Sunday, August 11, 2019
WAY OF LOVE
The Rev. Mark Wilkinson, Rector
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
There are times when listening to the Spirit makes your life complicated, like last Sunday and then there are days when it makes your life easy, like last Sunday. Let me explain. After finishing the second service last week, I was greeting people at the door and listening to many of you say how the shootings last week had affected you, reactions to my sermon, thoughts, fears. All expressed in those few moments. A challenging morning for many of us.
Then one of you came up to me and said, “I want to be baptized. Can you do that soon?” Now that’s an easy question. Just like Phillip and the Ethiopian court official my reaction was, and what’s to prevent this? I’m happy to do a baptism any Sunday. This first baptism for me here at St. Paul’s also gives me the opportunity to talk to all of you, young and old about baptism. Now that’s the easy part.
We have several Sundays that are designated for baptisms, All Saints, Epiphany/baptism of Jesus in January, Easter, either the Vigil service or in the morning and Pentecost. However, I am happy to do baptisms any Sunday. Baptism is very important and is the way that we become a Christian. All that I ask is that the person or the parents are aware of what they are asking for and I will talk about that in a moment.
Now I say baptisms on Sunday at the principal service for a reason. Baptism is a public rite and that was changed in 1979. The key is found on page 303. After I have asked the candidate for baptism the six questions of the examination I turn to the congregation and ask all of you, “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?” The answer is an enthusiastic, “we will.”
Christianity is not something we do as individuals, but as a community. We baptize at a public service because the parents, sponsors and entire congregation are promising to walk with this person in their life as a Christian. We speak not only for this congregation but for all Christians.
Now what is baptism all about. Baptism is not about heaven and hell. Baptism is about a decision to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior here and now. What does that look like? On Friday the daily word from SSJE was Salvation. Br. Allen wrote that this means: “Each of us should try to live in a way that will make the truth of Jesus’ saving love real to the people with whom, and among whom, we live.”
I will ask all of you in a few moments to re-affirm your baptismal vows. I believe these promises are so important that they define my call as a priest. In the material I sent to the search committee I state that my call, my mission as a priest is to help people to live into the promises made at their baptism. Those promises are the five that are in the service on page 304.
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 neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
These are more than rules however. They are a way of life, a different way of being than the world calls for. One of the wonderful things that happened at General Convention last summer in Austin was hearing the Presiding Bishop launch his program of The Way of Love Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life. Here is the link to watch the whole sermon.
This is what we in the church world call a Rule of Life and they naturally flow out of our Baptismal Promises.
If you look at your insert you will see a picture that shows what this rule is made of. Now I am just going to introduce this to you this morning. I plan to unpack this as the year goes on sometimes through sermon and some in Adult Formation programs.
A rule of life comes to us from the monastic world. Every monastic order in Christianity has a Rule of Life. The Society of St. John the Evangelist an Episcopal monastic order in Boston follows what is called the Benedictine rule. Their rule is based on the work of St Benedict. It guides the brothers in how they live in community.
The Way of Love that Bishop Curry presented gives us, as Episcopalians a way to approach our daily life in a way that reflects our baptismal covenant.
Turn: Pause, listen and choose to follow Jesus
In our baptism service we are called to turn away from those things in the world that pull us away from God. That would be what we call sin. Before we can do anything else, we need to stop, listen to what the Spirit is saying to us and make a decision to live life intentionally in a way that is modeled on the teachings of Jesus.
Learn: Reflect on Scripture each day, especially on Jesus’ life and teachings
Take the time each day for some reading of the bible. Yes, that’s pretty radical in today’s world, but it is worth. You can combine this with the next step which is pray by using any one of a number of resources many that are online. There is an app for that! I will be working with Jennifer to post a list of online resources on the website.
Pray: Dwell intentionally with God each day.
You cannot develop a friendship, a relationship with another person if you never talk with or listen to them. God is no different. Again, watch for the page on the website with those links
Worship: Gather in community weekly to thank, praise and dwell with God
Worship is a communal activity in the church, not a solo activity. Worship is different than our private prayers. There is a reason that we promise to share in the breaking of the bread and the prayers in our Baptismal Covenant. Where two or more are gathered I will be with you is the promise.
Bless: Share faith and unselfishly give and serve:
Proclaim the gospel by word and deed, that’s what this is all about. Taking our faith outside these four walls is what this is all about. Part of our call to community is to share what we have with the greater community.
Go: Cross boundaries, listen deeply, and live like Jesus
This is why we end the service with a dismissal by the deacon. That is the call to go, get out of here and show the world how Christians are called to live. It is also a call to listen for the needs of those around you and respond, just as Jesus did. This is also an invitation to move outside of your comfort zone.
Rest: Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace and restoration.
And here is the thing we as Americans do not do very well. Sabbath, rest, time to disconnect and decompress. We run until we collapse and then brag about it as if being overcommitted is something to celebrate. I for one am very careful to take my sabbath, which by the way is Friday at the present time.
Last week I talked about what we put in our barns and how we can make a difference in the world by making a difference in our own life. I have heard Bishop Curry preach several times about making America Great, by making America Good, kind, loving, and caring. This Way of Love is his suggestion, his guide if you will on how to do this, because the focus is on us, not on somebody else.
If you want to delve into this a little more Bishop Curry has a series of podcasts that you can download. You can find them here.
So last week the feeling was one of what can we do. Well we can start with ourselves, with our parish and with those things that we can control. This is a way to start to change the world, by changing ourselves.