Monday, 8 August 2011

Making Promises: Baptism!

Is it important to keep the promises we make, especially ones made in public?

Ask any of the Australian public about it at the moment and I am sure the answer would be yes. The thought that our PM may have reneged on a promise seems to be unforgivable.

But maybe its some promises we make and not others?

I have recently been reflecting on baptism (here) and it's integrity in our contemporary setting.

Many families who come seeking baptism are not currently attending church and once the baptism is done are rarely seen again. This, despite promises to engage in the life of the church that they make in the context of the baptism service.

When discussing this recently with congregation members I described the promises made in baptism as at least as important as the ones made at a wedding. They are a life-long commitment and involve choices about daily life and involvement in the worshipping life of the church.

This means as part of the conversation I begin to open up a commitment to attending church and church membership.

The question raised was whether or not it was right for me to put the 'hard word' on so early. The example given was that when you make a choice to marry someone you go through a courting period, then an engagement, before reaching the altar.

After reflecting a little more on this, what I have realised is, that for those people who have come simply to get the kids baptised the promises they are making are a bit like an arranged marriage. The people make the promises and then develop the relationship.

Of course we could be critical of this approach but I am caught in two minds as I picture Jesus walking along a beach and saying follow me to a bunch of fishermen. He called them and then they developed the relationship.

I continue to think that as long as I seek to faithfully convey the depth of promise that is being made, and being made in a public setting, then it is up to the family to live out that promise and the congregation, that also makes promises, to help them do so.

The question that parents and congregation should consider is that when the children we baptise are all grown up whether we will be able to answer the questions they might have for us:

Why didn't you take me to church?
Why didn't you tell me about God's love in Jesus?
Did you do everything you could to help me understand the Christian life?
You taught me about everything else, why not faith?
Why did you let others indoctrinate me?

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