Telling a Story: Teaching Baptism through doing it

Posted on Posted in family, sacraments, teaching

There is so much to say about Baptism that there are not enough books in the world to carry them. No amount to Baptism Preparation, I find, ever fully captures all that needs to be said about the Mystery of Baptism. Baptismal teaching should also therefore be at the heart of each celebration of the sacrament so that all those attending (both children and adults) may have an insight.

This running commentary can be tailored for any age group that you want to target, knowing that all the adults will respond to a children’s explanation far more readily than if you presented it to them directly. This is in no way Baptism-lite – the concepts of salvation, and the victory over evil, anthropomorphised in the name of the Devil are not shyed away from, nor should they ever be.

Welcome

In the name of the +Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen

The Lord be with you
and also with you.

We gather together today for a very special reason: to celebrate the Baptism of N. It’s a day of joy when we come together as family and friends in order to see the marvellous things that God has done in his/her life and also in our own lives.

After words of welcome, the priest begins the service with the Collect for Baptism

Let us pray…

Heavenly Father,
by the power of your Holy Spirit
you give to your faithful people new life in the water of baptism.
Guide and strengthen us by the same Spirit,
that we who are born again may serve you in faith and love,
and grow into the full stature of your Son, Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit
now and for ever.
Amen

Baptism is such a wonderful gift that we actually don’t have enough words to properly express it, and when the words run out, as they always do, we turn to other ways of showing that: we might have been able to draw a picture,  or we can do things, show things and share things in action which speak of these wonderful things. A bunch of flowers given to someone means so much more than just “here’s a bunch of flowers” it means “I’m thinking of you” “I think you’re special” even “I love you”. These symbols represent God’s wonderful work in his sacrament of Baptism and so we will use five symbols to try and in some way represent God’s Baptism.

But first, let’s be clear about whom we are praying for in this baptism. I’m going to invite N. their parents and Godparents to come and stand with me here at the front of Church.

Presentation

The Priest asks those who are able to answer for themselves. I would personally ask this question of anyone over about the age of seven, even if Parents and Godparents go on to answer on their behalf.

Do you wish to be baptized?
I do.

or for Infants, the Child along with Parents and Godparents are presented to the congregation

Now, as we all know, it’s a difficult job to be a parent or a Godparent. It’s a job that they can’t simply do on their own: they need the love, the support and the prayer of you – their family and friends, and so before I ask them these really important, demanding questions, I have a very important question to ask of you all…

To the whole congregation:

Faith is the gift of God to his people. In baptism the Lord is adding to our number those whom he is calling. People of God, (that’s you) will you welcome this child / these children and uphold them in their new life in Christ?
With the help of God we will.

To the Parents & Godparents:

Parents and godparents, the Church receives this child /these children with joy. Today we are trusting God for their growth in faith. Will you pray for them, draw them by your example into the community of faith and walk with them in the way of Christ?
With the help of God, we will.

In baptism this child /these children begin their journey in faith. You speak for them today. Will you care for them and help them to take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s Church?
With the help of God, we will.

Decision

Baptism is an important decision, made by ourselves or on behalf of the children in our care

Parents and Godparents, the questions I am going to ask of you now are probably the most important questions I will ever ask anyone. Because N. is unable to answer for themselves, I ask you on their behalf, and with you rests the responsibility to live out these life-changing promises.

In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light. To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him. Therefore I ask:

Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
I reject them.

Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
I renounce them.

Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?
I repent of them.

Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?
I turn to Christ.

Do you submit to Christ as Lord?
I submit to Christ.

Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?
I come to Christ.

Oil of Baptism

The Priest makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of each candidate with the Oil of Baptism, Parents and godparents also sign the candidates with the sign of the cross.

The first of our symbols of Baptism is the Oil of Baptism. It is a simple, unfragranced Olive Oil, made Holy for us by our own Bishop each Maundy Thursday, fresh each year. We use it to place the Sign of the Cross on the forehead of the person to be baptised. (allow young people to sniff the oil if they are willing).The Cross is at the heart of our faith, a symbol of Christ and of what he did for us.

