"Father in Heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting."
The Baptismal Covenant in the Episcopal Church is, I think, one of the most important prayers we say as a community and as individuals. It states the basics of our belief system, one based on the faith that there is a God, there is a Son of God who was the "God in man made manifest", and there is a Holy Spirit. All three love and care deeply for all of creation and have put it to us to do the same. And then begin the questions:
Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
To each of these questions, there is a five-word answer: I will, with God's help. And I don't know about anyone else, but I definitely need "God's help" to accomplish some of what I'm promising to do here. I am committing to being more than just a cheerleader for God; I'm committing to actually do the most important mission God gave us to do: to love God first and foremost, and to love our neighbor and ourselves in the same way that God loves us. For Christians, God provided us the living, walking, human teacher of Jesus to show us what is "the way" of that love. Our challenge is to pay attention, internalize it, and then carry it forward out into the world in every encounter we have. Not easy. Especially when "the world" is not returning the favor.
But even if "the world" is being ugly, attacking, trash-talking, red-light-running, littering jerks, the questions posed in the covenant aren't concerned with how "they" are acting. You are answering only for you, and how are you going to live and respond in "the world". Do you look the grocery clerk at the supermarket in the eyes, or acknowledge the stranger who passes you in the hallway with a smile? Such small, simple acts of kindness are ways to even see the divine light in the eyes of the other person.
"Boldly confess him as Lord and Savior". Stand on the street corner and shout Bible verses at passing cars? Paint "John 3:16" on your face for a football game? I suppose that's bold to some. But rather I go to a phrase I remember from my youth, that we should show forth God's praise "not only with our lips, but in our lives." We must take action to live our faith every day, and not just on Sunday morning when we're with our "peeps" in the pews. That, to me, would be a pretty bold move!
Mahatma Gandhi said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." If we keep our covenant, the change in the world will bring the earth closer to peace, justice and harmony for all. It might even start to resemble heaven.