Thursday, May 15, 2008

Infant Dedication Ceremony

This Sunday, I will conduct my first infant dedication ceremony for Samuel Campbell. Usually, when I have things like this (weddings, baptisms, church membership), I go first to the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene. Near the back they have outlines and text for sacraments and ceremonies like these.
However, I almost always find that the language is archaic and not especially meaningful in my context. So, usually, I end up writing my own liturgy. Sometimes it tightly follows the traditional Nazarene text and is only an update of language. Other times, it is significantly different, like the liturgy I use for baptism. In this case, for infant dedication, I follow the basic pattern in the Manual, but I insert some of my own perspective along the way.
Some of you out there - or am I just fooling myself here? - might be interested to see how I'm working to update the Nazarene traditions to apply to my multicultural (post)modern context. So here goes:

_________ and __________ want to engage in an old Christian tradition of dedicating their new child to God.
_________ and __________ will you please bring ____________ to the front now?
Matthew 19 says, “One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering Jesus. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.’ And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.”
____________ and __________ by presenting this child for dedication today, you are testifying to two things: first, your own faith in Jesus the Christ and, second, your desire that _________ will understand from the earliest beginnings what it means to walk in the way of Jesus and to entrust his life to God. This is a sign of your prayer that ________ will live and die a Christian.
To move toward this beautiful goal, you have some responsibilities as his parents. You must teach him to trust and to honor God in all he does. You must guide his education so that he can become a blessing to the world. You must teach him the Scriptures and how to live them. You must help him connect deeply with the body of Christ through worship and fellowship. You must discipline him gently and faithfully, guiding him away from harmful habits or influences.
But above all these, you have two fundamental responsibilities.
First, you are to set an example for _________. What you do will forever shape ________ more fully than what you say, so live well – with humility, gentleness, and service.
Second, your deepest and fullest responsibility is to love him passionately and faithfully because if he clearly feels your love for him, then it will be so much easier for him to feel God’s love for him.
Will you commit your life to fulfilling all these duties toward _______ with the help of God?
Parents: We will.
No one is a Christian alone. No one can be a Christian alone. No one raises a child to be a Christian alone. We are in this together. We need each other.
So now, church, I need to talk to you.
This is your child! [[Hold up baby.]] ________ is your child also. We share the responsibilities of helping _________ to understand the ways of God and to learn to live like Jesus. We share the dual responsibilities of example and love. We share the responsibilities of teaching the Scriptures to __________ and to all of our children.
So now, I have a question for you.
Will you commit yourselves as the Body of Christ to the smallest members of our body? Will you love them and support them? Will you serve them as teachers and helpers and playmates? Will you support _______ and ________ in the difficult journey of parenting ________ toward Christ?
People: We will.
[[Encourage people to volunteer in the children’s department.]]
Now Jeong-Hee would like to read a verse for Samuel – appropriately enough from the book of 1st Samuel.
We want to finish this dedication process by laying our hands on ________ and praying for him. I want his father _______ to pray for him on behalf of the parents, and then _________ will pray on behalf of the church.
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