In Baptism and at Affirmation of Baptism (Confirmation), we make the following promises: to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper and to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed. To serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace on all the earth.
I recently attended a conference at Pacific Lutheran University and one of our presenters, Dr. Samuel Torvend, focused on how churches have spent a lot of time and energy and sometimes money developing mission and vision statements. His belief is that this started in the 80’s when many influences from the corporate world crept into church councils. In his presentation, he pulled up the promises that we make in baptism that are listed above.
His belief is that we have been given these promises as the only mission statement that we need. I was drawn to what he was saying because these promises unite the church across denominational lines and get us focused in on what and who we are called to be as the body of Christ. From now until the end of the year, I will devote my article to focusing on one of these promises.
To Live Among God’s Faithful People
We begin with “to live among God’s faithful people.” This might seem like the obvious place to begin during the summer when church attendance seems to dip because people are on vacation or off doing other things on a Sunday morning. This promise is a struggle in our family as our boys, for different reasons, don’t want to come to worship.
And, I get it. The church can be a lonely place if you don’t feel like you have a group that you fit into or you can’t break into the existing groups. Many people come to worship feeling inadequate about their faith or regretful of their sins and they are made to feel like outsiders instead of welcome guests in the same boat as all of us.
Something important happens when we “live among God’s faithful people”; our hearts are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. I believe this happens most clearly when we come to the Lord’s Table. I just started reading a book by Lenny Duncan and he speaks of the radical hospitality that we proclaim each Sunday as we invite people to the Lord’s table. He heard it this way, “Jesus made no restrictions on this table, so neither do we.” Even though he looked different than all the other people worshiping in church that first Sunday, this invitation changed his heart and opened him up to the movement of the Spirit in his life.
Things We Recognize
When we live among God’s faithful people, we are to recognize our brokenness, we are to recognize our unity in the body of Christ, we are to recognize as one hymn writer says that when we come to the table, “we become what we receive.” Our life together is transformational. And, if we aren’t living together, and this means worship, Bible Study, volunteering, praying, then how can we be transformed? This isn’t a selfish thing, or what’s in it for me, this is a holy give and take between all of God’s people gathered to live out the promises of Baptism.
What’s most important for you, as you live out the promise “to live among God’s faithful people?”