When my husband and I are traveling, we enjoy visiting local churches. I love experiencing all the different ways people worship. Recently we attended a church at the campground where we were staying. The service was outside and the day was absolutely beautiful. The sun was shining; the day was warm and a cool breeze floated by at the perfect time. I just need to say, worshiping outside in God’s beautiful world is awesome! I need to find ways to do it more often.
We were blessed to be attending on baptism Sunday. Baptism is one of my favorite worship services. In the Presbyterian Church that we regularly attend, our baptism is usually, not always, an infant baptism. They call the family and child to come to the chancel which has a wooden font near the front steps and a cut glass pitcher full of water that sits on the Communion table.
As the Pastor pours the water into the font, they share the significance of baptism in which the family reaffirms their faith in Christ and that as parents/guardians/sponsors they declare the intention to raise their child in the Christian faith. Then the Pastor shares, that by water and the Holy Spirit, we are made members of the church, the body of Christ, and joined into Christ’s ministry of love, peace and justice. For me, the next part is so important, the Pastor asks the congregation, “Do you, as members of this church, promise to guide and nurture this child by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging this child to know and follow Christ and be a faithful member of His church?” Boom–Mike Drop!
This is what being a part of a faith community is about. This child of God is now a member of a community, which just promised to support, love and encourage them. Every time we get to this part of a baptism, I think of the African proverb: It takes a village to raise a child. This proverb means that an entire village, or community of people, walk alongside of the child, teaching, guiding, supporting and loving them, helping them to become all that God created them to be. This should not end with childhood. We should show this kind of care for everyone in our community.
The baptisms at the campground church were full immersion baptisms. It took place on the beach, and in the water, of a small lake at the campground. Those to be baptized were older children and adults. As the Pastor called them into the water one by one, he asked them to proclaim their belief that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior and their willingness to follow Him. After everyone was baptized all the people on the beach gathered around them and prayed. This was moving, and it awed me to be a part of it.
As we were praying, one person prayed that those just baptized would find the strength to come to this community for help and support whenever they needed it. Those words in prayer were a reminder to me of what a faith community should be. Our faith calls us to create a place for help, support, and unconditional love. In Hebrews chapter 10, verses 22 - 25 the author writes: “So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.”(msg)
One issue is that people don’t like to ask for help. Why is it so hard to ask for help? Why do we shy away from showing that we are struggling or in need of support? I am a part of Support Teams ministry and a Stephen minister, one of the biggest struggles in both ministries is helping people understand that it is ok to need and ask for help. Everyone needs help and support at sometime in their lives. Needing help is not a sign of weakness or unworthiness. I believe it is actually an act of courage.
Without a doubt, we are created to be in community with others. My Pastor’s sermon a few weeks ago entitled “Two are better than one” during it, he shared a personal story of God’s presence in his life through a friends actions. Then he shared the following verses from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
“It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!
Two in a bed warm each other.
Alone, you shiver all night.
By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.”
The last few weeks of our blog, Henrieta and I have been writing about loneliness. We have looked at its rapid increase in our society and of the many ways that loneliness can occur. We shared how it affects us, physically, mentally and spiritually. Helping those experiencing loneliness is just one way that we can help our friend “face the worst”. There are many others.
As people of faith, created to be in a community, the question for me is, How do we create and maintain a helpful, supportive and loving community around us?
I want to end with 1 Corinthians 12:25-27: “The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. “(msg)
My prayer for you is that you flourish and can help others enter exuberance!