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Thinking the Faith, Praying the Faith, Living the Faith is written by the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship.

Thinking, praying, and living the faith is at the core of ministry in the Office of Theology and Worship. In the following videos, learn more about what thinking, praying, and living the faith means to the leadership of the Office of Theology and Worship. Discover why it matters and what difference it makes in our lives, work, and worship.  

Charles Wiley  
Barry Ensign-George
David Gambrell
Christine Hong 
Karen Russell

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October 30, 2012

What If

In many places it is now customary to pour water into the font as part of the confession ritual, as recommended by The Invitiation to Christ.  This makes the connection clear between baptism and being forgiven.   But I wonder: how do we get ourselves to understand the radical nature of what’s being enacted and remembered here?

In the early church some people may literally have stripped off all their old clothes and left them behind forever (they may have been buried).  They then went down into the waters of baptism naked.  Upon arising, they were clothed in white robes signifying the righteousness of Christ.  Their old life was completely finished; gone!   Like Roman citizens wore togas, baptismal robes were the clothes of citizenship in God’s Realm.  It was the garment provided by the King for the royal wedding feast in Matthew’s parable (Matt 22:1-14).   God’s gracious providence in Jesus Christ has us covered!  We live now in grace, not condemnation.

So many of us go back to putting on our old clothes, though.  We hang onto the shame of our shortcomings.  We don’t want to expose it, naked, before the Light of Christ.  No wonder.  If we tell the truth about our mistakes and God-neediness, we’re afraid others will ridicule, condemn, or reject us (like Christ on the cross?).  Perhaps what we’re most afraid of is that such condemnation will confirm the lie we’ve come to believe about who we are: that we’re unlovable unless we conform to what others what us to be, that we’re unworthy of God’s love splayed out on a cross that our own hands have erected.  

Fear of such naked vulnerability before God and one another was handled carefully, tenderly, and appropriately in the early church; it was drowned in Christ’s forgiveness on the cross,   raised in the victory of Christ’s resurrection love, clothed tenderly by God’s grace.      

Now imbued in Holy Spirit, we do not regard one another from a human point of view, as Paul says it.  We see through Christ that all are loveable as children of God.  And we know ourselves as beloved, not condemned.  If God be for us, who can be against us?  So we need not fear what others think.  As our liturgy (and Paul again) says it: who is in a position to condemn?   Only Christ, and Christ loved us enough to die for us, Christ rose to take us unto the heart of God, Christ breaks the power sin holds over us,  Christ prays and advocates for us.  In Christ, we are now of God’s new creation.  Every moment we confess our failures before God and ask to live in the reality of God’s forgiveness in Christ, every moment we accept this power and trust its truth, we live in the newness of grace.  The past is finished!  Gone!  Washed away and buried forever.  We get to go back to the beginning when all was new and we can trundle forth in wide-eyed wonder onto pristine fields of praise. 

This is hard to believe, isn’t it?  We say the words all the time.  But how do we better help one another live them?  Perhaps we start by setting up a time to have people reflect upon different parts of the liturgy and ask the “What if?” question: “ What if we really believed the things we say in worship; how would life be different for us?”   

Usually in the Font and Table, we try to point you to resources that may be helpful to you in your sacramental ministry.   But this time we’re going to ask the what if question:  What if we already have everything we need in Christ and the sacraments themselves?   

This was originally an e-newsletter for Font and Table, devoted to sacramental renewal in the PCUSA.  If you'd like to subscribe to this newsletter, you can sign up here

Tags: baptism, confession of sin, font, forgiveness, pouring, sacraments, water, worship