entrusted to aid in the spiritual upbringing of another’s children, particularly if something were to happen to the parents. They can be anyone – family members, friends, etc.
Diana and I thought this over individually for some time before coming together to discuss and compare and perhaps build a consensus on whom we would choose in this important capacity. We soon discovered that there would be no need for compromise or negotiation, for we both had the same people in mind. So over the weekend we set out to ask each of them if they would do us the honor of being godparents for our three children. I’ll tell you a little bit about who we chose and why.
Diana and I have had very few good friends as a couple in our 12 years of marriage. I think much of this is probably due to how different we are from each other – I’m more introverted and introspective, while Diana is very open and willing to tell anybody anything. We complement each other well, but I think these differences (and probably others) have long had the tendency to drive others away. So, in the few times that we have had good, close relationships with others, we’ve treasured them above almost anything.
The first couple we chose as godparents for our children are James and Veronica, two people that have been the best friends we have ever had as a couple in the entirety of our marriage. We met them at our former church (where they still attend) and quickly became fast friends. Together we’ve been through a lot and we love them dearly, considering them to be part of our own family.
Secondly, we asked Patrick and Jennifer, a couple who we have only known for about six months, but with whom we have already created a close bond. Though Patrick and I are pretty close to the same age, I look at him as a spiritual mentor, perhaps the only one I have ever had in my adult life and ever since we met them at St. Tim’s back in the fall, our entire world has changed for the better. They have made an indelible impression on us and our lives will never be the same.
Easter Sunday is the big day when our children will be baptized and our place in the Episcopal Church will be firmly cemented. I couldn’t be happier.
The Next Step April 12, 2011Posted by Matt in The Church Search.
Tags: baptism, church of christ, conversion, Easter Sunday, Episcopal Church
It has been about 6 months since we left the denomination that Diana and I were both raised in, the Church of Christ, and struck out for different waters. It was not an easy decision, but both our changing convictions and some not-so-gentle nudging toward the door were enough to convince us that we needed to move on. With dejected spirits and a yearning for something meaningful and real, we blindly walked into the embrace of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church. I’ve written many, many times over the past few months about how we quickly fell in love with the church and the people, and today that sincere feeling of belonging continues unabated.
With our conversion experience barreling full steam ahead, we have now come to a point where a decision should be made. Do we consider this the end of the road? Are we prepared to be Episcopalians for life? Are we ready to raise our children in the Episcopal Church?
As you might gather from my past writings on the subject matter, the answer is a resounding yes. We’ve been transformed, our spirits have been renewed and rejuvenated, and today I could not imagine finding another place that fits us so perfectly.
So, the next item on the agenda is one that would probably make old Alexander Campbell turn over in his grave. We’re ready to get the kids baptized, all of them, and solidify our entrance into the church. It’s not an easy decision, especially when one considers our background in the CoC, where believer’s baptism at an arbitrary age of accountability is held in such high regard that choosing a different path (particularly that of the infant baptism practiced by TEC) is tantamount to sacrificing babies to the troll god and will no doubt result in our entire happy family burning in the fires of hell for all eternity. I’m sure we’ll hear these things from others, particularly those who don’t know us that well and haven’t been around to see the positive transformation our conversion has had on our lives, and while that’s unfortunate, I’m confident enough in our decision that it doesn’t matter.
So, Sunday we spoke with our priest, Patrick, and his wife, Jennifer, about this and told them we were ready. Together we decided on Easter Sunday for the day of our rebirth, our resurrection, as it were, into a new life.
Becoming a New Person in the New Year December 29, 2006Posted by Matt in Uncategorized.
Tags: baptism, Jesus
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Originally Posted 12/29/06
Following the nice response my blog entry about Jesus’ birth received, I’ve decided to turn this into a weekly(?) series looking at the life of Christ. Thank you all for reading and I hope my words will be somewhat edifying to you.
The dawn of a new year is again upon us. It’s a time when people around the globe will join together in a celebration of the times gone by – the triumphs and tragedies of the last 365 days of our mortal existence. It’s a time when we make resolutions for the coming year – promises that we forge with the goal of improving the quality of our short days in the realm of mortals. We wish to push the mistakes of the antecedental year behind us and reach forth to the auspicious future ahead. Like a snake shedding its skin, our aspiration if for regeneration – discarding the old self in favor of something new and better.
The idea of a rebirth, where we can become a new and different person, is one of great familiarity to Christians. It is the whole concept behind the ceremony of baptism, where we symbolically wash away the old person – glutted with the dirt and grime of our sinful past – and put on the new, clean self and though we will continue to mire ourselves in the mud of iniquity, we can now rest in veritable tranquility with the knowledge that we are a saved people.
Some 30 years after the birth of Jesus, but prior to the inauguration of His ministry, a man named John came on the scene teaching and baptizing people to provide a precursor to the coming Messiah. I’ve always kind of thought of John as this crazy hippy dude, living out in the wilderness, wearing animal skins and eating bugs, amassing a large following of people through his message of repentance of wrongdoings through water baptism.
