Recommitment or rededication of one’s life implies a prior experience of commitment/ dedication. The level of understanding or seriousness of the decision at that time will vary widely. Regardless, many believers at one or another time in their faith journey feel the need to actively, openly, outwardly recommit their lives to Jesus. This impulse is very real and genuine, and in most cases should be honored in some way. Many believers in this situation will look for some outward sign of the inner grace they’ve experienced (the very definition of the word sacrament), and baptism is often the first thing that comes to mind. This is not in any way a suspicion of questioning of their former baptismal experience, as if to say, “Yes, I was immersed, but it didn’t really count as baptism.” Rather, the individual is looking for a symbol as powerful, as recognizable, as memorable as baptism. Again, we would say that this impulse is to be honored. One way to make sense of the ritual life practiced by Israel, and the descendant ritual life practiced by Christians (esp. Baptism and The Eucharist) is that God knows that human beings need external acts to give life to inner unseen experiences. Marriage is an outward expression of an inner preceding commitment between a woman and a man before God and the gathered community. There is power for us in doing it out loud, in public, before witnesses. Most human cultures have had some form of religious/spiritual ritual life, and even our secular lives become ritualized / habitualized in how we express what we value and believe (i.e. “I pledge allegiance…”)
So, the question comes for disciples of Jesus, “How can I express my recommitment to Christ, my new or renewed sense of who He is, who I am in Him, and my commitment to a life following in obedience to Him.” This becomes particularly important for those who have actively expressed their faith, and then for a time (separately or simultaneously) lived in ways that were directly contrary to the call of Jesus.
We must acknowledge at this point that every disciple of Jesus goes through varying times of greater or lesser commitment and expression of their faith. We affirm with Paul that we know what we ought to do, but often do (can) not do it. (Romans 7) And so there comes the desire (necessity?) for some means of repentance and recommitment even for the long-time believer. James says, to the believing church, that we are to confess our sins to one another – the practice of confession has an important history in the life of the church, and is certainly part of this discussion. Further, Paul calls us to “… not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Renewal is part of the ongoing journey of the faithful and believing disciple of Jesus, not just the backslidden and repentant.
That said, we return to the affirmation of some outward sign (sacrament) of this renewal. Thus, the following short service is offered as a form for reference and expansion:
Service of Renewal, Rededication,or Recommitment to the Christian Life
We give thanks for Jesus, his willingness to give up heaven and come to earth, his ministry of teaching and healing, his sacrificial death on the cross, and his resurrection which conquered death once for all. Only by grace do we come in faith, trusting that in and through his life, death, and resurrection, we have access to all the blessings and promises of God: covenant relationship, merciful forgiveness, new life, ministry of the one Gospel, and eternal life in the Kingdom. In gathering here, we acknowledge our common need and desire to draw near to God by following Jesus. Let us then affirm this faith together:
Unison: We confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, our Savior and Lord.
Let us pray: Loving God, having affirmed our faith in Jesus your son, we give thanks for all the blessings that come to the church, his body on earth. We confess, O God, that we are guilty of Sin. We have done what we ought not, and have failed to do what we knew you asked of us. Grant us your forgiveness according to your promised mercy, as we grow in understanding and ability to forgive others, and this too by your grace. Allow us an awareness of your presence in these moments, as we come for recommitment to a life of faithful discipleship. Amen.
Reading of Psalm 51:
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. 5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. 6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right F103 spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. 17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, 19 then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
As the Gospel story begins, we find John baptizing in the Jordan river for repentance and forgiveness of sins in preparation for the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom. Though without sin, Jesus received John’s baptism, thus placing his ministry within John’s teaching, forming an unbroken lineage. Jesus later taught, and his apostles practice, a baptism in Jesus name, and in the name of the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This baptism marked the new believers commitment to a life of discipleship to the Lord Jesus. Whether baptism only symbolizes or actually confers God’s grace is debated. What is certain is that Jesus was baptized, and called for all disciples to be baptized as well. This baptism publicly marked a turning point in the new believer’s life.
Similarly, we come today to publicly celebrate the rededication of follower(s) of Jesus – a renewal and reclaiming of that earlier commitment sealed in baptism.
Presentation of the Repentant
Would those who come today to rededicate their lives to faithful discipleship please come forward and kneel.
****The following is preferably carried out for each one individually.
What is your name? N_____, do you claim the grace of God celebrated in your baptism? Have you, by His continued grace, come to a new depth of commitment to your life in Christ? Do you again renounce the sins and will of the flesh, commit to the life of the spirit, and ask the gathered Body of Christ to uphold and support you through their prayers and humble guidance, and correction when necessary?
Please repeat after me:
Dear Jesus…thank you for calling me to follow you…forgive me for losing my way…thank you for coming to find me…one of your wandering sheep….Redeem my wandering for your glory…and keep me always near you… Amen.
Having prayed this prayer of recommitment to discipleship, I offer to you the anointing oil in sign of the cross…and this water on your head as a reminder of your baptism [the pastor’s hand is dipped in the water and placed on top of the recipient’s head]…pouring it over your hands [the pastor pours water from a pitcher over the hands and into a receptacle (bowl?)] to remind you that you are called and equipped to serve Christ in the world for the increase of His kingdom.
May all who witness this rededication so recommit themselves inwardly to live and work with humility and boldness for the sake of Christ and the work of his kingdom. Go in peace to love and serve God.