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Our Traditions

What is baptism and how is it different from confirmation?

Jesus didn’t institute baptism. This has an origin from ancient Judaism. Jesus Himself also followed this tradition and got baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Yet, the meaning of baptism of Christianity goes far beyond that of Judaism.

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong. “Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)

The repented criminal, though he did not receive any sort of baptism, he received the sure repentance and acceptance from Jesus Christ. He could be with Him in paradise. Therefore, we believe that any form of baptism, whether it is sprinkling of water, or full immersion, is not required to qualify to get salvation. The most important thing is, just like what Apostle Paul said in Roman 10:9, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Baptism doesn’t make you a believer — it shows that you already believed. Baptism does not “save” you, only your faith in Christ does that. Baptism is like a wedding ring — it’s the outward symbol of the commitment you made in your heart.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith…it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

For individuals who were baptized as infants or as children (under age 14), there is another step called confirmation.  Although confirmation is not a sacrament in the United Methodist Church, it is an important marker along our spiritual journeys. Confirmation includes three aspects:

  1. God confirms the divine promise to those who were too young to grasp what God was doing in their baptism,
  2. they respond by professing their own acceptance of the grace they have received and their own faith in Christ,
  3. the Church, as represented by this congregation, confirms the commitments they make.

What is the Holy Communion and who can take part in it?

The Lord’s supper, or also known as the Holy Communion, is to remind us the last supper that Jesus was having with His twelve disciples before His passion, death and resurrection. Through this ceremony, the people of God will be connected with Him that they may be also a living sacrifice in Him.  Jesus never asked His disciples to remember His birth. But He did instruct them to remember His death and resurrection.  Jesus Christ is present with His worshippers.  He offers Himself to be their Lord and personal Savior.  When His people receive the bread and the wine, they accept Him through the power of the Holy Spirit with faith and gratitude. Through the Lord’s supper ceremony, His people celebrate and thank the Lord for the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Since the Holy Communion is a means of Grace from God, anyone who would like to come to receive the elements (a wafer representing the body of Christ and grape juice representing the blood of Christ) is welcome, including children.  Our church does not seek to close off who may partake in the Holy Communion, although the historic and normal Christian order of the sacraments is baptism first – as birth into the family – and communion following, as continuing nurture at the family table.  Pastors and congregations reach out and encourage those who partake in the Holy Communion to share fully in the life of God’s people.

“ (Jesus said)… but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4 : 14)

Because the Holy Communion is in remembrance of the Lord, it is open to all who respond to Christ’s love, regardless of age or church membership. The Wesleyan tradition has always recognized that Holy Communion may be an occasion for the reception of converting, justifying, and sanctifying grace. Unbaptized persons who receive communion should be counseled and nurtured toward baptism as soon as possible.

Why do we collect an offering during the worship service and where does the money go?

The offering collected during the worship service follows the traditions and commands established in the Old Testament, which involved a series of offerings to be presented to God for various reasons.  
First, this was all in recognition that all that we have is a blessing from God.  
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.  (I Chronicle 29:14)
This is the prayer that King Solomon offered to God when the Temple of the Lord was having the dedication service.
Second, how much we should offer to God? 
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10)
“Tithe” means “one-tenth” of our income.
Third, what is the purpose of the money that is collected in the service? The offering that we collect is used for a number of purposes.  Locally, the offering is used for staff salaries, various ministries, and the upkeep of the church.  A portion of the offering is also used to support the United Methodist Church’s global ministries around the world. That is why our church, the Chinese United Methodist Church, which is part of the greater United Methodist Church, support the global ministries through our tithing. This is called the apportionment. 
Last but not the least. The above scriptures are quoted from the Old Testament. How about in the New Testament? Certainly, the New Testament speaks loud and clear about what we are to offer.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12: 1, 2)
Therefore, the money that we offer to God during the service represents our hearts that are willing to do His will.

What is the Apostle’s Creed that we recite before the Holy Communion?

The “catholic church” in the Apostle’s Creed means the Universal Church.  This is different than the “Catholic church”, which is the Roman Catholic Church present in the Vatican. We are called Protestant because in 1517, Martin Luther and his followers PROTESTED against the Roman Catholic Church. So, we have the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Church. Nowadays, when people call themselves Catholic, that means they belong to the Roman Catholic Church.  When we call ourselves a Christian, we mean that we belong to the Protestant Church. 
Interestingly enough, what do we really mean when we say that we are ‘Christian’?
” … and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” (Acts 11:26)
The name ‘Christian’ is not only applied to Protestants, but to those who would like to be Jesus’ disciples.
The Apostle’s Creed was written in early 100-200 AD. At that time, the church was under persecution. Of course, there were no denominations at that time. Every assembly was like a home church nowadays. When early Christians got together, they tried to relate to one another with their faith. The most important part was how everyone saw Jesus. So you see the major description lies in the so-called Second Person of God (this is a later theological term). Even in this primitive creed, they firmly believed that God is a triune God: Three Persons in One, the Holy Trinity. Many debates come up when the Roman Emperor later announced his decision to nationalize Christianity. Then, again, we had a final Nicene Creed.
Reciting the Apostle’s Creed together at the Holy Communion is to clarify what kind of God we are talking about. The Holy Communion reminds us why we have to celebrate our relationship with God with wine and bread (which are grape juice and unleavened wafer). The way we receive the elements now is very much different from the first time when the disciples shared with one cup of wine and laying on the ground! 

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