A special and unique thing about Hayes Barton UMC is how often we have the opportunity to baptize someone. At least once or twice a month there is a baptism during a Sunday morning worship service. Families bring their infant children to be clothed in righteousness. Youth professing their faith are confirmed through the waters of love and grace. And adults that have been transformed by Christ’s redemptive forgiveness come to the waters of new life. All of this is God’s gift of love and grace available to all.
With the frequency that we have baptisms here at Hayes Barton, I know that many of you have your part of the baptism liturgy memorized. These words are said so often that you just know it by heart! And if you do open up your hymnal to follow along, it is not hard to find where the baptism liturgy is located: all of the hymnals in the pews just seem to flop open to page 39! To be clear, that is a good thing.
Perhaps you have never noticed the tendency of your hymnal to fall open to the baptism liturgy and that is okay. But you may have noticed the things we promise in our baptism liturgy in a life lived as a disciple of Jesus Christ. You may have seen a friend or family member exemplifying the promises we make when someone is baptized. For example, through our youth group you or your child may have been guided and mentored towards the path of discipleship. This would be an example of receiving nurturing love and formation.
Or maybe you were the one mentoring someone else into a life of faith. And a mentor’s calling to this task is not limited to the youth amongst us. There are adults of all ages needing guidance to Christian faith and a life of discipleship. Of course the pastors in this congregation are ready and willing to do this. But all of us are called to do this through the covenant we make at our baptism. Likewise we make the promise to nurture, affirm, and love others as they are baptized into the family of God.
I know that Hayes Barton is a congregation that knows this to be true and shows it in many ways. We nurture, guide, and love our youth. So too, anyone at any stage in life can learn and know about the love of Jesus through us. I recently witnessed an amazing example of this. Part of my calling and vocation as a minister is to visit people and offer pastoral care. It is in these visits that I most often experience God’s presence. A few weeks ago I went to a local medical rehabilitation facility where there are five members of this congregation recuperating from various illnesses. When I went to the reception desk to confirm the room numbers and mentioned the names to the nurse they said, “You must be from Hayes Barton.”
I paused for a moment with surprise and replied, “Yes, how did you know?” They said that these five people receive more visitors than anyone else at the facility and all of the visits are from people in their church. I tried to regulate my pride with humility as I said, “Hayes Barton is a loving and caring congregation and I am constantly honored and humbled to be one of their pastors.”
Thinking back, I should not have been surprised that caring and loving unity was immediately associated with this congregation. After all, who knows what it means to be baptized and part of the family of God better than this congregation? Baptism, and the covenant that goes along with it, is memorized and ingrained in our hearts and then lived out in our lives. It is who we are and how we live. We are living out the calling and covenant we have made and in so doing, the light of Christ is shown to the world.
Sisters and brothers, the grace filled waters of baptism are available to everyone. If you have not been baptized and seek these life-giving waters, please contact one of your pastors. We are ready and willing to walk with you on this journey towards baptism. In our baptism, and in our lives of discipleship it initiates, may the light of Christ be shown to the world and may God be glorified.
With peace and joy, Pastor Adam