"Do you promise to follow and obey Him as your Lord?" Service of Baptism, BCP pg. 303 Follow If you have ever been around small children, you know how they will mimic the adults around them. They watch every move and listen to every word and before you know it you will hear your words coming out of the mouth of a three year old. It can be funny and terrifying. I notice that I do something like that as well with the people I spend time with. I start to see the world as they see it. I hear their words and phrases coming out of my mouth. For better or worse we reflect the ones we spend our time around. We pick up the thoughts and viewpoints of those around us. Following Jesus enables us to begin to pick up his perspective on things. Following Jesus enables us to become more like him. Read the Gospel of Mark (the shortest one). What do you hear Jesus saying? What is he doing? How does this affect you?
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"Do you put your whole trust in God's grace and love?" Service of Baptism, BCP pg. 302 God's grace One definition of grace is "the one who shows up," and Jesus is certainly the one who shows up. Paul says, "I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39). It's a fairly comprehensive list. Perhaps we need to create a list of all those things that we fear will cut us off from God's love, all the bad choices, the broken promises, the failed relationship, and on . . . and on. . . .. We can take all of that and evoke Paul's words: none of these, not one, nothing in our past, or present, or future can cut us off from the love of God. Make a list of those things that you fear will drive God away, and imagine Christ with you in each situation and emotion.
"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.
"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.