Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) blogs


Subscribe to this blog feed icon

About this blog

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

Recent posts



See all PC(USA) Blogs

PC(USA) Home

January 7, 2014

Inviting Folks to the Font: “How Much Does It Cost?”

      At the North American Academy of Liturgy last week, Presbyterians and Lutherans were having a discussion about issues surrounding invitations to the Lord’s Table.  We fretted over how we worded invitations to the table and whether the table should be open to those who were not baptized, as is the practice in some of our churches despite our contraindicated theologies. 

     That is a conversation for another day, but it leads into an equally important question that Jill Crainshaw raised: When was the last time we invited people to the font?  Someone then told a story about a new pastor visiting with those who attended church in order to get to know them.  She was visiting with an immigrant and asked if he’d been baptized.  In the three years he’d been going to that church, no one had asked him that question.  “No, but I’d like to be,” he said, his eyes lighting up.  “How much does it cost?”    

      The immigrant’s question stunned us for its astute observation that everything in our country seems to be commoditized.  How much does it cost? is one of the questions we all learn as a stock phrase to use whenever we’re in a foreign land.  But it’s not a question that ever would have occurred to us to be associated with baptism.

     Yet the question merits theological reflection as we head into the Baptism of our Lord Sunday.  How much DOES baptism into Christ cost?  As sheer grace, our salvation is utterly free, so of course the rite is, too.  But at the same time that baptism costs nothing, it costs everything.  All that we have, all that we are belongs now to God. 

     Paul tells us that when we come to the table we have to discern the body lest we partake of the Lord’s judgment without knowing its healing grace (c.f. I Cor. 11:27-32).  There are many ways to interpret this tricky passage, but basically I take this to mean not that the elements are Christ’s body and blood, but that we, the church, are.  Baptism helps us understand that we participate in the body and blood of Christ’s salvific offering to the world.  When we take communion, we do so with the reminder that we are to live as Christ’s body, filled with the same Holy Spirit that filled Jesus at his baptism.  To come to the table without this discernment is to miss some of the sacrament’s healing grace.  Indeed, without an awareness of how we are baptized into and marinating in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection Eucharist could be only a sick judgment. 

     The sad thing is that many of those who are baptized miss this, too.  So much of the church has not been invited to think deeply about the meanings of baptism.  Therefore, we’re inviting the church to enter into a season of baptismal reflection.  We invite you to invite the church and its visitors to the font for baptism and its renewal in our lives in a simple and profound process, which the Anglican Church of Canada has devised for Lent and Easter.  It is the process of transformation around the Word and worship, prayer and service that has been used in the church since its beginning, a process known as the catechumenate in the early church.  You can call it what you like.  Just invite folks to the font to live more fully, or for the first time, as baptized disciples of Christ.    

Tags: baptism, catechumenate, cost, invitation to font, invitation to table, sacraments