I’ve spoken before of the significance of Jesus’ baptism, so I’m not going to get into the theological ramifications of the act now. If you read that past entry, you’ll see that I view the baptism of Jesus as an ordination, rather than as a symbolic gesture for forgiveness of sins. I wonder if, before Jesus approached a surprised John the Baptist, He really knew what was in store for Him over the next three years? Did He know that He would be rejected and betrayed and denied and ultimately die in a gruesome public execution? I’m intrigued by the idea that for the first 30 years of His life maybe He didn’t really know about His impending death or maybe He didn’t even comprehend of who He was. I wonder that if, when He took the step of baptism and subsequently received the Holy Spirit, the understanding of His duty and His imminent expiration was conferred to Him. Then when God spoke and said, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased,” He was bestowing His favor upon the Son for choosing the right path, regardless of the dark road of destiny before Him.
When we make the decision to follow Jesus, we will most likely not receive so profound a revelation. We will most likely not be given all understanding and knowledge of what lies ahead in our future, but there is one thing that will be made clear – the path will be open before us and we can be sure that it leads to an eternal life in heaven. There will be obstacles and tragedies along the way, we’ll stumble and fall and the road will be rough, but as long as we keep our eyes ahead and trudge along, paradise awaits.
So in the new year, let’s not just resolve to lose weight or succeed at work or beat the new Zelda game on the Wii, let’s set a new objective to transform ourselves into a new person – a person who esteems others higher than themselves and works to make our world a better place and who brings a few more people down the road to salvation.
Analyzing the Baptism of Jesus June 19, 2006Posted by Matt in Christian Beliefs.
Tags: baptism, high priest, Jesus
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Originally posted 6/19/06
Our church has just started a Wednesday night “growth group” program where small groups of people meet together in homes to study the Bible. Our initial study is one in which we will follow the life of Jesus by putting ourselves in the shoes (or sandals) of his followers to try and get to know the “real” Christ.
Our first meeting was this past Wednesday and we started with the event that is regarded as the beginning of the ministry of Jesus – His baptism. We began by talking about the event itself – how He was immersed by John the Baptist and then received the Holy Spirit on His emergence from the water – but then we started a discussion about the importance and purpose of His participation in this ceremony, which is where my personal opinion digressed from the general consensus of the group.
First there was the garden-variety CoC answer – “He did it as an example for us so that we would know baptism was necessary.” There were other similar ideas expressed too and I attempted to make my view, which I will get to shortly, but it didn’t come out quite as clear as I would have liked for it to have been. I’m not great at thinking on my feet (getting hit in the head with a semi truck will do that to you), but given some time and thought I think I can make my views a bit clearer.
Baptism was not a new idea when John stepped out of wilderness with a ratty old piece of fur wrapped around him and a stomach full of insects. The ceremony of John’s baptism (and the later Christian one) grew out of much older Jewish rites of cleansing and conversion. John’s baptism was one of repentance – people came to him, confessing their sins, to be immersed in water and wash their rebellions against God away.
In the Old Testament, there were various different washings that the laypeople and priests were to participate in. Many of them had the purpose of physical cleansing – a metaphor of John’s baptism where people cleansed their lives of filthy sins and were healed of them. There was also the ritural bathing (called a mikvah) where a Gentile could convert to Judaism – another metaphor to Christian baptism in which a person joins God’s people.
Jesus, though, was sinless and already a Jew. Our present-day Christian baptism is based on His burial and resurrection, which had of course not happened yet at the time of His immersion, so what was the purpose of it? I tend to disagree with those that say that the main reason for it was to be an example to us because what would it be an example of? Jesus fit none of the “qualifications” for baptism.
I believe that the baptism of Jesus involved none of these things – I believe it was for His ordination as a “High Priest.”
“This is what you are to do to consecrate them, so they may serve me as priests: Take a young bull and two rams without defect. 2And from fine wheat flour, without yeast, make bread, and cakes mixed with oil, and wafers spread with oil. 3Put them in a basket and present them in it—along with the bull and the two rams. 4Then bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and wash them with water. 5Take the garments and dress Aaron with the tunic, the robe of the ephod, the ephod itself and the breastpiece. Fasten the ephod on him by its skillfully woven waistband. 6Put the turban on his head and attach the sacred diadem to the turban. 7Take the anointing oil and anoint him by pouring it on his head. 8Bring his sons and dress them in tunics 9and put headbands on them. Then tie sashes on Aaron and his sons. The priesthood is theirs by a lasting ordinance. In this way you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.”
Jesus began his ministry following his baptism at the age of 30 (Luke 3:23), which corresponds directly with age that priests could begin their work (Numbers 4:3,47). While Christ was not a direct descendant of Aaron as given in the Luke and Matthew genealogies, John was (Luke 1:5) by his mother Elizabeth. John’s father, Zacharias, was also a priest (Luke 1:5) of the order of Abijah, meaning that the position was passed down to him. John then passed it on to Jesus by the washing with water, just as Moses conferred the priesthood on Aaron and his sons (Lev 8:6).
This is not even mentioning the numerous times in Hebrews where Jesus is called a Priest according to the order of Melchizedek – who was also not a Levite, but, as it says in Hebrews 7, the priesthood through him is far greater than that of the Levites.
The baptism of Jesus, therefore, was not for atoning of sins, it was not for converting to Judaism, I believe it was to anoint him as THE High Priest of all high priests.