3-Week Series: Double Blessing


Summary: Exploring the baptismal vows of church membership; what it means to be a member of a church

1You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. Ephesians 2:1 - 10 (NRSV)

1As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

2 Corinthians 6:1 - 2 (NRSV)

For the next several weeks we are going to take a close look at the vows taken when a person becomes part of a local congregation of The United Methodist Church. Now we’re not going to just “pick the vows apart, like you dissected a frog in high school biology class; rather we will focus on the meaning of our vows.

Of course sometimes you have to really hunt for the meaning in some vows. And, sometimes not…a youth pastor was getting married. When the minister got to the wedding vows the meaning was really clear: “... in sickness and in health, in youth whitewater rafting trips and in mosquito-infested backpacking, in weeknight Bible studies and in uninvited guests ...” [1]

Biblical Choices and Vows

It would take weeks of Bible study just to point out the many different times choices are laid before people, and the choices God makes. Just a couple illustrate the issue:

Adam and Eve had the first choice, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We know how that turned out.

During the conquest of the Promised Land Joshua was the leader after Moses’ death. He talked with God’s people and reminded them there are a lot of gods we can worship, but only one true, living God, Jehovah. He challenged them:

…choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15b

Jonah was the disobedient prophet. God gave him a tough assignment and he ran away, but the big fish brought him back. From of the belly of that fish Jonah made a different choice; he said, what I vowed I will pay…. [2]

Apostle Peter was imprisoned for following Jesus. When he was being released the governor had him beaten and warned not to preach in Jesus’ name; Peter made the choice, he would obey God rather than men.

In the closing chapters of the Christian Scriptures Jesus lays out a choice for all of us:

Revelation 3:20 (NRSV) 20Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.

Choices, choices, choices! One of our denomination’s leaders who was assigned to a committee that had to make some difficult choices told us at annual conference this year that he felt like the mosquito who found himself buzzing around a nudist colony. He said, I’m rather like a mosquito in a nudist camp; I know what I ought to do, but I don’t know where to begin. [3]

Application for United Methodists

Choices in life can sometimes get muddied, but it should be clear from Scripture that our choices should be towards God. Our Baptismal Covenant points us in that direction. The flow of the covenant tells us to reject sin and choose God. This is what God told the nation of Israel through Moses and Joshua:

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life… Deuteronomy 30:19b – 20a (NRSV)

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