Michael and All Angels: Reflections on our Baptism/Confirmation

Sermon Title: Michael and All Angels: Reflections on our Baptism/Confirmation
Preacher: Rev Susanne Chambers
Date: 27th September, 2015
Church Calendar Date: 18th week after Pentecost
Lectionary Reading: Daniel 7:9-10, Ps 138, Revelation 12:7-12a, John 1:45-51

Today we will have a ‘claytons confirmation’!

I will give you some thoughts on the sacrament of baptism and confirmation and then take you on a journey as you recall your own baptism and confirmation and how your life has been shaped by following Jesus Christ.

The Sacrament of Baptism and Confirmation:

“ sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.  That definition from the Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer is still hard to beat!

A Sacrament is a sign; that is, it points to something other than itself. It points beyond itself.

But a Sacrament is more than just a sign.  It gives something – it conveys an inward and spiritual grace – to the one who receives it.

In one sense, all of life is a Sacrament…..

The Anglican Church has always distinguished between two ‘Gospel Sacraments’ and five others which are ‘commonly called [minor] Sacraments.  The Gospel Sacraments are those directly commanded by Jesus: the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. The five [minor] Sacraments  are Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony and Unction [(unction is anointing with oil, usually anointing the sick)]. [i]

These minor sacraments were not clearly commanded by Jesus but they have been used in the Church from the very earliest times.

Before I say a little about baptism and confirmation, I would like talk about Faith.

“To BELIEVE requires FAITH; and that immediately creates a problem for so many people. They say, “I cannot accept things on faith”. But the fact is, they already do!  Everyone’s most basic beliefs are grounded in faith……….

Faith is universal. Everyone has it. Whether we be materialist, humanist, atheist, Buddhist, Christian …our belief is always based on faith.

Our faith is our basic assumption about life and the world around us. It undergirds all our beliefs. It lies behind everything we think and say and do.

So Christian Belief begins with the statement of Christian Faith–CREDO.

“CREDO”

This word should never have been translated as I BELIEVE. The Latin word for BELIEF is opinio and it means to have an opinion or make an intellectual assertion.  CREDO means literally, “I set my heart”.  It is to pledge allegiance, to give loyalty, to commit our lives.

It is a statement of Christian faith and commitment. And it can only be made by those who have made a free and deliberate choice to put their faith in Jesus as Lord…”  [ii]

Baptism:

We baptise because Jesus commanded us to baptise.  He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19)

“Two things happen in Baptism. First, the person being baptised reaches out in faith and says “CREDO.  I give you my life and my heart”.

Then the baptising minister either plunges the person under water or pours water over the person’s head, while announcing that this person has now entered into a new state of life; a state in which he or she belongs to God, in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The outward and visible sign of the Sacrament is the water in which the person is baptised and the precise form of words: “I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”.

The inward and spiritual grace towards which the sign points is death to sin and a new birth into a new way of life.”[iii]

We baptise infants and so the parents and godparents take on the responsibility to guide, pray, encourage the child in the life and faith of the Christian community.

Our prayer book says that children are baptised in response to God’s all-embracing love. That parents and godparents who have responded to that love bring their children for baptism.

After the child or adult is baptised, the sign of the cross is marked on their forehead and a candle is given. Both not necessary in baptism, but I find that the marking of the sign of the cross with oil or water is another visible sign of what has just happened. The candle is lit from the Pascal Candle…another light in the world!  The light of Christ shining brightly!

Confirmation:In confirmation those who have been previously baptised come to confirm their baptismal promises and receive the laying on of Confirmation is a compliment and completion of baptism for an adult.

Just prior to the persons being confirmed by the bishop, the bishop prayers this prayer:  please turn to page 61 of your prayer books and follow the words as I say them.

“Almighty and everliving God,

you have given your servants

new birth by water and the Spirit,

and have forgiven them their sins.

Strengthen them, we pray, with the Holy Spirit

that they may grow in grace.

Increase in them the spirit of wisdom

and understanding,

the spirit of discernment and inner strength,

the spirit of knowledge and true godliness,

and fill them with wonder and awe at your presence,

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The bishop then says to the confirmee as they kneel, “Strengthen, Lord, your servant, with your Holy Spirit. Empower and sustain him/her for your service.”[iv]

These are the same words in the Australian prayer book and the Book of Common Prayer. Whether you were confirmed recently or many years ago, these words were said at your confirmation.

Ask five people to walk with me down the aisle with hand on each other’s shoulder and walk to the music: Pachelbel’s Canon.

Explain:  as we walk down the aisle, consider your life since your baptism and confirmation.  Our lives are often not straight forward…it’s three steps forward and often two back!

As you watch and hear the music, thank God for your life lived so far.

Pray those words on page 61 using the first person.

Almighty and everliving God,

watch over these your servants upon whom the bishop has laid their hands.

Let your Holy Spirit always be with them and lead them to know and obey your word,

that they may serve you in this life, and dwell with you in the life to come:

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

[i] ANGLICAN   14 Sacraments    (a series of pamphlets composed by Graeme A. Brady Easter 1983)

[ii] ANGLICAN     1 Faith

[iii] ANGLICAN  14  Sacraments: baptism

[iv] A Prayer Book for Australia page 61