The 16th century German reformer Martin Luther reminded his congregation to “Remember your baptism daily.” It was his equivalent of the line from The Lion King in which young Simba is told in a vision of his father to “Remember who you are.” From the beginning of the church, baptism has been the ritual marking one’s entrance into the Christian faith and community. Remembering our baptism means remembering who we are, every day: people who find life through Christ, and seek to live his Way.
In traditions like the United Church of Christ which practices infant baptism, another rite also arose: confirmation. In that ceremony, persons who were baptized as babies take time to intentionally learn about what it means to be a Christian, and make a public confession of their faith confirming the vows and intent of the baptism. They commit to being a part of the faith and the church.
Of course, sometimes things don’t go quite by the book. In a church I served in rural Indiana, some of the youth in the confirmation class each year had not been baptized as infants. They weren’t necessarily sure they wanted to commit to following Jesus. So they learned about the faith, and then made their decision. All the students who chose, were confirmed in the spring at Pentecost. But those who had not been baptized asked if they could actually postpone their baptisms until September, when the local church held an outdoor service on a farm and offered immersion baptism. These young people wanted a baptism that was rich in meaning for them; a full immersion, done outdoors, surrounded by their faith family, followed by a potluck celebration, cemented for them the power of the sacrament. So we played a little loose with the theology of it all, “confirming” vows that were actually first-time vows, and baptizing later. But you can bet that not a one of them will ever forget their baptism — and, we hope, remember to live it daily.
This coming Sunday, October 11, we’ll have our first Intergenerational Second Sunday 2nd Hour event, exploring the sacrament of baptism together. This learning opportunity is intended for adults, teens, and children from about second grade and up. Child care will be available for younger children. We’ll meet after worship and coffee fellowship at about 11:20 am and conclude by 12:30 pm at the latest. If you were baptized and have a baptismal photograph, certificate, gown, or other memorabilia, please bring it with you; we’ll have some time to “remember our baptisms” in the literal sense, as well as be reminded to live our identity in Christ daily.
Again last week, we heard news of a mass shooting in the U.S., this time on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. This tragedy claimed thirteen lives.
Have we forgotten other deadly shootings of recent years, pushed out of our awareness by the most recent story?
And these are just the ones that make the news. With a definition of “mass shooting” as four or more persons killed by guns in a single incident, there have been 294 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2015 as of October 1, according to the website shootertracker.com. Some of these are premeditated acts, some random. But all end the lives of at least four of God’s precious children.
The issue of violence perpetrated with guns in the U.S. cries out for response from those of us who follow Jesus. No other nation has the same complicated relationship with firearms that this nation has. Finding solutions to reduce this tragic loss of life will be difficult, due to our unique story, our culture, and the current positions of the gun lobby.
Last month a small group of faith leaders in Duluth met to begin work on a local summit on gun safety. Besides mass shootings, lives are lost or damaged by use of firearms in the commission of other crimes, in gang warfare, suicide, and accidents. The summit, tentatively scheduled for next February, provides an organized means for beginning to respond systemically to the gun-related tragedies we experience daily in our country.
If you want to learn more about this effort, contact me at Pilgrim Church. When the date of the summit is set, we will help publicize it on this site. In the meantime, hold victims’ families in your prayers, and begin to educate yourself on this complex, critical issue and the wide range of possible actions to save lives (for example, this resource from the Episcopal Church: A Christian Response to Gun Violence). Together, we work for the Peaceable Kingdom.