"Do you put your whole trust in God's grace and love?" Service of Baptism BCP pg. 302 God's Grace One summer when I was home from college, I fell into a conversation with my father. I was struggling with whether I was able to make it through college. It had been a rough year and I was uncertain if I could manage another one. My dad told me I didn't have to. I could come back home at any time. Somehow that was a huge weight off of me. My dad reminded me that I was loved and welcome no matter what had happened. God's grace surrounds us if we make "A's" or flunk out or just can cope. The door is open for us to come back home, all we have to do is walk through the door. Walk through the door and into God's presence today, and bring your successes, failures, and everything with you.
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"Do you put your whole trust in God's grace and love?" Service of Baptism, BCP pg. 302 Trust Trust is a fragile thing. I know that at times my trust in someone has been damaged; it has been a difficult and painful time. I'm wary for a long time afterward. Trusting God is not easy. It takes time, it takes practice, it is two steps forward and one back. I need constant reminders that God is trustworthy. The Psalms help; they constantly remind me of God's "steadfast loving kindness". The stories of the faithful help: God's persistent love and care for Israel, for the disciples, for the early church, for all God's people in every time and place, no matter what they are like or what they have done. Reading those stories reminds me that God will not leave. Looking at my own life helps; I can look back and see that even in the most difficult times God was present with "steadfast loving kindness". Write down ways that you have witnessed God's steadfast love.
"Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?" Service of Baptism, BCP pg. 302 Savior Salvation and grace go hand in hand. To open ourselves to Christ as our Savior is to accept with gratitude the love of God that comes before anything I have ever done, before I even was. I need to remember that "whatever relationship exists with God had a lot more to do with God than with me" (John Buchanan). We need to see salvation not as merely the judicial nullification of our sins, but as the welcome home of a loving God. How do you accept Christ as your savior?
"Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?" Service of Baptism BCP pg. 302 Accepting There is a 19th century painting that graces many a church basement. It shows Jesus knocking at a door. It represents the door of our hearts. The door has no handle and can only be opened from the inside. As much as I have come to dislike the painting it does remind me that God is a gentleman, that as persistent as God is in pursuing us, the ultimate action is ours. Only we can open the door of our hearts and invite God in. Invite God into an area of your life that you have hesitated to in the past.
"Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?" Service of Baptism, BCP pg. 302 Simon Peter responded to Jesus, "You are the Christ, the son of the Living God". Matthew 16:16 Christ Christ, Messiah, Anointed, son of the Living God, lofty titles that we only partially comprehend. They are a reflection of how the disciples experienced Jesus. For the next 400 years Christian's struggled to find language that would capture their experience. Each Sunday we recite the Creed that Christians wrote as a way to try and unpack it a bit further: "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father." Each generation has looked for new ways to put their experience of Christ into words. What are your words? What is your experience of "the Christ, the son of the Living God"? Describe your experience of Christ. Who is Christ to you?
"Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?" Service of Baptism, BCP pg. 302 Jesus So who is this Jesus person anyway? It's a key question. Teacher? Prophet? Wise man? Was he God? Or some projection of God? Historical or not? Every generation struggles to figure it out. The struggle is important. It is part of shaping our faith. We need to use our God-given understanding to stretch ourselves, but we also need to know our limits. It is possible to hold things in tension and live with the ambiguity that often exists when we struggle with matters of faith. As much as we want to understand, there is a mystery in all of this, a mystery we can only experience in meeting Jesus. We have that opportunity to meet Jesus and live with that mystery of who Jesus is. We can see Jesus in each person we meet. We can encounter him in the Eucharist. We can stumble upon him every day. Who is Jesus? Notice where you encounter Jesus today. What do you learn about Jesus as you encounter him today?
"Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?" Service of Baptism, BCP pg. 302 Accepting Accepting is not something most of us are good at. It is so passive. I always want to be the one giving, not the one receiving. If I am giving, I am in control. I am the one in charge of the transaction. In Baptism we are invited to open ourselves to Christ, to accept what Jesus wishes to give us, no hoops to jump through, no preconditions of "being good enough" or "knowing the right things"-just the willingness to accept the gift of Christ's love for us. It is as easy and as difficult as that. What stands in the way of your accepting Christ's love for you?
"Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?" Service of Baptism, BCP pg. 302 Turning I tried to go for a walk this morning. I knew it was cold, well below freezing in fact, but I'm trying to keep walking every day, so I bundled up and off I went. But the wind was more than I could take. I had to turn around so that it was at my back. Sometimes you just have to turn around. In Hebrew the word for repentance means "to turn around," "to go the other way." Turning things around often involves looking at things from a new perspective, of getting out of ourselves. We get stuck in a rut and need to turn things on their head. Taking time to turn things around can help us turn from the darkness and confusion that sometimes envelope us and toward the light of Christ. Take some time to look at a difficult relationship from a new angle, even one you disagree with.
"Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?" Service of Baptism, BCP pg. 302 The Love of God - Longing "As the deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God." Ps. 42:1 With love there is a longing for the beloved. We echo that desire each time we pray the Lord's Prayer. "Thy kingdom come!" we pray. We long for the presence of Christ, we long for the world to be aligned with God, we pray for all things to be as they should be. Longing is part of love, part of the yearning to be with the one we love and part of our life in Christ. It is a yearning to bring delight to the one we love. This yearning drives us to Christ, and to do those things that will please the one we love. Be aware of how your yearning for Christ is drawing you deeper into your relationship with God.
"Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?" Service of Baptism, BCP pg. 302 The Love of God- Friendship "The one thing truly worthwhile is becoming God's friend." St. Gregory of Nyssa Friends are important to me. I've lived many places and many of my friends have moved all over the world. My friends are scattered from Tokyo to Wales, South Carolina to Hawaii, Minnesota and all over the map. No matter how far apart we are, our friendship continues. We find ways to spend time together, pray for each other, commiserate and rejoice together and just "hang out," even if it's just on Facebook. We put up with each other's foibles, and delight in each other's gifts and talents. Being a friend with God invites us to that same intimacy, sharing all of ourselves, sharing our time and joys and sorrows and even a joke. What would it mean for you to be God's friend, to share yourself with Christ as your friend? Spend some time "hanging out" with God.