This week’s focus is on the third and fifth baptismal question: Will you nurture these children/persons in Christ’s holy Church, that by your teaching and example they may be guided to accept God’s grace for themselves, to profess their faith openly, and to lead a Christian life?…
Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life and include these persons now before you in your care?
The questions are found on page 34 of the United Methodist Hymnal (UMH).
For this week, there are a few verbs to focus on proclaim, live, surround, and pray
Let’s begin again with a definition (www.dictionary.com)
- Proclaim – to announce or declare in an official or formal manner.
- Live – to have life, as an organism; be alive; be capable of vital functions.
- Surround – to enclose on all sides; encompass.
- Pray – to offer devout petition, praise, thanks, etc., to.
Take a moment to think about times you use these words in your everyday life.
Let’s take a look at how Taylor Burton-Edwards looks at these words:
PROCLAIM the Good News
The good news we proclaim is the good news Jesus proclaimed: The kingdom of God has drawn near. As God’s kingdom draws near, the powers and forces that keep people oppressed, harmed, or otherwise enslaved are overcome, and people are set free. Some are set free from disease. Others are set free from political oppression and injustice. Still others, as the man in this story, are now able to see.
Part of the good news we see in this story involves exposing the lies of oppressive powers for what they are. The assumption the disciples had about people born blind was such people or their parents must have been particularly sinful to cause such a condition. No, Jesus says. He was born this way not because of anyone’s sin, but to enable God’s glory to shine, whether in his blindness or in overcoming it.
There is great good news just here. Congenital blindness had been understood to be the result of sin and was therefore used culturally as a reason to dismiss people as “less than” or even “tainted” or “unclean.” Jesus rejected that reasoning entirely.
So part of proclaiming the good news today is not only to declare the news that God’s kingdom has drawn near, but to contradict every bit of news that some people are to be withdrawn from. Instead, those targeted by culture as “unclean” are the very people Christ draws near to, near enough to touch them on the eyes with love, care, and actions that bring the marginalized back into community as much as possible.
How are you proclaiming the good news? How are you also contradicting the many kinds of bad news this world tells others? How might you do these two things better? How can we help you do so?
LIVE according to the Example of Christ
“The example of Christ” comprises everything we see Jesus do across all four gospels. That’s way too much to handle for one session. This is an agenda for lifelong learning and growth. That’s important to remember. It points us to the lifelong commitment we make to Christ and to one another in the church. We will keep learning from Jesus, keep working on living it out, and keep teaching others by living what we learn.
So for this session, focus on those core practices of learning to live out the way of Jesus people already have built into their lives, and those they can build in better and help one another do likewise. What are your patterns of prayer? How do you read and study the Bible, especially the gospels? What groups are you part of that actively help you live the way of Jesus more fully (including this one). What processes do you use to put in practice what you learn from prayer and study?
SURROUND These People with a Community of Love and Forgiveness
Surrounding people can seem like an aggressive move. When the intent of the surrounding is to prevent an escape or to seek to force compliance, then it may be more harmful than helpful.
But we pledge to surround people with a community of love and forgiveness. A community of love allows for freedom. There is no compulsion in love. And a community of forgiveness allows for much mercy, learning, and growth. The community of love and forgiveness we pledge to form together as a congregation, and perhaps in more concrete ways as a formation group, is a band of sisters and brothers who commit to watch over one another in love.
Surrounding remains a key tactic. We want there to be no place you go that you cannot rely on others offering you encouragement, support, and, where needed, direction and restorative correction.
To be a community of love and forgiveness requires each of us to participate in such acts of surrounding one another, with love and forgiveness at our core. What are you doing right now to participate actively in such community with others, and especially with those who are newly baptized or new members, or those who may be baptized or become professing members in the near future? What might you do more or better? How can others in the group help you do that?
PRAY for Them, That They May Be True Disciples
Each week, our closing act of blessing is already a form of prayer we offer to God and for one another that we each may be true disciples of Jesus who walk in the way that leads to life. This is one small, brief, weekly action we already take in this group.
But the call here is for the whole church to continue this, not just once a week, but constantly, especially (though not exclusively) for the newcomers among us. How are you praying for the spiritual life and growth of others in this congregation, and other Christians generally? How often and how intentionally are you doing so? How might you do this better than you are now? How might we help you do that?
This Lent series can be found at
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