Note from the Editor: Please enjoy our weekend sermon from Rev. Robert Carter on Romans 6:1-14. He is the Senior Pastor of South…
But such things apply to Joy, if at all, in a far diminished way. I sing the Lord’s Prayer to her, but she’ll never learn to pray. We’ll bring her to church, but she’ll never learn the basics of the faith. We’ll take care of her physically, but to what extent can we really meet her spiritual needs?
I have found that this is a good way to keep before the family and the child the meaning of baptism and to remind the parents of the promise they made to God during the baptism to do all they can to raise their child in the faith.
“I hope you’ll always remember that God loves you so much—more than I can even say—and has a wonderful plan for your life. We at the Church are here to help you discover the special life that God made you to live.”
Every year until the child participates in confirmation, in the days leading up to the child’s baptismal anniversary I send a letter marking the occasion. I also include an age-appropriate gift, like a children’s book. I have found that this is a good way to keep before the family and the child the meaning of baptism and to remind the parents of the promise they made to God during the baptism to do all they can to raise their child in the faith.
Another factor in baptism pertains to ongoing spiritual instruction and development after the actual baptism. While not limited to infant baptisms—since post-baptismal nurture is important for any person regardless of that person’s age at the time of baptism—this factor has particular significance in the case of infants who are baptized.
The central question for Abraham was never, “Are you circumcised?” The central question was, “Is your circumcision a reflection of walking blamelessly and faithfully before God?” The central question for the church, then, is, “In doing these things [baptism, accepting Jesus, or taking Communion] are they expressions of faithfulness and an awareness and a pursuit of the terms and conditions of a covenant relationship with God?” It is not, “Do you call yourself a Christian?” It is, “Do you live a life worthy of that name?”
If contemporary Methodists are serious about robust catechesis, we must broaden our concept of the term. We must understand that baptism is a moment that shapes our entire life—a journey in holiness. We must break free from an approach to catechesis that is merely didactic and understand that the process of catechesis is anchored in the worshipping community. And we need look no further than our own tradition for what is, perhaps, the preeminent Wesleyan catechetical resource: the Wesleyan hymns.
There aren’t many times in the life of the church where people sit down and say, “Please teach me doctrine.” As a theology nerd, I wish it would happen more. But it just doesn’t happen that much.