I was baptized as an infant. When my church asks me to "remember my baptism," I take it literally. I don't remember much from when I was a month old. What does this really mean?
Christians worldwide hear this charge on Baptism of the Lord Sunday, the second Sunday in January, as many services include a reaffirmation of baptismal vows.
The celebration of Jesus' baptism used to be marked at the beginning of Epiphany on Jan. 6, at the end of the 12-day season of Christmas. The ancient church conducted baptisms on that day, explained the Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, director of worship resources for Discipleship Ministries (General Board of Discipleship).
"It would be better if our ritual had translated this as 'remember that you are baptized and be thankful,'" Burton-Edwards said. While not everyone can remember the occasion of their baptism, "we can all remember that we are baptized and be thankful for that."
United Methodism teaches that baptism initiates people into the faith community and into a covenant relationship with God and God's people. Reaffirming their vows enables Christians to renew their commitment to discipleship — with the help of the Holy Spirit, Burton-Edwards said.
While people fail in their attempts to live as faithful disciples, "God has done God's work in the covenant," he explained. Thus, The United Methodist Church does not rebaptize. The reaffirmation ritual is appropriate for those who have been baptized and wish to recommit themselves to Christ.
United Methodist churches help congregants remember their baptism in various creative ways. In many congregations, the pastor invites worshippers to come forward and touch the water, perhaps using it to make the sign of the cross on their forehead or hand.
Adapted from "Why We Remember Our Baptism" as written by the Rev. Victoria Rebeck and published at Interpreter OnLine in December 2012. Rebeck is now director of deacon ministry development and provisional membership, Division of Ordained Ministry, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Read the entire article at www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/remember-your-baptism-reaffirm-your-vows-recommit-your-life.
"To Be United Methodist" provides short answers to questions of United Methodist practices and identity. Submit a possible topic or question for a future column to firstname.lastname@example.org.