"Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?" BCP pg. 305 Proclaim by word Talking about our faith is not one of the strengths of most Episcopalians. We stumble over the words and hesitate to tread on this sacred ground. We don't want to be a spiritual bully. Because of this reluctance we often miss the opportunity to share what our faith means to us. It is an intimate thing, to share our love of God. It is also a precious thing to share that which bring us joy and hope and sustains us. Sharing our experiences of God's action in our life can give to others an opportunity to see God outside of a stained glass window, to see God's action in the world, in our world. Sharing how God has worked in our lives with another person can be a gift. Is there someone with whom you feel you should share your experience of God? Be brave and share.
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"Will you persevere in resisting evil and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?" BCP pg. 304 The Reconciliation of a Penitent I am glad that this assumes I will fail. I do, all the time. I fail to be loving and kind. I fail to see others as Christ sees them. I fail to do the things I should and I do the things I shouldn't, and I dwell on that failure. I let it sap me of my energy, I let it get in the way of my relationship with Jesus, and that is yet another failure. One of the things that helps me is to make use of the rite of "The Reconciliation of a Penitent." I meet with a person whom I trust with spiritual things, sometimes it's been a priest and sometimes not. We take time to pray and look closely at my life and find ways to mend fences, ask for forgiveness, and turn things around. In the Episcopal tradition this rite of confession is optional, it falls in the category of "all may, but none must." Take a look at it (Book of Common Prayer pg. 447) and see if it might be helpful. If so, consider who could help you the most with it and don't be afraid to ask for that help. Look at the rite of the Reconciliation of a Penitent. Prayerfully consider if this is would benefit you.
"Will you persevere in resisting evil and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?" BCP pg. 304 Persevering I'm glad that the compilers of the Book of Common Prayer only ask us to "persevere in resisting evil." It's a constant task as we seek to walk in the light of God. Sometimes all we can do is keep trying, to keep trying to encourage the good, to keep trying to fight for justice, to keep trying to bring peace into our world. Keep it up. Stick it out. Persist and each step will bring us closer to the kingdom of God. What do you need to keep doing? Keep it up!
"Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?" BCP pg. 304 The Breaking of Bread Each Sunday, after we say the Lord's Prayer, the celebrant takes the blessed bread and breaks it, and every Sunday I wince. The breaking of the bread reminds me of all that Jesus has given for me, of Jesus' life and death, of Jesus' offering of himself for me. The breaking of the bread is the ancient name for the Eucharist, the sacrament of Christ's broken self, given to us. Christ has offered himself for us, willingly given himself to draw us into the heart of God. In this place we are invited into Christ's embrace. All are invited to attend this feast of the soul, and Christ delights in our presence here. Take some time to consider what the Eucharist means to you.
"Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?" BCP pg. 304 The Fellowship "Be not lax in celebrating. Be not lazy in the festive service of God. Be ablaze with enthusiasm. Let us be an alive, burning offering before the altar of God." - Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) A friend of mine recently posted this quote on his Facebook page. It reminded me of coffee hour. I know, lofty words for some time spent chatting over coffee and sweets, with the little ones darting in and out. The time spent with others of faith is part of the "festive service of God," part of our offering of ourselves to one another. If you listen closely you will hear people catching up with each other, confiding their pain and joys, offering help or wisdom. It is a holy time. Anytime we gather to share our faith, anywhere we meet and invite Christ into our midst, is holy space. Invite Christ into the conversation this week and see what happens.
"Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers?" BCP pg. 304 The apostles' teaching The phrase comes from the beginning of the book of Acts. The newest believers came together to learn what it meant to follow Jesus. The apostles taught what they had learned. They repeated the stories that Jesus had told, the healing they had witnessed. They testified to Jesus' death and resurrection. The apostles gave to those who were hungry to hear all that they had been given, and they gave them more. They gave them the understanding that they now possessed, the insight that had been given them by the Holy Spirit. For us, the apostles' teaching is written down in the New Testament. The stories of Jesus in the Gospels, and the apostles' instructions to the struggling churches in the epistles (letters) have been preserved and the Holy Spirit continues to act, to inform, to enlighten us through the apostles' teaching. Read the letter to the Ephesians. If you don't have a modern language Bible (I like Eugene Peterson's, The Message), consider buying one.
The Baptismal Covenant At each baptism the entire congregation joins in saying the Baptismal Covenant. We proclaim our belief in God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit using the words of the creeds. But we continue on. We pledge ourselves to take the actions that that faith involves. In five statements, we undertake to live our lives in and through our reliance on Jesus and in the light of God's love. Take time today to read through the Baptismal Covenant (Book of Common Prayer pg. 304-5).
"Do you promise to follow and obey Him as your Lord?" Service of Baptism, BCP pg. 303 Lord In our democratic society we have a hard time with the concept of an absolute ruler. The idea of someone "lording" it over us has such negative connotations. The idea of honoring Jesus as "Lord" seems so foreign. We have a hard time acknowledging that anyone or anything has power over us. To proclaim Jesus as Lord is to recognize that we have to make a choice. We have to choose what and who we will allow to have influence over our decisions and actions. There are many things competing for our allegiance: institutions and movements and expectations and our own desire to control our lives. Who and what is worthy of your devotion? Who or what holds sway in your life? What do you give your time, attention, money, and passion to? Look at a recent decision in your life. What helped you make that decision? Did it reflect Jesus as Lord?
"Do you promise to follow and obey Him as your Lord?" Service of Baptism, BCP pg. 303 Obey Obey is a difficult word and a difficult concept. We are independent and autonomous individuals; "obey" is not really in our vocabulary. Obeying God brings up all kinds of negative baggage, rules and regulations and commandments that are impossible to meet. To take directions from anyone entails an amount of trust. We need to be able to trust that that person is seeking the best for us, is looking out for us. To obey also involves correctly hearing the directions, always a tricky thing as we seek to discern what God is asking of us. Discerning what God is asking of us is best done in a community of faith, with people around us who can help us hear the voice of God and help us trust that God seeks only what is the best for us and is most life-affirming for the people around us. Plan to spend time with others in your life who seek to love and serve God.
"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?