The Cross could so easily have been something to be ashamed of: a terrible form of torture, a very cruel treatment and a nasty way to die, (point to the Stained Glass, Crucifix or other visual representation of the Crucifixion), and yet were are not ashamed of the cross, in fact we are very proud of the Cross because it was not a sign of failure, but because of Christ’s victory over sin and death through the Cross, it is a sign of triumph, a symbol that reminds us that nothing, not even death, can be stronger than the love of Jesus. So we wear that sign proudly…

Christ +claims you for his own.
Receive the sign of the cross.

N, Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified.
Fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ against sin, the world and the devil, and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life.

May almighty God +deliver you from the powers of darkness, restore in you the image of his glory, and lead you in the light and obedience of Christ.
Amen

Our lives are bit like a journey: throughout them we travel, and we grow. As we journey together, we might notice that we never travel alone, but that we travel with Christ at our side. To remind ourselves of this, we are going to make a short journey where we will encounter our second symbol. Come, Parents and Godparents, let us journey to our font, as we continue our life’s journey.

Water of Baptism

Our next symbol is the sign of water. Water is essential for life. Without water, we would quickly die.

Praise God who made heaven and earth
who keeps his promise for ever.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.

We thank you, almighty God, for the gift of water
to sustain, refresh and cleanse all life.

Heavenly Father, +sanctify this water that, by the power of your Holy Spirit, all who are baptised in it may they be cleansed from sin and born again.

Renewed in your image, may they walk by the light of faith
and continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Lord;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be all honour and glory, now and for ever.
Amen

When we sign up for something really important like Baptism, it’s essential that we remember what it is that we are signing ourselves up for, to examine the small print, to make sure that we agree the key principles of the Christian faith, so…

Profession of Faith

Let us affirm, together with these who are being baptized, our common faith in Jesus Christ.

Do you believe and trust in God the Father, source of all being and life, the one for whom we exist?
I believe and trust in God the Father.

Do you believe and trust in God the Son, who took our human nature, died for us and rose again?
I believe and trust in God the Son.

Do you believe and trust in God the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the people of God and makes Christ known in the world?
I believe and trust in God the Holy Spirit.

This is the faith of the Church.
This is our faith.
We believe and trust in one God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The priest asks those who are able to answer for themselves

Is this your faith?
This is my faith.

When we talk of this, we often hear the word “Christening” rather than the word for it as it appears in the Bible – “Baptism”. There is nothing wrong with “Christening” for it is a fine old English word, but it sometimes carries with it the implication that it is here, at this service that N gets their ‘Christian Name’. However, N has been known by that name since they were born, and in fact the Holy Scriptures say that N was “known before they were formed in the womb” (Jeremiah 1:5) and that God knows every hair on N’s head (Luke 12:7), so the next part of our service recognises not the naming of N, but their calling: calling by God, calling by name. God already knows us intimately by name and at this Baptism he reaches out to N. He will call us at Confirmation, on our Wedding Day, one to another, and even at the end of our lives, it is God who will call us by name back to be with him.

Therefore I ask, please name this child whom God is calling…

The parents are asked for the Christian Names of the child.

Baptism

N, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Our next symbol is the Oil of Chrism, which is again like the Oil of Baptism we used earlier is an oil made holy by our own bishop each Maundy Thursday. However, unlike the plain and simple Oil of Baptism, this oil is highly perfumed (encourage young people to sniff it). Three thousand years ago, when the people of Israel created Kings, they didn’t put a golden crown upon their heads, but rather doused them in this highly fragrant oil. They also used it to set apart their holy people; and in the same way, we use this oil to signal that baptism makes N very holy, very kingly/queenly, and gains membership of a Royal Family – the royal family of God in addition to their own loving family.

Oil of Chrism

The Priest smears the newly baptised with the Oil of Chrism as a sign of the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit.

