The lawyer raises the question for us: What must we do to truly live with God? The Scriptures tell us to love God with all our heart But my heart loves so many other things Love God with all our soul But I have so many competing desires Love God with all our strength But my energy and my passion is divided Love God with all our mind But my mind feels too powerful or too broken to be a place of love Love, not only God – but also our neighbor, even as we love ourselves But who is our neighbor? Our neighbor is whoever God has brought near to us. Then we will love our God who has come near to us and our neighbor God has brought near to us In this way, we will love our God With all of our heart, our soul, our strength and our mind. And then, people of God, we will truly live.
And a blessing in response to Ephesians 2:11-12
To all who have known what is to be far Far from love Far from hope Far from life Far from God Jesus has come near to you Jesus has brought you near to him So live near. And free. And alive. And go the far places in your world. And witness that Jesus is near. Amen.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came to save us from our sins? I believe
Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to bring you life and to bring you home into his kingdom? I believe
Do you renounce Satan and his kingdom and all his evil works? I do
And will you turn from your sins and obey Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit? I will
Will you now lay your life down and be buried in God’s love? I will
Last Sunday, Wyatt received baptism. One of the perks of being your boy’s pastor is that you get to participate front and center in these sacred moments. I was knee deep in the baptismal waters, my arm around his shoulders (and that’s where I hope to always be, wading into his water, standing next to him). With joy, I laid priestly hands on my son and said holy words, In the name of the Father and the Son and the Spirit, be buried in Jesus’ death…
Baptism is many things, but three things at least – and all three are about belonging. In our baptism, we declare that we belong to Jesus and to Jesus’ kingdom. In baptism, the church declares that we belong to the community, this family of faithful storytellers. And, most importantly, in baptism the Spirit declares that we belong to the Triune God. Baptism is really more about what God is doing than about what we are doing. God has marked us, come after us, loved us to death. And life.
Because this whole thing is a communal affair, the entire community renews our baptismal vows before the new vows are taken. In a way then, with each new baptism, it is as though we are being baptized anew. The last question of the vows, the words that are spoken just before we put a body under the waters, echoes for me today.
Will you now lay your life down and be buried in God’s love?
The verbs in this question are passive. Will I lay down? Will I be buried? Will I surrender the illusion that I can pull my life together? Baptism is something I receive, not something I do. I don’t baptize myself; another baptizes me. I don’t finagle my way into the church; the community simply gives me a wide welcome. I didn’t snag a ticket into God’s kingdom with my spit-n-shine resume. God isn’t lucky to have me. God came and got me because God is kind and because this is what God does – God comes and rescues.
So this is the question my baptism asks me: Will I lay down and drown in love? Will I drown?
Will I hold my ground and guard my self-interests in my marriage – or will I drown?
Will I wallow in selfish guilt about what my poor fathering choices say about me, or will I surrender every shred of image and reputation and just love my boys, now, today? Will I protect myself – or will I drown?
Will I keep distance from those I’m sure to disappoint or those who I think will leave me lonely – or will I drown?
I choose to drown.
I surrender the image of the put together husband, father, writer, pastor, friend. I choose to drown.
I am probably not as smart or brilliant or witty or insightful or artful as you are. I choose to drown.
I will probably never write a bestseller. I choose to drown.
At All Souls, the community where our family lives and loves, we have a shared liturgy each week. Liturgy is “the work of the people,” and we believe that encountering God is something we do together. We all pray. We all question. Together, we all sit listening to the cues of grace. A good bit of what we do comes from the Book of Common Prayer and the Lectionary – we join the chorus of God’s people in other places and in other generations.
However, we also create our own movements. Somewhat regularly, I’m going to post one of our original pieces. Use it for your own reflection and pondering.
This week, I share our litany (where a leader reads the first lines and all the people respond) from the Old Testament reading. One of our tasks as a Christian community is to learn how to hear the Bible, how to allow the text to submerge us in its narrative. We have no desire to blandly take in the words. We want to wrestle and wrangle. We want to awaken our curiosity, bring our questions. We want to see where the text will take us.
OT Reading | Judges 6:11-24
Is the Lord with us?
The Lord is with you
Is the Lord with us? Is the Lord with Haiti, with the forgotten or the shattered?
The Lord is with you
But I am so full of fear. My soul has shrunk. I am empty, no courage.
The Lord is with you, mighty warrior
I cannot do what is before me. I am empty, no faith.
The Lord is with you, woman of strength
Rise up, people of God.
The Lord is with you. Today. Tomorrow. Forever, unto the end of the age.