Recently, I met up with someone who is working on her ordination paperwork. In this process for United Methodist ordination, candidates often meet with peers to discuss various topics to gain a more in depth understanding of the topic. Our discussion was about the Sacraments of our church and in particular we worked on baptism. Today I offer this refresher article on what baptism looks like with a Methodist understanding.
There are two types of baptism in the UM Church – infant baptism and adult baptism. Infant baptism is where the child is at an age where he or she cannot profess their faith in Jesus but the family wants to dedicate their child to God and bring their child up in a Christian environment. It is a covenant baptism, and I call it that because the church says they will help in raising the child in a Christian environment and the family says they will raise the child not only with the help of the church but in their own environment too. That sounds like a great plan doesn’t it?
Adult baptism is where a person can publically affirm their faith and desires to become a disciple of Jesus Christ; they believe that Jesus is the Son of God; and they believe that Jesus died and rose again on the third day, all for the forgiveness of their sin. They further attest that they will follow Jesus and grow as a mature Christian. The church also commits to receive them into our fellowship and to encourage them in their Christian walk too. Again, that sounds like a great plan doesn’t it?
So we have two great plans designed to mark a special time in a persons’ life when they have or are being committed to following Jesus Christ. One other thing I should add is we believe whole-heartedly that God is present and active in the element of the water and the Word as a person is baptized. Baptism does not happen without God’s presence.
God was there when Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13) and we read in Matthew 3:16b, “At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.”
One reason the UM Church only has two Sacraments in Holy Baptism and Holy Communion is that Jesus initiated both of these events. Both are vitally important to the Christian faith and there is something else that i important that we often miss the mark on. In communion, we need to build upon the grace and forgiveness found through remembering what Christ did for us, by having daily disciplines we walk out with Jesus every day. In baptism we miss the mark when we do not follow up with the “following Jesus” aspect of this commitment.
In infant baptism, the church needs to provide a Christian environment that includes offerings like Sunday school and other events that will help the child grow in their faith – the parents need to fulfill their baptism commitment to bring the child into a Christian environment found at the local church.
In adult baptism, the church needs to provide a Christian environment that includes offerings like small groups, Sunday school and other events geared to help adults mature in their walk with Christ.
At First UMC of Clewiston we reaffirm our commitment to provide opportunities for growth for all ages and every stage of our Christian spiritual growth. Let’s pray together that all of us who have committed to follow Jesus, will pick up their cross and diligently follow him. And that the church in harmony with the believing community will develop ministries that offer opportunities for growth for all. We work the fields of Christianity together my friends.
Stay tuned, there is more to come on this topic.
God loves you and so do I,