Pastor’s Blog

#15: Why Do We Baptize People?

Why do we baptize people during worship? Baptism is a sacrament instituted by the Lord Jesus himself when he gave the Great Commission to his followers -- Go into all the world, make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28). A sacrament is both a physical sign and a spiritual gift. The application of water signifies many realities: we are members of the Universal Church and the local congregation; we have died to sin and have been raised to righteousness by being joined to Christ's death and resurrection; we are empowered by the Holy Spirit for ministry; and we are beloved by God as His children. Baptism marks the beginning of the Christian life. Many Christians are baptized as children and spend their lives growing into their baptismal identity. The baptism of children reminds us that God claims people in love even before they are able to respond in faith. Adults are baptized when they make a profession of faith in Christ, reminding us that the gift of God's grace calls for our grateful response. Other rites of the church are built upon baptism -- ordination, commissioning for special ministries, and services of healing and wholeness. In short, Baptism is the font, or well-spring, of the Christian life. Now you know Why We Do That.  

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#14:Why do we make an affirmation of faith?

Why do we make an affirmation of faith on some Sundays?  An affirmation is an expression of agreement, support, and solidarity.  Making an affirmation of faith is one of the ways that we respond to the truth of the sermon. Having been addressed as the People of God, we identify ourselves as God's people by stating what we believe and what we intend to do. We may loosely compare an affirmation of faith to making a pledge of allegiance. The most common affirmations of faith are the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed, both of which are traced back to the earliest centuries of the church. Every major tradition of Christianity around the world recognizes these two creeds. The Apostle's Creed is spoken in the context of the baptismal liturgy, while the Nicene Creed is traditionally associated with the Lord's Supper. Affirmations of faith can also be drawn from sentences of Scripture or from the creeds, confessions, and catechisms in our Book of Confessions. In addition to clarifying and strengthening our communal and historic identity, affirmations of faith also equip us to share our faith with the world. Creeds, catechisms, and confessions may be employed as evangelistic tools. Affirmations of faith can help us fulfill the Biblical injunction, "Be always ready to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you." (I Peter 3:15) Now you know Why We Do That.

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#13: Why Do We Take an Offering?

Why do we pass the plates to collect money every Sunday? Let us first dispel two misconceptions: 1) the church is not expecting anyone to "pay for" the service. There is no admission fee to worship. 2) The church is not begging for donations to maintain its existence. The church could come up with other ways to obtain funding. No, we pass the plates to allow God's people to give. Self-offering is the only appropriate response to the gift and calling of the gospel presented in the sermon. We pass and fill the plates to show our joyful gratitude for God's self-giving in Jesus Christ and to commit ourselves to discipleship with our lives, our service, and our material goods. Although many members give online, they put an "I gave online" token in the plate so that they can enact their response to God. Giving is part of worship. "Tithing" (10% of one's income) is a form of committed, regular giving while"offerings" are prompted by special sentiments or occasions. Taken together, tithes and offerings are dedicated to God to show our stewardship of creation, demonstrate our care for one another, support the church, and provide for the needs of the poor. Now you know Why We Do That.    

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#12: Why is a Sermon Preached at Every Service?

Why is a sermon preached at every service? So God can talk to us. God? Yes. We believe in the three-fold Word of God. Jesus is the Living Word. The Scriptures are the Written Word. The Sermon is the Proclaimed Word. When the pastor faithfully preaches from the Scriptures, the Lord Himself speaks to the congregation by the power of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, preaching has been a source of encouragement, consolation, exhortation, and guidance since the earliest days of the Church. Sermons help us to appreciate the historical story written in Scripture, to ponder how the Gospel relates to our contemporary situation, and to discover what Christ wants us to do next. Sermons present the gift and the calling of the gospel to believers and to seekers. From the Book of Order, “when the Word is proclaimed, we are called, above all, to discern Jesus Christ, receive His grace, and respond to his call with obedience.” Now you know Why We Do That.

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#11: Why do we read the Bible during worship?

Why do we read from the Bible during each worship service? The Bible is not just another book. The Presbyterian Book of Worship instructs us, "The Scriptures bear witness to the word of God, revealed most fully in Jesus Christ, the Word who 'became flesh and lived among us' (John 1:14)." In other words, the Bible is the authoritative guide for our relationship with God through Christ. The prayers, music, and sacraments we celebrate are rooted in the Bible. The pastor ensures that over time the broad content and full message of scripture is offered to the congregation. Here at Faith, Scripture reading is based on the lectionary, which yokes Scripture to the rhythm of the Christian year and links our congregation to the universal Church. When the Scripture is read, the congregation is encouraged to listen prayerfully, actively, and attentively. We enact our readiness to hear the word of God by standing. Now you know, Why We Do That.

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#10: Why do we have a Time with Young Disciples?

The Time with Young Disciples is not about cuteness or amusing children during a long worship service. On the contrary, the children of our congregation, as baptized members, have a right to pastoral care, religious instruction, and participation in the communal worship of the church. Having a special time with the pastor communicates to children that they belong in worship, that God's Word is relevant to their young lives, and that the community of adults is invested in their spiritual growth. Adults also benefit from the Time with Young Disciples. Children and youth bring special gifts and fresh perspectives to mature Christians, reminding them that they too are God's children. During the Time with Young Disciples, we see that another generation of Christians is growing up because God is faithful. Now you know, Why We Do That.

