Part of my personal spiritual practice is to renew my baptismal vows regularly. Every time I do this, something new jumps out at me and for a while I was concerned and thought did I lie when I took these promises at baptism, at confirmation, at reaffirmation? I don’t think I lied at all, looking back on it. I made those promises in sincerity with the knowledge of what I understood them to mean at the time. I believe every word of them and mean every promise at the time I make the promises, or else I wouldn’t make them, because it means so much more to me than that. As far as liturgy goes, I won’t say it if I don’t believe it. It’s just that every time I taken them anew, I begin to have a deeper understanding of them the more I’m committed to walking with Jesus.
Unfortunately, I’m about as good at keeping my baptismal vows as I was my wedding vows, but I’ve learned something that’s actually written in the baptismal vows. It asks: Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? Then I respond I will, with God’s help. Here’s the thing about that. Basically, when I have trouble keeping those promises, when I break them, I’ve also promised to repent and return to the Lord. In my mind this says when you fuck this up, own up to it, ask God for forgiveness, and then go in peace to try again.
I love being Episcopalian, and one of the things I love about being Episcopalian is the Baptismal Covenant. My Book of Common Prayer automatically opens at page 302, Holy Baptism when I go to open it these days, because I renew these vows weekly at a minimum. I do that partly because it keeps them on my mind, and also because of things I struggle with in my walk with Christ that warrants doing it that often. Most people don’t have to do that, and all I can say is this is what works for me and Jesus.
Another aspect of renewing these promises regularly for me is that doing so gives me more insight on what I have promised to do as a Christian. I have always loved Jesus, at least, as far as I understood Jesus which I might say wasn’t very well since I was raised in a cult. But I’ve always sought Christ, always searched for him, and I’m one of the people that the promise of ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened unto you. God honors seeking, and one day I was faced with the deliberate choice to choose Jesus. It was an epic kind of good vs. evil battle, and those were literally the only two choices.
Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God? That is what the promises ask of me. Bowing my head, I respond I renounce them. I usually say it forcefully, and confidently, because I want the power of those words to be heard loud and clear by both the good and evil spiritual entities. It’s my rebellion towards the forces of evil, my declaration reminding these forces that I have chosen Jesus.
The next question is: Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God? All that evil forces ever want to do is destroy. These forces prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking whom they may devour. I will not allow myself to be devoured, and I will do everything I can to make sure that I help a fellow sibling in Christ. Again, I bow my head, and loudly declare I renounce them.
I think these promises build on each other, and the renunciation of evil part comes first for a reason. It’s ditching the old way of life and embracing the new. The question in this case becomes do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God? This question is actually a little more complicated than the other two for me. For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to come to a conclusion about something specific, and I got into the good old black and white thinking of my fundamentalist cult days. It’s not that simple. Black and white isn’t reality. My quest was to figure out if this thing was inherently evil. What I ended up realizing was that whether it was a sin or not across the board, for me personally it is a sinful desire that draws me from the love of God, and that’s all I need to know. I’m not making promises on behalf of everyone else, it’s a covenant between me and God, between me and the Church.
I’ve talked here about the renouncing part of the promises, and next time I’ll cover what I’m called to embrace after I’ve renounced. To live into this covenant, this way of life, the promises need to be constantly on my mind.