Podcasts and Faith

I enjoy listening to podcasts when I run, when I drive and when I’m working. I love the ability to discover stories, learn new things, stay up-to-date with the news, and more. Lately, several podcasts that are part of my regular listening rotation featured episodes about church and faith. Here is a rundown…

StartUp from Gimlet Media

StartUp is a show about what it’s really like to start a business. I have been a listener from day one. Over several seasons, they have shared the ins and outs of starting a business from scratch. The most recent season is a bit of a shift and one that is particularly fascinating for me – church planters. While I have never planted a church, I have resonated with the real life stories from Restoration Church. Here are the episodes so far:

There is more to come, so don’t forget to subscribe to StartUp here.

This American Life from WBEZ

Unlike StartUp, I have not been listening to This American Life from the beginning. I have been listening for a number of years. The storytelling is world-class. I have appreciated many episodes over the years, though the one that brings them to this post includes a segment about Restoration Church and brings in a bit different angle. You can take a listen at If You Build It, Will They Come?

Hidden Brain from NPR

I have been an on and off again listener to Hidden Brain – usually depending on the opportunities and challenges of a particular season of life. This episode, Creating God, takes a look at how religions have evolved, almost like living organisms, to help human societies survive and flourish. This approach to religion is from a social psychologist and it is fascinating, challenging, and hopeful. You can take a listen at Creating God.

After you listened, what was your response? What podcasts do you listen to on a regular basis?

Sunrise, Sunset

I took this photo over I-70 from my hotel room in Salina, Kansas. Several days later, I was adding keywords and titles and couldn’t immediately remember whether it was a sunrise or a sunset. I had to open the thumbnail to see the full image and pause to remember which direction I was facing.

This is a sunrise.

Someone who was familiar with Salina would be able to pretty easily determine whether this was the beginning or end of the day — whether it was dusk or dawn.

At times in our life, it can be difficult to determine whether a given event, happening or series of encounters represents a sunrise or sunset — the beginning or end of something.

Significant events in our life tend to be both endings and beginnings.

Preparation for a Service of the Baptismal Covenant

A Conversation about the Meaning, Symbolism and Responsibility of Baptism

One of the great privileges that I have as a United Methodist preacher is offering the sacrament of Christian baptism to individuals and families connected with the local church. I like to meet with the individual or family in advance of the service to hear their story and to share some of the meaning, significance and logistics of the service.

Meaning of Baptism

  • Baptism is a sacrament, which is is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. This means that there is a physical action or elements that represent God’s work in our lives. In the United Methodist Church, there are two sacraments — baptism and Holy Communion. In Holy Communion, the other sacrament in the United Methodist Church, the bread and the cup represent the body and blood of Christ and entering into a new covenant.
  • Baptism is rooted in the Bible. We see a connection in the Old Testament ritual of cleansing and renewal. The Jewish people would undergo a ritual cleansing before participating in religious ceremonies. In the New Testament, we read about Jesus himself coming to John the Baptist to be baptized in the Jordan river.
  • Baptism is a sign of the new covenant in Jesus Christ. Throughout scripture we read stories of God making covenants, or promises with individuals and communities — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the people of Israel. In the New Testament, Jesus offers an invitation to a new covenant at the last supper. Baptism makes this real.
  • Baptism is initiation into the body of Christ. Baptism is not particular to a local congregation or denomination. You become a part of the universal church across all time and space.
  • Baptism is a signal that God’s forgiveness that is always and repeatedly available to us when we repent of our sins. For adults who are baptized, it can be a sign that all the ways that one has strayed from God’s path in the path have been forgiven. When an infant is being baptized, it can be difficult to consider that there are things which the child has said or done that are contrary to God’s dream for people. However, sin is not jus thte things that we hav done wrong, it is also the state in which we exist — it is part of our human condition.
  • Baptism is beginning of a lifetime journey of holiness. No matter the age of the person being baptized, it is not the end of a journey of faith — it is just the beginning. It is a significant milestone in our lifetime journey grow toward perfect love of God and neighbor.
  • Baptism is a commission of ministry. We are commissioned to serve God in all areas of our life, not just when we are in a particular place or around particular people.

Symbolism in the Act of Baptism

Water is the central symbol of baptism. We experience water in a variety of ways in our lives and these can give us insight into what is happening in baptism.

  • Just as there are waters at our physical birth, the water of baptism is symbolic of a spiritual new birth.
  • In the Bible, we read of the spirit of God moving across the waters and bringing order out of chaos at the very beginning of time. In a similar way, the waters of baptism can bring order out of the chaos of our lives.
  • We use water to wash and cleanse our physical bodies and the water of baptism is symbolic of our sin being washed away.

After the use of water, laying on of hands and anointing with oil symbolize the work of the Holy Spirit. We read in the Old Testament of indiviudals and holy items being anointed with oil as a sign of being set aside for God and God’s purposes.

