Living the Covenant
By Steve Manskar
Lent is historically 40 days (not counting the Sundays) of final preparation for baptism. “In early centuries, forty days was the time sufficient for converts to make their final, intensive preparation for baptism. So also the ancient baptismal preparation dictated this period to be a time of particular devotion and discipline, especially of the prayer and fasting commended in Acts 14:23” (Laurence Hull Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 79). New Christians were baptized and received their first communion during the Easter vigil on Holy Saturday.
For the baptized, Lent is a season to remember you are baptized and to reflect upon how you are living the baptismal covenant (PDF).
The covenant shared by your covenant discipleship group describes how you, and the group members, aim to live the baptismal covenant as witnesses of Jesus Christ in the world.
The days of Lent are an appropriate season to reflect upon how you are living the covenant. You could do this during your morning or night prayers. If you have a copy of The United Methodist Hymnal handy, open to page 34 and read the three questions under rubric 4:
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?
Focus your prayers each day on one of the vows. Examine yourself and your life. How do Christ and his grace help you to renounce wickedness, reject evil, and repent of your sin? What are you doing to accept the freedom and power God gives to resist evil, injustice, and oppression? How do you serve Christ as your Lord? What needs to change in you, in your life, in your world, in the congregation for you to fully live this covenant?
During your group meeting as you recount your acts of devotion share your reflections on how you are living, or failing to live, the baptismal covenant.
1 Peter is believed to be an extended reflection on the meaning and power of baptism. I’ll conclude with these verses: “Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’”(1 Peter 1:13-16).