I love baptisms. I love the stories, the memories that are made, and the amazing promises that happen at a baptism.
I am a United Methodist through and through. My experiences are pretty freaking Methodist, so this post will be mostly Methodist.
When we make our initial vow in front of the body of Christ when we are presented for Holy Baptism, to “renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin,” (Standard Book of Worship) we are not just renouncing the spiritual forces that we struggle with as individuals. We are also rejecting the evil powers that are loose in the world. Likewise, we are not just repenting of our sins as individuals.
We are also repenting of the sins of humankind as a whole.
Today we are going to have a VERY brief review of the three promises we make in baptism; renouncing, rejecting, and repenting.
To RENOUNCE is a fundamental act of treason. It is to break allegiance to a power or authority to which one had previously given allegiance and service. From the earliest examples of baptismal questions we have, renunciation of Satan or the devil (spiritual forces of wickedness, we say) always comes first. Because you cannot make new alliances until your old ones are broken.
This step follows biblical precedent. The very first story we hear of Jesus after his baptism in the wilderness is his renunciation of Satan. Jesus makes it clear where his allegiances lie, and he shows the way for all who would follow him. (Luke 4:1-13)
It also follows the pattern of centuries of practice when you seek citizenship in a new realm or country. You first breaks allegiance to the realm or sovereign of the people from which you have come from and only then you pledge allegiance to the new realm or sovereign.
To REJECT the evil powers of this world is a phrase that kinda makes me think I’m watching the exorcist. The English word “reject” comes from the Latin “reicere,” which means “to throw out”– and so translates the Greek verb “ekballein,” which is often used to describe what Jesus does to demons (to cast out, to throw out). When we pledge to reject evil, we are promising to do more than just not do evil things. We are promising to throw out, to cast out, to shut the door behind any evil powers that seek to control with us or use us in anyway. So we not only break allegiances, we also commit not to allow evil any sway in our lives. (Psalm 51:10) John Wesley’s first two simple rules cover this when he says “do good” and “do no harm.”
To REPENT of our sin (yeah, SIN. I did it on purpose) means more than feeling sorry or guilty for bad things we have done in the past. The Hebrew verb behind repent (shuv) means “to turn from.” The promise we make is not just to turn from “sins” (actions that bring harm) but “sin” itself.
The singular points less to individual actions and more toward whole patterns of life. So we here commit to turn and walk away from those patterns of life, habits, and behaviors that damage others and/or our relationships with God, with the earth, and with our neighbors. (Luke 5:31-32)
This week is going to be our best week yet on the Hipster Ginger. Because everyday we have a guest post from one of my all time favorite people, Melissa Collier Gepford. Melissa will bringing us way more eloquent words than I ever could on the topics of baptism, social justice, and faith.
Back story on Melissa: I first met Melissa in seminary at Perkins School of Theology. She was sitting behind me in Dr. Cardoza’s Christian History class and we were kinda drawn to each other. She thought it was great that I knew where Ouachita Baptist University was and that I said out loud on my first day of seminary that I would “slice” anyone who called me Katy Perry. I liked her because she was tiny and loud and wasn’t wearing any makeup. She also really seemed to know exactly what was going on and her energy just drew me in.
Melissa quickly became one of my closest friends and confidants. She is one of my soul mates. Her soul and my soul are connected on a deeper level that I don’t understand. One of my favorite memories of being with Melissa is when we stayed up too late, watching Aladdin, and drinking a bottle of wine. She is hilarious, witty, and incredibly intelligent (not to mention super gorgeous). Melissa and her husband, the Rev. Bill Gepford, are currently serving a congregation in Kansas.
I can’t wait to share her words with you everyday. She is truly a gifted writer and I know you will love her as much as I do.
Have an excellent Monday!
Peace be with you.