So on Sunday, one of the things I mentioned was that you might see some changes in worship, but that I wouldn’t ever want to do anything without you knowing. There’s a couple reasons for that, but mostly it’s because I see a lot of my role here - especially as we start worshipping together - is to help you know why we do all of the little things in worship. So many of them have had all sorts of thoughtful people thinking and reflecting on them. We stand on centuries of tradition!
One change that may be most obvious is the movement of the font into the middle of chancel (front) area and having it be part of worship every Sunday. On this Sunday in particular, I poured the water from higher up above, and had moved my hands in it. Why did we add that? Why is it part of the Assurance of Pardon?
If you were baptized as a Presbyterian, right before the pastor would have placed the water on your forehead, she or he would have said something like the following as they touched the water:
Send Your Spirit to move over this water
that it may be a fountain of deliverance and rebirth.
Wash away the sin of all who are cleansed by it.
Raise them to new life, and graft them to the body of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit upon (insert your name here)
that (you) may have power to do Your will,
and continue forever in the risen life of Christ.
The words at our baptism are a reminder of the promises of God to us. We were forgiven then - the washing a symbol of being cleansed from the dirt of sin. It’s certainly a powerful moment for each of us! But, for many of you, that’s been a little while ago - as an infant, or maybe as a teenager. Even for those of you who were baptized as adults, you may have been thinking about the chill of the baptistry or feeling like “how is this pastor going to pour water over my head”? Either way, these words can pass us by.
Which brings us to remembering it on Sunday. As Protestants, we have two sacraments - outward signs of inward grace - which are Baptism and Communion. Those two sacraments help us to remember who we are, but also whose we are. The more we have little reminders of our belovedness, the more we feel those little bits of connection to God on Sunday. And so, when we pour the waters of the font, we are in some small way recreating the moments when the waters were placed on us. We get to remember one more time that the waters of Baptism wash us clean and renew us in the body of Christ. Every week we come to God and one another acknowledging our brokenness - but we also know that we are forgiven even as we speak the words acknowledging our sin, because God has promised us grace over and over again.
So as the water’s poured and you hear it splashing, remember as best your can your baptism (or maybe someone else’s whom you love dearly), and remember you were sealed into the body of Christ. Or, perhaps, remember these words from the French Reformed Liturgy, that can be spoken to during baptism:
Child, for you Jesus Christ came into the world:
for you he lived and showed God’s love;
for you he suffered the darkness of Calvary
and cried at the last, “It is accomplished”;
for you he triumphed over death and rose in newness of life;
for you he ascended to rule over all.
All this he did for you, child,
though you do not know it yet.
And so the word of Scripture is fulfilled:
We love because God first loved us.