The Oil of Chrism is a symbol of God’s goodness to us and his grace, and recognising that we don’t use use a drop, but a whole load, poured out upon us like God’s grace. Good religion is, of course, very messy.

We say together:

Through baptism, God anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you share everlasting life.

Robing in White

The newly baptised are draped in a white cloth to symbolise their new life with Christ

Our next symbol is that of the White Robe. When we were baptised in the 4th Century, we would gather very early in the morning on Easter day, just as the sun rose, just as Christ rose from the tomb (so see how kind I am to you!), gathering by the side of the river or the baptistry. There we (and it was usually adults who were baptised like this) would remove ALL of our clothes on one side of the river to symbolise putting away our past lives and we would enter into the water as naked as the day we were born.

There in the water, we would be baptised and it was said that our old lives had died, and we would be created as something new: a baptised person, and so we would rise up out of the waters of rebirth on the other side as someone ‘born again’ – it’s not just the Americans who are ‘Born-again Christians’ but everyone born of water and the spirit (John 3:5). As the newly baptised rose out of the waters of baptism on the other side they would be clothed in a White Robe to symbolise ‘putting on Christ’ and the purity which this baptism gave them.

To show this, we drape this white cloth around the shoulders of N to demonstrate their salvation won by these holy acts.

We say together:

You have been clothed with Christ.
As many as are baptised into Christ have put on Christ.

May God, who has received you by baptism into his Church,
pour upon you the riches of his grace,
that within the company of Christ’s pilgrim people
you may daily be renewed by his anointing Spirit,
and come to the inheritance of the saints in glory.
Amen

Welcome of the Faithful

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism: by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body.

We welcome you into the fellowship of faith; we are children of the same heavenly Father; we welcome you.

Prayers

We pray for the newly baptised, their families, parents and Godparents.

It is tough and challenging to be a parent, to be a Godparent, and so now, we pray for N, and for you, that you may be supported in this wonderful, humbling, challenging task. Let us pray…

Faithful and loving God,
bless those who care for these children
and grant them your gifts of love, wisdom and faith.
Pour upon them your healing and reconciling love,
and protect their home from all evil.
Fill them with the light of your presence
and establish them in the joy of your kingdom,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

In their name, in the Spirit of our common bond with Christ, let us pray together in the words our Lord has given us:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Baptism Candle

lit from the Paschal Candle

Our final symbol is the symbol of the Candle. Throughout this Baptism this large candle (it’s known as the Paschal Candle) has been burning throughout to remind us of the presence of Christ here with us today.

To many, this world is a dark place: filled with all kinds of bad things and the terrible things that people do to each other – in the playground, in wars and all around the world.

Yet Jesus said that he was the light of the world, (John 18:12) the light that shines in the darkness (John 1:5). Even in the darkest of places, a single light: the light from this Paschal Candle can shine out and make a difference. Each Easter Sunday we bring the new Paschal Candle into this dark Church to show how Jesus lights up our lives.

I believe that we each have a little candle of faith within each and every one of us. If we were to light out candles of faith from the one true candle – Jesus, then we could turn off all the lights and the dark and scary world would be at all dark and scary, as our light, the light of Jesus would chase away the dark.

So to remind N of this special day, I am going to take this baptism candle, and light it from the candle of Jesus, the Paschal candle. I recommend that you don’t take this candle and put it in a drawer and forget about it: display it at home to remind the whole family of this special gift, and each birthday, I suggest you can do what we do, and put the baptism candle besides the birthday cake and light it, so as each year passes and the number of candles on the cake grow and grow, so the one candle, the candle of your baptism, N, remains constant, just as Jesus remains constant for you.

God has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and has given us a place with the saints in light. You have received the light of Christ; walk in this light all the days of your life.

Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father.

Blessing

The God of all grace,
who called you to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus,
establish, strengthen and settle you in the faith;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Amen

Go in the light and peace of Christ
Thanks be to God.

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