Fellowship – Snacks or a Meal (10 minutes with snacks; longer, obviously, if there is a meal).
Gathering Time (5-10 minutes). Play the aria “Comfort Ye My People” (or from YouTube, Jerry Hadley - Comfort ye my people -Messiah - Handel - YouTube). In pairs or groups of three, have participants describe in a few sentences the image of the “way of the Lord” in the desert land of the Israelites. What would that look like in your own community?
- Isaiah speaks words of comfort and hope to a people who are in exile from their own land. How can you understand and appreciate this good news in a position of relative comfort and safety? What are the barren and “exile” places in your own life? Does this passage bring comfort there? If so, why and how?
- Read aloud Isaiah 40:11. If you can, use a picture of the Good Shepherd (such as Katherine Brown’s image "Jesus and the Lamb.") Ask: “Can you visualize yourself as a lamb in Jesus’ care? Are you able to be vulnerable enough to be cared for and held in the arms of God?” If this is difficult, spend a few minutes discussing what it means and what it takes to entrust yourself to one another and to God.
- Mark 1:2-3 likens Isaiah’s messenger to John the Baptizer—the one crying out in the wilderness. Who today raises the prophetic voice from the “wilderness” to call the community to repent, reform, or reclaim the good news? What does that wilderness look like today? What sort of resistance does that modern-day prophet encounter?
- John looked (and seemed) a bit wild to his contemporaries, yet the “whole Judean countryside” flocked to him and confessed their sins. What do you think made him such a compelling person? Can you imagine who today would have such compelling and legitimate power? What does it take for you to trust a call to repent and follow?
- Take a look at the promises made by or on behalf of a person being baptized (United Methodist Hymnal, pp 34-35, or see below). Ask: “Are these promises you actively remember? Act upon? In what ways do you embrace the vow concerning justice? In what ways do you fulfill the promise to nurture others as a congregational member?”
Prayer (10 minutes). Share prayer requests and respond appropriately.
Sending Forth (2 minutes). End with the following prayer, a similar prayer, or the Lord’s Prayer:
God of the wilderness and of the way of peace: We confess that we too often pray for solace, but not for strength; for pardon, but not renewal. We are grateful for your guidance, your comfort, and your grace. Inspire and move us to hear your prophetic word, to do justice, and to fulfill our baptismal vows. In the name of Christ. Amen.
RENUNCIATION OF SIN AND PROFESSION OF FAITH
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? I do.
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves? I do.
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? I do.
The pastor addresses parents or other sponsors of candidates not able to answer for themselves:
Will you nurture these children (persons)
in Christ's holy Church,
that by your teaching and example they may be guided
to accept God's grace for themselves,
to profess their faith openly,
and to lead a Christian life? I will.
The pastor addresses candidates who can answer for themselves:
According to the grace given to you,
will you remain faithful members of Christ's holy Church
and serve as Christ's representatives in the world? I will.
The pastor addresses the sponsors:
Will you who sponsor these candidates
support and encourage them in their Christian life? I will.
The pastor addresses the congregation, and the congregation responds:
Do you, as Christ's body, the Church, reaffirm both your rejection of sin and your commitment to Christ? We do.
Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life
and include these persons now before you in your care?
With God's help, we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their trust of God, and be found faithful in their service to others.
We will pray for them, that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life
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Diana Hynson is a member of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference who is living in “dual citizenship” – teaching at Annville United Methodist Church, Annville, Pennsylvania, and engaging in worship and ministry at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. We are “cousins,” after all.