I wonder if the water was cold, if I screamed, or even if I was awake for it. It was an October morning, after the hottest September in years. I wonder if there was that cool fall breeze that day. I can’t remember what I was wearing though, but I know my parents were there. It was the day of my baptism and I was less than a month old. The font was a distance away from where the congregation sat, and was rarely looked at unless we needed to use it. It had this huge copper lid that made it seem impossible to use or see into, but on that October day in 1982 water was poured, light was passed, and oil applied to welcome me into the household of faith. There is no way I could remember what happened, only assume and look back at photos as I try and make sense of what happened all those years ago, but I always remember the distance the font felt from my life because of how it was placed in the church. My baptism happened in an instant, and has taken my life to this point to try and understand it. The distance of most of our baptisms, has me reflecting on how we reclaim our baptisms today in a world which is tearing itself apart. How do we promise to live this life as Christians when I often wish someone else would put their neck out first. We can’t be silent.
The writer of Luke, which we just heard this morning, is trying to help us see where our everyday lives meet faith, something which isn’t always clear. Luke is trying to communicate the inter-related relationship of Christ’s life to our lives, which helps us see just how directly this story remains about you and I, rather than some distant time and place. Just last week we heard, saw, and touched that relationship with Thomas, and at Easter we saw the same with Mary at the tomb. Yet, there remains a small part of me that still waits for something bigger to happen, something more amazing than meeting Jesus at the tomb, or touching his sides and hands to know that we are still in relationship with him. There is that deeper hope in not being required to actually go out and talk to people about our faith because of what we have seen, heard, known, and tasted here, because it’s scary. When we look at our baptismal covenant, there is a human response within me that sometimes hopes someone else can do all these things for me- because I am not capable to do them on my own. Admitting I can’t do something goes against how we are raised, that we should be self sufficient, yet we are hardwired for community. As Henri Nouwen reflects on the nature of power “It seems easier to be God, than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.” It is our baptisms that ask us to live out of the power of love, rather than the power control, yet it is control we often default too because we have things to get done!. Power is not a negative, great power makes great change, but only when it is used for the power of love. A love which as Christians we know hung on a cross and rose from the tomb for us. In the face of that love, how can we be silent?
When we gather at the edge of our font, each time we are asked these 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 seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?
- Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
- Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s Creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the earth?
But how do we live this life, these questions, this faith in our world today? We live it with God’s help, to see and hear the places from which we are being called to show up and act, because of what we believe in. When we show up, we lean into our witness of and for the resurrection in the world today. Notice how we are never asked if was want to be a witness in our resurrection narratives, we are called directly and sent into the world because of it. We are sent with the mission to never be silent again.
But how are we supposed to live into our witness as baptized members of Christ’s resurrection? I want to suggest a few of the ways we can continue to live this life which has permeated this parish for over 65 years.
- Pray. Pray with your heart, mind, soul, and body- and when necessary use words, but only if it improves the silence. Develop a prayer routine which works for you, focused on how you know you’re best able to be present and fully engaged in prayer. Create a ritual, open your prayer space by lighting a candle, listening to a taize chant on YouTube, or reading a piece of scripture. Then hold open the space with an intention, just in the same way you do when you talk to your spouse or kids. Hold on your heart what you want to talk with God about, and either name it aloud or keep it silent. Do not be afraid to get angry or wrestle with God. Remember, this is the same God who overcame death for us. God is big enough to handle your anger. Ask for God’s direction in your life, to help you understand what it is you’re meant to do, how to be, who to be. Ask God to be with you as you try and live out your promises in baptism to not be silent anymore. Ask. Pray.
- Be present and dare to show up in action. Lean into a new relationship with our homeless ministry, help us pack food after the service, volunteer to go out next Saturday for our monthly walk. Maybe you have a Saturday morning free to share breakfast with the kits shower program. Join with me on April 28th as we respond to a request from indigenous people to stand with them as they seek to have their voices heard on Burnaby mountain regarding Kinder Morgan. We will organize carpools up to the protest site and stand as witnesses to both our faith and our commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous people. They are asking us to help them, our neighbours are asking us to be with them. I am terrified to do it, because I have never protested in my life before- but I know that this is what baptism is for, to equip us with the tools to enable us to do this together. Dare to respond to their request for our help in the same way we have responded to our homeless neighbours, our shut ins, and our parish community, when we showed up for them. When this parish has been asked to help, we show up with like a force of nature, full of love prayers and witness.
Come and live into your baptism through witness.You and I together have lived our baptisms here with those who have gone before us for 65 years, we come to a community whose focus has always been invitational. Through the invitation of the relationship, Jesus this morning is asking you and I together to be a witness to his gospel through action in our community, to stand and speak the truth of what we see and know about the resurrection in our lives.
How will you respond to that invitation to relationship this week?