Yesterday I disclosed that I was baptized twice: when I was an infant and again in a youth group that told me my first baptism was illegitimate. I now see that this was clearly a denominational doctrinal difference, and I embrace my infant baptism as the real one. That second one was just a celebration of what I already had done. Or something like that. Or I was just emotionally manipulated into getting baptized again. One of the two.

It’s not like my Methodist church threw some water on me as an infant then left me to my own devices to figure out this God-stuff. Churches who baptize infants have something called Confirmation. It’s like, part two of baptism. When I was in sixth grade, I went through a class with my peers, where we learned the basics of the faith, the ins and outs of Methodism, and we served people. A lot. After months of Sunday evenings in Confirmation, we had the opportunity to choose for ourselves to join the church, Some kids did, some didn’t. And before we joined, we “remembered our baptism.”

Now, this was before my second baptism, so I couldn’t literally remember my baptism. But it was another symbol. A way for us to confirm our own baptism in our lives – to confirm that God had been at work before we could even remember, and that God is continuing to work now. The pastor even sprinkled some water on us. Then we joined the church, answering these questions:

Pastor: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?

6th Grade Melissa: I do.

Pastor: Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

6th Grade Melissa: I do.

Pastor: Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

6th Grade Melissa: I do.

 

I mean, that’s pretty big stuff for a chubby 12-year-old girl with braces and too much Sun-In in her hair. But I believed that stuff, man. And I took that seriously. (Three cheers for my Confirmation teacher and mentor – they worked so hard to make sure we knew what we were getting ourselves into!)

When people join the UMC, they accept this as the covenant in which they will live from now on. This is literally a new identity – we’re defined by this stuff. This covenant is the manifesto by which we live. We renounce, reject, and repent of our sin; we take hold of the freedom offered to us in Christ to resist the evil in this world; and we trust wholly in Christ and promise to serve Him with the global church, which includes everyone.

This is a new paradigm for seeing the world. We name the bad stuff, we turn away from it, we take hold of the power to live differently, and we do that in partnership with people different from us.

For the rest of the week, I’m going to focus on the three R words: renounce, reject, and repent. But for today, reread the baptismal covenant. How has this shaped how you live in the past? How will it guide you today?

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