Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
This lovely collection of opportunities comes from Acts 2.42, which presumes that these activities are not a new thing, but a continuation of that which has already started. So too, our baptism should not symbolise a start of our faith journey, but rather a continuation of being a member of the family of God.
Teaching and Fellowship
The teaching of the apostles refers to the stated intention to commit one’s life to the following of Jesus’ ways. Living the baptismal vows is not easy, but it is the right thing to do. The first letter of John, chapter 1, assures us of this. We are called to do what Jesus taught us to do, and the we might truly celebrate being a member of the family. Going right back to the Didache, or first Catechism, the learning opportunities are there to apply Christian ethics, rituals, worship, and church organisation (addressing people, not structures).
Breaking of bread
While this commitment may seem to refer to the Holy Eucharist, and it does, it is not limited to the sacrament. In the earliest church, the apostles gathered together and blessed the bread and wine according to Jewish custom; they followed the instructions given them by Jesus himself at the Last Supper. Yet we are called to ‘break bread’ even in less formal occasions: every meal, celebration, and gathering is an opportunity to break bread, to come together as the people of God with open and clean hearts. We can choose if we will simply eat a meal, or if we will invite God to join us.
The invitation to break bread is truly an invitation to share what we have with one another – with anyone who would come to the table beside us. We share our physical space, our food, our finances and possessions, our hearts, our efforts, our faith: we share ourselves with the family of God, holding nothing back.
The opportunity to enter into prayer can be both comforting and comfortable; yet it is also a chance for us to grow spiritually. We’re challenged to remember that prayer is not about wish fulfillment, but about faith. We are called to pray for all of God’s people, and recognise the areas in which our own hearts could be a little more open or flexible.
Specifically in the BAS service of Baptism, the prayers encourage a thinking, loving, active life in the faith. “Deliver them, O Lord, from the way of sin and death. Open their hearts to your grace and truth. Fill them with your holy and life-giving Spirit. Teach them to love others in the power of the Spirit. Send them into the world in witness to your love. Bring them to the fullness of your peace and glory.” Part of our opportunity is to be reminded of all those we dislike, and to hold them in the same prayer; and to mean those prayers not just the day of the baptism, but every day. Prayer is a practice and a discipline, one which the earliest disciples undertook, one which we are encouraged to do also.
Have mercy upon us, your children.
Forgive us our arrogance when we reject the teachings of your chosen followers.
Forgive us our greed and self-centredness.
Forgive us our lack of humility.
Have mercy on us, your children.
Help us to continue being awed as we learn of your love for us.
Help us to be willing to share with all your children.
Help us to submit to you in prayer.
Have mercy on us, your children.
Guide us to live into the hope and promise of redemption that only you can offer us.