First Sunday after the Epiphany
The Sacrament of Baptism
During the Moravian Church’s sacrament of baptism, the officiating clergy states, “Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted baptism as the visible means of entry into the new covenant.” I have always found this statement jarring. After all, as depicted on the cover of this Sunday’s bulletin, John the Baptist baptized his cousin Jesus. So, Jesus did not initiate the practice of baptism; he “instituted” baptism.
We experience this institution in a beautifully crafted liturgy. The sacrament of baptism is a rite of passage. Likely, the most familiar element of this ritual is the anointing with water. But a closer consideration reveals that there is much more, and it is truly meaningful. If the ceremony were only the actions of the minister with water, the full import of baptism would not occur. Understandably, the focus of the ceremony is often the individual being baptized, commonly an infant. But significantly, our sacrament of baptism also includes roles for adults. Here is where parents, sponsors, and congregants offer pledges, oaths, vows, and promises. In doing so, they explicitly profess their faith. All commit to participate actively in Christ’s church.
Through an earnest and sincere investment in an active faith, all members of Christ’s body can celebrate the new covenant. The full realization of the new covenant may be elusive, but the Moravian Church’s sacrament of baptism declares that the new covenant will provide grace through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s summarize. Here are the requirements for adults from the baptismal ceremony: faith cannot be passive, it must be active; faith cannot be rote recitation, it must be a sincere and active expression of Christ’s fundamental commandment: to love one another.
This is a tall order. I find myself deeply challenged each time I participate in the sacrament of baptism. And you?
Steve Krawiec, Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania