Monday, July 25, 2011

Baptismal Responsibility

At St. John’s, we baptized two children into the Body of Christ. Baptisms are a great service, and not just because the featured attraction are the cooing and crying young ones in the pretty white gowns.

It is also the time when we, the adults of the congregation, renew our own baptismal vows not only through a call and response recitation of the Apostle’s Creed; we are also asked a series of questions:

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching, in the prayers and the breaking of the bread?

Will you resist evil and when 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 seek and serve Christ in all people loving your neighbor as yourself?

Will you strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being?

The answer to all of the above: I will, with God’s help.

God is always willing to help. But are we always willing to do our part?

The point of our participation in the baptism of a child or adult is to recognize that we have certain rights and responsibilities as members in this Body of Christ. It’s not enough to just sit on our rears and watch the world carry on. We have an obligation to see how the world is carrying on, and call out the world where there is no justice, peace or respect of every human being. Membership in this Body does not give us a pass on caring for each other and the world we live in. That care and concern becomes a 24/7, 365 days a year call to action.

Too often people of the Christian faith treat these vows as applicable only between the hours of 8-noon on a Sunday. That’s when you hear the name Jesus, in a way that is formal and reverential, right? The rest of the time, it’s every man, woman and child for him or herself to slog through this muddled up world, dodging through life’s traffic and always looking out for numero Uno.

Uh-oh. I used Spanish words. That’s the language of so many of those “illegals”. We’ve been seeing an increase of laws meant to make it impossible for anyone who isn’t a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant to hold a job, go to college, get medical care or—hey—even get a ride from someone to get to a church so they, too, can take God out of the box for about an hour and fifteen minutes. As noted HERE on my blog, my mentor stood in a pulpit of an Episcopal Church in Alabama and noted that the anti-immigrant law in Alabama, HB56, is not only anti-immigrant; it is anti-Christ. As far as the Gospel message of “love thy neighbor” goes, that new law is an epic fail. She preached a message that reminded the congregation of what it means to have been marked and sealed as Christ’s own forever at their baptism.

Many of them didn’t like that reminder. Just like when Jesus tells the rich young man that if he wants to be “perfect”, he’d sell all his possessions and follow him. The rich young man, realizing the magnitude of what Jesus just said, clutches his possessions and sulks away.

For the rich young man, the “possessions” might have been his gold, his cups, his jewels. Or it might also have been his prejudices and his assumptions that since he isn’t one of “those people” he was a step closer to “perfection.” And here’s Jesus telling him he has to give it all up… including that "holier than thou" attitude? “No way, dude. I know who ‘my kind’ are and I’m not hangin’ out with those furriners!”

The current trend of picking on immigrants is not a “new thing”. The same prejudice that denies services to an immigrant is the same prejudice that denies rights to LGBT people is the same prejudice that says all blacks are criminals, all women are too emotional to handle difficult decisions, and the disabled are “inspirational” when they live their lives. There is no “respecting the dignity of every human being” in any of that. Where is the seeking and serving Christ in all people? And what have we done to the Good News, a message of freedom that the apostle Paul describes as, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”?

If we are baptized in Christ, then we are not given an opt out on compassion and caring for all people. Period!

Welcome to the newly-baptized. With God’s help, and your willingness, we can make this a better world for everyone.


Anonymous said...

A much better sermon than I heard yesterday.

Anonymous said...

I think this is one of your best, Susan. Thanks for your words and incite.


Anna said...

One of the most meaningful personal religious practices I take part in is briefly dipping my fingertips in the font as I leave my church and making the sign of the cross with my wet fingers. I'm one of the few people who does this at my (Lutheran) church on a regular basis and more than one person has looked askance at me when I do it. But it's so important for me to remember my baptism and my place in the Body of Christ.

Thanks for reminding me that my baptism isn't just about me, and that the promises we make at baptisms aren't just to the person being baptized.

SCG said...

Anna, you're welcome. And do dip your fingers into the Baptismal font and remember your connection to the greater Body.