Church » Welcome to First » Welcome to Baptism

Welcome to Baptism

Welcome to Holy Baptism!
WELCOME TO THE JOURNEY OF BAPTISM! We rejoice with you as you come to the Water of God’s unfailing grace, joining in the rich and saving journey of faith which baptism initiates. As a great old hymn puts it:
Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices

Who wondrous things has done, in whom the world rejoices
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today

As we join you in this wondrous journey of discipleship and faith, we pray that God will continue to “bless us on our way,” showering all the Baptized with strength and encouragement. As St. Paul says to the believers in Philippi (2:13-14), “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” This journey of salvation is the gift and promise of holy baptism, to which you have committed yourself as a companion in the walk of faith. A line in the worship service says it so clearly, as the pastor anoints the head of the newly baptized with the mark of the cross:

Child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit
and marked with the cross of Christ forever. Amen.

In holy baptism, a person is joined to the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and made a child of God forever. Washed in the water and marked with the cross, the newly-baptized is united not only with Christ, but also with other believers who together form a living community of faith, what the Apostles Creed calls “the Communion of Saints.”
The pattern for the celebration of Christian baptism has a simple yet profound center: washing in water and speaking the word of God. Baptism is normally celebrated within the larger pattern of the Christian assembly’s gathering around the word of God and the eucharistic meal. The powerful event of baptism in the assembly takes place within a larger pattern of formation in the faith, a lifelong process of discipleship.

Sponsors who present candidates for baptism are baptized Christians who play a nurturing role in candidates’ lives and who pledge to provide spiritual support in the future. Ordinarily such sponsors will be active participants in the life of the church, and it is advisable that at least one sponsor be a member of the congregation in which baptism occurs.
The presentation includes statements expressing the mutual accountability of the baptized, the sponsors and parents, and the whole Christian community. These responses reveal that the baptized are united with and surrounded by an assembly gathered by the grace of God, people who rely on that grace to support one another in their commitments.

The specific statements which sponsors make during the worship service underscore this commitment to walk with the newly baptized as mentors and guides in this lifelong journey of Christian discipleship.

As you present this person for Holy Baptism, you are entrusted with gifts and responsibilities:
- to live with h__ among God’s faithful people,
- to bring h__ to the word of God and the holy supper, and
- to nurture h__ in faith and prayer, so that ____ may learn to trust God,
proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace among all people.
Do you promise to help _________ grow in the Christian faith and life?

Response: We do, with the help of God.
Sponsors, do you promise to nurture this person in the Christian faith as you are empowered by God’s Spirit, and to help h__ live in the covenant of baptism and in communion with the church?
Response: We do, with the help of God.
The presiding minister addresses the congregation:
People of God, do you promise to support _________ and to pray for this new life in Christ?

Response: We do.
“We do, with the help of God.” All our promises as the baptized are commended to the constant and unfailing promises of God, upon whom we rely for faith and wisdom. We pray that God, “who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).”
The best way to mentor others in the faith is to practice that faith ourselves. Regular worship and participation in Christian community, a commitment to learning and growth in faith, practicing the lifestyle of discipleship – these disciplines will keep you strong in your baptism, and help you mentor others.
This local congregation stands ready to help and support you in this holy calling you have accepted: to walk with you in a journey of faith and discovery of your gifts and calling as a baptized child of God.

Properly speaking, there is no such thing as being “baptized Lutheran.” Lutheran Christians stand in solidarity with all believers who baptize and teach in obedience to the command of Christ. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, the Lutheran Church’s primary teaching tool, uses a simple “question and answer” format to make this clear:

1. O God, what is Baptism?

Baptism is not water only, but it is water used together with your word, O God, and by your command.

What is this word, O God?

In Matthew 28 our Lord Jesus Christ says: "Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

This sacrament forms us into a body of faith which is far wider than denomination or faith group: we obey Christ’s universal command to wash all people in plain water joined to the unfailing promises of God, who deeply loves all the world, and sent Jesus to redeem all flesh.

The catechism goes on to describe the gifts of this sacred action:

2. O God, what benefits do you give in Baptism?

In Baptism you forgive sin, you deliver from death and the devil, and you give everlasting salvation, O God, to all who believe what you have promised.

What is this promise, O God?

In Mark 16 our Lord Jesus Christ says: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; but whoever does not believe will be condemned."

Note the important role of faith in the above statement. While Lutheran Christians baptize even very young children as a testimony to God’s grace and favor for all humanity, we recognize as well the crucial role of discipleship and teaching in the lives of the baptized. In this the dedication and commitment of parents and sponsors is key.

Remember: baptism is not magic; it is the initiation of a lifelong walk of trust in Jesus Christ and growth in his way of self-giving love. The catechism goes on to underscore this faith commitment in apprehending the wonder of God’s grace:

3. O God, how can water do such great things?

It is not water that does these things, but your Word with the water, and our trust in this Word. Water by itself is only water, but with your Word, O God, it is a life-giving water, which by grace gives the new birth through the Holy Spirit.

What is this grace, O God?

St. Paul writes in Titus 3: "God saved virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. The saying is sure!"

For Lutheran Christians baptism is literally just the beginning – the beginning of a daily journey of repentance and renewal, of growing into the full measure of Jesus Christ. Through the disciplines of worship, learning, prayer, inviting, giving, serving and encouragement, believers at every stage of life are formed into mature and strong Christian people, called in baptism to serve and speak God’s love in daily life. The concluding section of the catechism’s baptismal teaching makes it clear:
4. O God, what does Baptism mean for our daily lives?

It means that our sinful self, with all its evil deeds and desires, should be drowned through daily repentance; and that day after day a new self should arise, to live with you, O God, in righteousness and purity forever.

What is this command, O God?

St. Paul writes in Romans 6: "We were buried therefore with Christ by Baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."

A profound paradox of the Christian life is that, although baptized and set free to live in love and faithfulness, human beings continue to sin and experience brokenness. The goodness of life can become distorted, human companionship strained, and our relationship with God shattered by the power of sin.

God promises, however, that life will be renewed and hope restored when sin is acknowledged and forgiveness embraced. In confession and forgiveness, honestly recognizing the sinfulness of human life, returning to the saving promises of God in baptism, the people of God are healed.

We rejoice that you are making this commitment to the baptismal Way. May God bless you as you accept the important gifts and responsibilities of walking in Holy Baptism, in the name and with the blessing of Jesus Christ!

Children and adults are welcome to full participation in the Christian faith through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Call, 310-320-9920 x112, or email Pastor Hurst to learn more as we together “walk wet” in God’s promises!