March 31, 2016
Dear Hyde Park Family,
This morning before school, I spent some time with younger daughter Madelyn watching a video she had never seen before. It was Hyde Park United Methodist worship footage from January, 2004, from the 9:30 contemporary service. Near the beginning was a baptism of a certain adorable 7-month old girl, surrounded by her parents and godparents.
Madelyn doesn’t remember that moment, of course. She doesn’t remember that baptismal gown, or her mother carrying her or her dad holding water from the Holy Land. She doesn’t remember her two godparents, Warren and Angie Pattison, standing proudly next to her. She doesn’t remember Jim, Bernie, and Vicki, looking on with great joy. She doesn’t remember her big sister Grace leaning into camera view, trying to steal a big hug and kiss from her soon-to-be-doused kid sister.
And she doesn’t remember the vows that her parents and godparents took on her behalf:
- On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you: Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
- Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
- Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
- Will you nurture Madelyn in Christ’s holy Church, that by your teaching and example she may be guided to accept God’s grace for herself, to profess her faith openly, and to lead a Christian life?
Whether she remembers it or not, Madelyn’s baptism was an acknowledgement that God’s grace was already at work in her life, and that God had claimed her as God’s child. Like every covenant God made in the Bible, her baptism brought the assurance that God loved her and would never leave her.
But when we said “I do” to these vows on her behalf, it did not mean that Madelyn had claimed them for herself. It did not make Madelyn a follower of Jesus Christ. And it did not make her a full member of the church.
Instead, her baptism included a promise, that her family, her friends, and her church would foster the faith in her life, until that point when she could claim those vows publically for herself.
In fact, you may not remember this either, but when Madelyn was baptized you promised to surround her with “a community of love and forgiveness, that she may grow in her trust of God.” You also promised to pray for her (and her family), so that one day, she might become a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
So, I’d like to thank you.
There would have been no way to predict back at the time of her baptism all the events that would unfold since then, and I certainly could not have anticipated that we would be back at Hyde Park eleven years later. But you have fulfilled your part of the vow.
For the past three months, Madelyn and thirty-two of her church friends have been participating in this church’s confirmation program, led by our terrific youth leaders Emily Felgenhauer, Dave Jans, and a host of wonderfully dedicated adult volunteers. Along the way, they have learned the essentials of the Christian faith and the distinctives of our Wesleyan tradition. And they have received lovely, prayerful words of encouragement from many of you.
Each confirmand has had a handful of people in this church designated to be their adult prayer partner and confirmation buddy, and Madelyn has received notes of encouragement from both Linda Brown and Marti Smith, who gave me permission to share them with you:
- Dear Maddy, I’m so happy I got to choose you as my confirmand this year! You have been special to so many of us at Hyde Park since the first day we met you many years ago and I’m especially pleased to pray for you as you grow closer to God every day. I believe in you and I love you, Linda
- Dear Maddy, Just a little note to let you know I am thinking about you and praying for you on your journey to your confirmation day. I hope your retreat weekend is full of excitement and love and the joy of Jesus is in your heart. Your friend in Christ, Marti
Madelyn keeps these notes in a pocket of her school lunchbox, so she can have them with her every day.
And so this Sunday, at 6 p.m. in the Sanctuary, Madelyn and her classmates will stand before God and this congregation, and continue the journey that began on their behalf many years ago. They will affirm these vows for themselves, acknowledge God’s grace at work in their lives, and vow to become followers of Jesus Christ as members of Hyde Park United Methodist.
It will be a moment of great joy, and great gratitude, for all of us.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist