Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Holy Baptism Episcopal-style

I listened to my friend Rick Moyer's podcast this week called "Take Him With You". He is doing a multi-part segment called "Spiritual Bootcamp" where he explains the key tenants of the Christian Faith. The podcast is focused towards the unchurched where he shares his faith and discusses Spirituality in a non-threatening, non-preachy, and non 'religious' way.

This week he was talking about Baptism. He explained some of the origins of Baptism, where it is referred to in the Bible, and drilled down to the essentials of its importance. He talked a bit about Episcopalians in the podcast and suggested that I send in an audio comment explaining Baptism in the Episcopal Church. So I did! Below is what I sent him (note: I am no theologian so hopefully I did not misrepresent anything):
Holy Baptism was instituted by Jesus after His resurrection, when He appeared to His disciples and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18-20). He went on to say “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

Another important Scripture verse that addresses Baptism is in John 3:5 where Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” All of these actions by Jesus are why we see Holy Baptism as a Sacrament within the Church, just like the Eucharist or Holy Communion. In fact, these are the two major Sacraments in the Episcopal Church. (There are five other Sacraments).

We believe that one is only baptized once as a Christian. It does not matter which faith tradition baptized you. Once you are part of the Body of Christ, there is no further need to ‘redo’ that membership. For those who wish to formally join the Episcopal Church from another tradition, we ‘receive’ them into the church as opposed to baptizing them.

We baptize people of all ages when they request it. It is true that it is our tradition to baptize babies into the Body of Christ. This is done so that they can share in the New Covenant, in membership in the Body of Christ, and receive redemption by God (the whole original sin concept). During the service, promises are made on their behalf by their parents and sponsors (godparents), who guarantee that the infants will be brought up within the Church, to know Christ and be able to follow him.

Then later, as you stated, when youth are old enough to make their own faith affirmation, there is a separate process called Confirmation, where they profess their belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior in front of the church and usually a Bishop.

During a Baptism, the person being baptized states their faith and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they renounce Evil and the Devil, and they commit themselves to following God’s will. Then, using water, the person is either immersed or sprinkled three times, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus instructed in Matthew. Then the person is anointed with Holy Oil marking them as God’s child forever. And then we pray for the newly baptized.

It is a very powerful service, and the community witnessing baptism is encouraged to recommit themselves as it reminds us all of our responsibilities as Christians in this world.

I wanted to share with you part of the prayers that are said towards the beginning of the service. I think they are pretty cool and explain why water is such an important symbol in Christianity as a whole.
“We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior.”
Anyway, I hope I wasn’t too wordy here. I hope this provides a little clarity around how the more mainline Christian denominations like the Episcopal Church view Holy Baptism. Thanks for allowing me to share this.
I wish all of you a meaningful Holy Week and a joyous Easter as we celebrate the Resurrection and New Life in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Moving forward with my weight loss goals

It all started last May when I decided to lose all the weight that I have been slowly gaining over the past five years. I was tired of looking at myself in photographs on Facebook because they made me feel like I needed to purchase a bigger digital display just to see the entire photo!

I met with a Registered Dietician several times, talking about my eating habits, what I like and did not like to eat, and what I needed to change. Then he and I worked out a strategy and a plan for what I should be eating for good nutrition, how to count my daily nutritional consumption (and what those numbers should be), and what is considered an appropriate 'portion' by normal (not American) standards.

I also decided to go back to what works; I went back to Weight Watchers. This time, I went to their 'At Work' program where the weekly meetings take place at your office and your support group are people with whom you work. It was the most convenient solution I could think of.

From May to December, I lost 50 pounds! Just by eating more intelligently, making better food and portion choices, and pretty much giving up fast food and sodas (drinking mostly water, iced tea, and an occasional Coke Zero).

Starting this year, I started working out at a local fitness center. I do both cardio (treadmill & biking) and strength training workouts and go at least five times a week. It is really making a difference in my endurance, strength, and my self image too. This week, I started a new program called Team Weight Loss which is a cardio program focused on weight loss and nutrition with a group of like-minded people. It is a challenge but it is kinda fun and the people are nice.

I am expecting good things from all this work! To date, I have lost almost 75 pounds. Very exciting progress, right? I am about halfway to my goal so I have to keep things interesting so I can stay motivated.

Then I joined their 90-day Challenge, where you weigh in at the start and then are weighed again at the end. There are prizes for the biggest 'losers'. But the two big cool things with this are 1) there are two 5K races I get to walk/run, and 2) twice each week I get to do any of their classes for free. I plan to take advantage of that deal!

In fact, I am doing a total of three 5K races. Two with the Challenge (in April and July), and a third sponsored by Weight Watchers in May. Hopefully I will survive -- I have never done a real 5K before. Hopefully, fast walking 5K on the Treadmill for several months has prepped me for this...

My bottom line goal is to lose another 75 pounds by this time next year and then to keep the weight off. I am going to be a lean, mean, fighting machine!

It is going to be hard work but it is so worth it! Pray for me! :)