Faith Passages

Baptism

Baptism is the assurance of God’s forgiveness and love. We believe God welcomes and loves us, the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus witness to this. Jesus accepted baptism from John witnessing to God’s approval of the act.

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented.” (Matthew 3:13-15)

Jesus offers baptism to Christians as a promise of our relationship with him.

Baptism is a sacrament. It is commanded by Jesus. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, . . .” (Matthew 28:19). It offers salvation, “we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” And it does this with an earthly sign, water.

Baptism is an act of God. Neither the words of the pastor nor the water that is poured on the person makes baptism a sacrament. God’s promise to use the water and the words makes significant that which by itself is only a sign.

Baptism is a powerful sign that nurtures faith. We believe that each day we are invited to remember our baptism. Like a marriage reminds a couple of their life long commitment to each other, our baptism is the assurance of our relationship in death and life to Jesus.

Who is baptized?

Baptism is for everyone. It is a great gift for the walk of faith. When adults inquire about the Christian faith, having never been baptized, our sharing and teaching is designed to encourage them to accept what God wants to offer them. When an adult believes in God and is gifted with faith in Christ as God’s self revelation of his love and purpose for all people, we rejoice to share the sacrament of Baptism as God’s covenant with us.

Lutherans, like many other Christian denominations, baptize the children of Christians. Because we are convinced of the love of God, we baptize our children believing we have the incredible privilege of sharing this sign of God’s love with them. It allows us to witness to them that before they chose God, God chose them. As parents and sponsors of the child, we have the responsibility to make promises before God, our congregation, and our children; of witnessing and teaching our children about the meaning of their baptism, encouraging the time when they may affirm their baptism as adults. We call this public affirmation, confirmation.

At St. Paul, we are eager to share this gift of God with all who seek it. Families who come to us with no relationship to the church are welcomed and conversation with the pastor encourages understanding and commitment for the baptism of their children.

Why don’t we do private baptisms?

When a person is baptized they become a Christian and a member of a congregation. The relationship is between Christ and the person, and Christ is known in his body, the church. At St. Paul, we do more than place names on our role. We join the parents and godparents in the taking of the baptismal vows. We seek to provide support and nurturing along with a program of Christian Education, first communion preparation, catechism, and life long learning as the Holy Spirit makes us disciples. Baptism is not a private event, but a communal welcome.

When does baptism happen?

Baptism is a service of the church and occurs regularly during any our Sunday morning worship times. Parents may schedule a time with the pastor. Sometimes we can have more than one baptism at a particular service and find that particularly meaningful.

Adults are often baptized during the reception of new members where others are joining by reaffirmation of faith or transfer from another Christian congregation. Families joining with unbaptized children may choose to have their children baptized at this time. Where circumstances seem to necessitate it, baptism may occur at other times.

Affirmation of Baptism

Affirmation of Baptism may be used at many times in the life of a baptized Christian. It is especially appropriate as part of a process of formation in faith in youth or adulthood (confirmation), at the time of beginning one’s participation in a community of faith, as a sign of renewed participation in the life of the church, or at the time of a significant life passage (ELW, 234). 

Marriage

Marriage is a gift of God, intended for the joy and mutual strength of those who enter it and for the well-being of the whole human family. God blessed humankind with gifts of companionship, the capacity to love, and the care and nuture of children. Jesus affirmed the covenant of marriage and revealed God’s own self-giving love on the cross. The Holy Spirit helps those who are united in marriage to be living signs of God’s grace, love, and faithfulness. Marriage is also a human estate, with vows publicly witnessed. The church in worship surrounds these promises with the gathering of God’s people, the witness of the word of God, and prayers of blessing and intercession (ELW, 286). 

Funerals

At a person’s death, the church shares the grief of those who mourn and remembers the brevity of life on earth. At the funeral we give voice to sorrow, thank God for our loved one, and entrust this companinon of ours into the hands of God. Trusting in God’s promise in baptism that we are claimed by Christ forever, we rest in the sure hope in the resurrection. When the church gathers to mark the end of life, Christ crucified and risen is the witness of worship, the strength of mutual consolation, and the hope of healing (ELW, 279).

What’s next?

If you are interested in learning more about any of these faith passages for yourself or for your children please contact Pastor Goodman via the church office.

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Arlington, MA 02476