Note from the Editor: Enjoy this...fascinating sermon from Rev. Omar Al-Rikabi. In a first for Wesleyan Accent, we recommend listening for ages 13 and…
I have found that this is a good way to keep before the family and the child the meaning of baptism and to remind the parents of the promise they made to God during the baptism to do all they can to raise their child in the faith.
For example, we often describe a “sacrament” as an outward sign of an inward and spiritual grace, but then we limit ourselves by thinking of sacraments only in terms of the two which Christ established: baptism and the Eucharist. Wesley, on the other hand, prodded us to think more deeply and expansively about all the means of grace which, for Wesley, is a much larger category than baptism and Eucharist. John Paul II makes the point that Christ is not the only one who provides sacramental means of grace. There are sacraments which flow from the Father and the Spirit. We will actually explore how marriage is the primordial sacrament later in this series. But, for now, let us lay the groundwork that your physical body itself is a kind of sacrament. It is an outward sign of an inward and spiritual grace, because we have been created in the image of God.
“I hope you’ll always remember that God loves you so much—more than I can even say—and has a wonderful plan for your life. We at the Church are here to help you discover the special life that God made you to live.”
Every year until the child participates in confirmation, in the days leading up to the child’s baptismal anniversary I send a letter marking the occasion. I also include an age-appropriate gift, like a children’s book. I have found that this is a good way to keep before the family and the child the meaning of baptism and to remind the parents of the promise they made to God during the baptism to do all they can to raise their child in the faith.
Another factor in baptism pertains to ongoing spiritual instruction and development after the actual baptism. While not limited to infant baptisms—since post-baptismal nurture is important for any person regardless of that person’s age at the time of baptism—this factor has particular significance in the case of infants who are baptized.
The more Christians link Communion with spiritual formation and daily faith practice, the more likely the church will be invigorated and empowered to carry out its missional mandate to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Through the service of Communion, the church remembers and celebrates the presence of God with us.
I have heard numerous people in various ecclesial and academic contexts use this reformulation as if it were the direct equivalent of the original. What I have not heard, however, is much in the way of critical reflection upon such usage. “Stay in love with God” is perhaps easier to say (and memorize) and sounds more modern than the rather cumbersome original, “attend upon all the ordinances of God.” Yet does that new, popularized rendering accurately express the point that Wesley was trying to make? At a deeper level, is the phrase “stay in love with God” theologically adequate?