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What is Valentines Day and Why Celebrate It?

According to historical sources, there were at least three different Saint Valentines whose martyrdoms are celebrated on the 14th of February. Stories are preserved of two of these Valentines, who lived in the mid-third century, but they are considered more legendary than reliable. And they may have little to do with romance or courtship.

It seems that the association of St. Valentine with the celebration of romance has more to do with the coincidence of the saints’ feast day (Feb. 14th) with previously existing customs of courtship. One source reports that the popular traditions of St. Valentine’s Day must have originated during the Middle Ages in England and France. It was believed that at mid-February the birds began to pair. Herbert Thurston (Catholic Encyclopedia 1907-1913) points to Chaucer’s verse: “For this was sent on Saint Valentine’s day/When every foul cometh there to choose his mate.” He concludes that it was for this reason that the day was given over to lovers and became an occasion for writing love letters and sending other tokens of love.

Although religion and romance are often contrasted, it is healthy for Christians to remember that romance has an important place in our spirituality. The Judeo-Christian scriptures teach that God made humankind male and female and gave them to each other for procreation, love, and happiness (Gen. 2:18-25). Men and women belong together and are the crown of God’s “very good” creation (Gen. 1:31). Moreover, the love, commitment, and passion of marriage is sometimes used as a metaphor for the relationship between God and His people (John 3:28–302 Cor 11:1–3Rev 19:7–921:222:17–20). In other words, the Bible presents romantic love as both a natural relationship between men and women and something that points them toward God.

Recognizing that our contemporary culture has many different views on romantic relationships and marriage, and that Christians of good faith and practice may also disagree on some points, there are profound truths held out to all of us on Valentines Day.

First, we remember that romantic love is God’s gift to humankind and therefore is good and right to celebrate. Even if we do not have a romantic relationship right now, we can still be glad that romance is possibility. Let us shudder to imagine living in a world without romance, or even the possibility of it! On Valentine’s Day we rejoice in the love we have for another and the love that we witness between couples all around us. How beautiful!

Second, when we make and receive gestures which declare our intention to give ourselves completely to another person, we get a glimpse of how God is always making overtures of love toward humanity. God shows up every day with a box of chocolates, a bouquet of roses, a sunrise and sunset, an inward sentiment of affirmation, or an assurance of presence in the midst of difficulty. God has been called the ‘spouse of our soul.’ God is a Valentine to each and every one of us...and to us all together!

So, I invite us all to be loving and beloved this Valentines Day. And I offer you this prayer:

“God, you who are the source, advocate, and goal of all love, you call us into relationships with each other and with yourself. Strengthen and purify our power to love. Let love drive out fear and heal loneliness. Let love fill our hearts and guide our lives, for the sake of Jesus, in whom your love is made visible. Amen.”

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#9: Why do we say a Prayer of Confession?

Having praised the holiness of God, we must also face the sinful state of the world and of our lives. In worship we are honest about who God is and who we are. We pray a common prayer of confession to stand in solidarity with the sinfulness, captivity, and brokenness of the whole church and the world. In this way, confession has an intercessory function. Next, we have a time of personal prayer, to confess the sins that are particular to ourselves. We approach God with confidence, trusting in the mercy of Jesus Christ. The Assurance of Pardon reminds us that Jesus' death cleanses us from sin and his resurrection frees us to renew our discipleship. We are never condemned when we confess our sins to God; we are pardoned. Assured that we have peace with God, we take a moment to share God's peace with each other. We say, "May the peace of Christ be with you." This liturgical action points to the reality that God's forgiveness heals human relationships. God promises that the forgiveness, pardon, and reconciliation that begins in the church will one day transform the whole world. Now you know, Why We Do That

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#8: Why Do We Sing Hymns?

Why Do we sing hymns? The Book of Order offers a helpful insight, "The singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is a vital and ancient form of prayer. Singing engages the whole person, and helps to unite the body of Christ in common worship. The congregation itself is the church’s primary choir; the purpose of rehearsed choirs and other musicians is to lead and support the congregation in the singing of prayer. Special songs, anthems, and instrumental music may also serve to interpret the Word and enhance the congregation’s prayer. Music in worship is always to be an offering to God, not merely an artistic display, source of entertainment, or cover for silence." Here at Faith Church, our music leaders seek to lead us into diverse experiences of musical worship. Still, hymns are our musical foundation because they have been tested by time and have the approval of a wide range of Christian communities. Our new hymnal, Glory to God, promises to be a valuable resource as we worship together. Now you know, Why We Do That.

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#7: Why Do We Offer a "Prayer of the Day"?

Why do we offer a "Prayer of the Day?" The Prayer of the Day, or the Opening Prayer, serves two purposes. First, the Prayer of the Day gives glory to God and asks God to lead us in worship. We recognize that we cannot worship God rightly by our own power; we need God to enable us to worship in spirit and in truth. Second, the Prayer of the Day typically expresses some aspect of the day (like Christ the King), the season (like Advent), or the festival (like Christmas). In this way, the Prayer of the Day contributes to the focus of the day's worship. When the congregation responds to the prayer with the word "Amen" ("so be it"), we affirm our participation in the prayer and embrace it as our own.  Now you know, Why We Do That.

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