"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?
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"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.
"Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?" Service of Baptism, BCP pg. 302 The Love of God- Passion Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. Song of Songs 8:7 Throughout the writings of the Hebrew Prophets, there is an image of God as a persistent lover. No matter how many times Israel wanders away, God pursues her, woos her and courts her until she returns. The Medieval Mystics also saw the love of God for each of us this way. Christ is the bridegroom seeking his bride. Even when we wander away, Christ's passionate love for us cannot be extinguished; it will always pursue us. How is God courting you today?
Back in the 1560s, Thomas Cramner wrote a wonderful prayer about reading Holy Scripture, wherein the petitioner asked God to “give us grace to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” the wisdom of Holy writ “that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.” To read, mark, learn and inwardly digest; that sequence and rhythm makes good sense to me. It seems a good way to integrate meaning and, from there, to make our learning more a part of our daily lives. But you can’t simply read something and expect to then just do it. You need to make sense of it first and then find a way to call it your own, so it becomes part of who you are. So, too, with the celebration of Thanksgiving. Columnist James Carroll well describes the occasion as the day, “…that serves to bring us all together –around a common table.” (Boston Globe 2003). With this in mind, I invite you to pull up a chair and enjoy the following morsels for your inward digestion this Thanksgiving- a few things for you to chew on: + “ It is said the highest form of consciousness a human being can achieve is that of being a thankful person, a grateful being.” (I think Rabbi Heschel said that .) + “This food is the gift of the entire universe… and I vow to live a life worthy to receive it.” Buddist table prayer. + “This food is one; we who offer it are one also.” Hindu saying + “Bless, O Lord, this food to our use and us to thy loving service, and make us mindful of the needs of others.” Christian/Episcopal + “Inasmuch as the Great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest, and has made the forest abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, Now I your magistrate do proclaim that all Pilgrims do gather to render thanks to Almighty God for all good blessings.” Gov. Wm. Bradford of Colonial time. + “It is our duty to acknowledge the Author of the Good, that we may unite and show sincere thanks.” George Washington. + “We prize Thanksgiving because, unlike other holidays, this one does not separate us from one another. A spirit of generalized gratefulness unites a diverse people in the mystery of what lies beyond every creed and doctrine and no-one rushes to put an exclusionary name on the One to whom thanks are offered.” (James Carroll Nov. 25, 2003) + In addition to early New England thanksgiving observance, in 1619 in Virginia, a group of 38 settlers once wrote into their charter that they would gather each year to give thanks to God. Thanks for a fresh start - Thanks for an opportunity to re-invent themselves in a new world just like you and I have the chance, with God’s help, to reinvent our lives from this day forward - Thanks for the natural resources around them and thanks for the inward resources they were starting to discover inside themselves as their lives evolved. They scraped together wild prunes, leeks, watercress, cornbread and even, the record shows, a couple of ducks, geese and a turkey. And we also know the Native American people involved that Thanksgiving made it a true feast by bringing in five deer! They all shared the best of what they had. They all understood intrinsically that they were giving thanks to the Author of life itself, present before them and present within them. People gathered and shared their best. People acknowledged a basic thankfulness for the gift and experience of life together on this terrestrial ball, a sense of appreciation we can all share. At its best, Thanksgiving can be a glimpse of what the kingdom of God is like; welcoming and appreciative, with care, mutuality and grace. That’s all the thanks our Maker requires. It is the highest form of being human. It is what we do when we are at our best here and now – on this earth. Echoing the Buddhist table prayer, this closing bite to nourish the spirit: “On Thanksgiving we pause to reflect upon what we have been given, but we also do well to reflect on what we intend to make from our abundance.” God has given you 100% of every blessing you have ever enjoyed. And I tell you so great is God, the Giver of all good things, that you can, and should, expect more blessings today, while looking forward to even greater blessings and abundance to come this Thanksgiving, and in the weeks and years that follow. For these, and all God’s gifts, give thanks this day – Thanksgiving Day-every day! May you vow to live a life worthy to receive the blessings of the harvest and may you be willing to share them with a thankful heart today and from now on. The Rev. William E. Exner, Rector at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church Goffstown, New Hampshire