Responsibility of Baptism

  • In addition to the meaning and symbolism of baptism, there is responsibility. Parents or guardians who are bringing a child to be baptized have the responsibility to raise the child in the faith and model for them what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ who seeks to worship, grow, give, serve and share. Part of their role is to encourage the child to, one day, claim faith for themselves.
  • Godparents, should the family chose to name them, are also taking responsibility to help raise the child in the faith and encourage them to claim faith for themselves.
  • Adults who come to be baptized have the responsibility to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ as they worship, grow, give, serve and share and seek to move toward perfect love of God and neighbor.
  • Baptism is a community event and the congregation is responsible for be active in the life of the individual and family and help her or him grow in faith. Those that have made a commitment to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ, recommit themselves to living a faithful life.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much water should be used?
    • United Methodists practice sprinkling, pouring and full immersion. The water is a symbol of God’s action and the amount does not matter. Consider rings which are often exchanged as a symbol of marriage vows — a more expensive ring does not make someone “more married.” In a similar way, more water does not make someone “more baptized.”
  • Why are infants baptized?
    • As United Methodists, we believe that God is at work in our lives before we are able to recognize it. Faith is professed by the parents or guardians and promises are made to raise the child in the faith.
  • Do I need to be re-baptized?
    • No. As United Methodists, we believe that baptism is primarily God’s action. We do not practice re-baptism as we believe that God was at work in one’s baptism — no matter the age or circumstances. However, there are times in life when it is appropriate to remember your baptism or recommit yourself to living life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. We can create a symbolic moments in worship for these times of life that are not being baptized again.
  • Does baptism make me a member of the church?
    • Yes. In baptism, you become part of the universal church of Jesus Christ across all time and space. Adults become a Professing Member and Children a Baptized Member of the local United Methodist Church.
  • When do children claim faith for themselves?
    • There is a variety of opinions of the “age of assent” for a child to claim faith for themselves. As a church, we offer the opportunity for persons in 8th to 12th grade to an intentional time of examining their faith and the opporutnity to confirm the promises that were made on their behalf at their baptism. At confirmation, one transitions from a Baptized Member to a Professing Member of the United Methodist Church.

Conclusion

Baptism is meaningful, significant and exciting time in the life of an individual, family and local congregation. It is an honor to be part of this milestone on the journey of faith.

A Response to the Charleston Church Shootings

Over the past few days, I have continued in prayer for Charleston. I want to share a portion of my response to the Charleston Church Shootings which I preached this morning at First United Methodist Church. I believe it is important and inadequate. You can find the entire sermon and manuscript online here.


Let me be clear:
God never intends us to choose evil.
The Charleston Church Shootings were not part of God’s plan.
Racism, murder and tragedy will never be God’s will.
Evil is never, ever God’s plan.

Each one of us has choices to make every day.
We choose between good and evil.
We choose between forgiveness and resentment.
We choose between light and darkness.
The choices that we make – both big and small lead us closer to God or further away from God.

Choose good.
Choose forgiveness.
Choose light and life.
Choose to follow Jesus Christ, Emmanuel – God is with us.

Praying for Charleston

The only response I can manage right now to to a story like this in the New York Times, is deep sadness, anger and prayer.

  • “A gunman … opened fire at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the nation’s oldest black churches, on Wednesday evening, killing nine.
  • Police arrested the suspect in Shelby, N.C., a town east of Charlotte and just north of the South Carolina state line.
  • The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a state senator, was killed, according to the minority leader of the State House of Representatives.
  • The police said the other victims in the Charleston church shooting were six women and two men.
  • The Charleston police chief, Greg Mullen, called the attack a hate crime.”

It is senseless…

Will you pause to pray?

The Biggest Bulldozer in the World (or I Can Do All Things)

At a recent bedtime, I read Bulldozers (Mighty Machines) to our children as one of our stories. After reading, my son stood up and said excitedly,

“One day, I going to drive the biggest bulldozer in the world!”

I replied with a smile, “You sure could.”

In those brief moments, I was struck at how wide the possibilities are for him at three years old. He really could drive the biggest bulldozer in the world one day. Then I considered this possibility for myself. Would I ever drive the biggest bulldozer in the world? It seems a bit little less likely that I would ever would. The reality is that the choices that we make open some possibilities in the future and close others.

Part of the amazing power of the gospel is that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Even, one day, drive the biggest bulldozer in the world.

Breathe In, Breathe Out

I recently learned that Relaxation is a Skill. One of the ways to relax is to breathe deeply. Our son is 9 months old and it doesn’t do us much good to tell him to take a deep breathe. What we can do is to hold him close and breathe deeply.

This helped me know more about my relationship with God. One of the ways to relax in life is to be close to God and breathe deeply in and with God’s spirit. Deep breathing is good for the body and soul.