Dear Friends in Christ,
I write to you today after an extraordinary 24 hours in our nation. We have witnessed outrageous behavior, and we have witnessed how a few used violence inside the halls of our government – of our nation’s capital – and have threatened the fabric of our nation as a democracy that practices the peaceful transition of power.
The images from yesterday are raw and disturbing images. They are images that I never thought I would see in our nation. They leave me feeling a host of emotions that are still too raw to adequately express.
And in response to what happened in the U.S. Capitol Building yesterday, our parish did what we continue to practice day in and day out as followers of Jesus Christ: we gathered as a community, and we prayed for our community, the nation, the world, and the church. We gathered for the annual celebration of our feast day – the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we prayed for Christ’s light to bring us into God’s presence. We practiced our faith in a way that is normal and regular. We will do the same on Sunday. We will gather, and we will pray together with our Bishop.
But…Sunday will be a bit different despite what happens between now and then. It will be different because Sunday will bring a particularly strong focus to our identity as disciples of Christ Jesus. We will celebrate the confirmation of one parishioner and the reaffirmation of another. We will pray together through the Baptismal Covenant and renew our own commitments to be followers of Christ Jesus.
The Baptismal Covenant is a covenant that we make and renew with God through Christ Jesus to be practitioners of God’s love in our daily living. To practice love and to commit to that love in our Baptismal Covenant is to say yes to God’s mission of reconciliation. It is to be voices of those crying out in the wilderness as we call upon the whole of creation to join us in the practice of love. In saying yes to the Baptismal Covenant, we will commit to following in the apostles’ teachings, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. We will commit to resisting evil and to the practice of repentance. We will commit to proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, and we commit to seeking and serving Christ in all persons. Finally, we will commit to being ministers of justice and peace and to respect the dignity of every human being. In renewing our Baptismal Covenant, we are renewing our commitment to the ways of God’s household, and we are saying that the ways of God’s household will become our own ways. We are saying yes to the ways that God invites us to live our lives in community with each other. We will be making bold statements on Sunday morning in the presence of our Bishop, and we will be reminded of who we are called to be: disciples of Jesus Christ.
To that end, we might do well to read the fourth chapter of the first letter of John. In that letter, we are reminded that to know God is to love one another. We are reminded that being a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be a radical practitioner of love.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.1 John 4:7-14 NRSV
As practitioners of a radical love, of God’s love we are called to stand up for justice and for peace at all times, and it is to know that in practicing love, God abides in us and perfects us through that love. When we practice love, we practice the most radical act available to humanity. We point back towards God, and we remind ourselves and our neighbors that love is the only way to live with each other.
We are invited into this through our Baptismal Covenant. We claim our identity in Christ and hold that identity as our most sacred identity each time we renew our baptismal vows, and we are reminded this week of the ways that we are called to practice those vows in the whole of our lives.
And we can do none of this without the help of God.