Archive | September, 2015

Watered Down Symbol

14 Sep

Good morning,

Have you ever thought of the fact that there is not a record of Jesus baptizing anyone, and yet it is a sacrament (holy rite) of most Christian churches.  There have been long and heated discussions about baptism over the centuries.  As United Methodist we baptize the way the Episcopal Church (Church of England) does and they baptize the way the Catholic Church does.  For all the division that have occurred in the Christian church there are many things that remain the same.

So, as a United Methodist, I am almost always baptizing an infant with a little water on the head.  I often believe that the deep in the parents hearts it is their insurance policy for their child that they will not go to hell (a very Catholic belief), even if they won’t admit to this as a motivating factor.  It is a kind of “cover all the bases” ritual.

Paul’s words in the beginning of the 6th chapter of Romans is so much more powerful than our watered down version of baptism.  In The Message it is even more wonderful.

1-3 So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!

3-5 That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.

Probably walking into a river fully clothed, lower under the water by an officiant, and being raised up will not make baptism the powerful symbol is could be. (Actually I have done the whole ‘river thing’ when I was 20.) But, at least educating ourselves on this image of baptism and letting it seep into our souls would be a good thing.

6-11 Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.

Paul’s words are powerful.  For those of us who have been baptized in whatever way, our old lives are nailed to the cross with Christ and we have a resurrection life to live.  I believe God intention was to set us free from the deadness of sin and give us a relationship with the Divine Presence that bring the power of a liberated life.  How often I talk with people, Christians, who are trapped by old pain, old hurt, old disappointment; not seeing the truth of baptism or the resurrection life that is theirs for the living.

I have found that much, almost all, of my Christian life becomes a ‘mental activity.’  By understanding the powerful symbols of our faith we can step out into a new life, a new world; our for the living.  Even though our minds cannot grasp the full of the Divine, we can understand the nature of the relationship of new life offered to us; let is seep into our souls and live in a way that bring glory to Eternal creator.

If you are a Christian living with the old ‘sin life’ then you are denying the incredible transformation being of Christ, so sure as Peter deny Jesus around the campfire the night before his death.

I know I get preachy, but the gift that has been offered to this world is too important, too incredible to be watered down by our religious institutions, but our tired and small minds.

Imagine the possibilities, talk with God, walk the way of Christ, enjoy this moment of eternal life.  Peace


Story, Symbols, Choices

5 Sep

Good morning,

The letter to the Romans is one long discussion of what it means that God was revealed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  For Paul’s argument he take a story of the Jewish faith and uses it as a symbol to describe what God is doing through the life and death of Jesus.

The only good new is that in Paul’s version of the Fall from Grace, Eve does not get the blame for Adam’s choice.  The bad news is that Paul’s focus probably means that women don’t even count into the equation of what God is doing in the salvation history he describes.

So, the story is that Adam made the choice to not listen to the warning of God.  Adam set his will over and against the will of God and therefore brought death to the human race.  (Have you ever thought that the harsh environment in which these creation stories were written is did literally mean death if you did not listen to the wisdom of the Elders. – my brain does weird things.)  Paul’s uses this a symbol of one man bringing death, so he can get to the punchline of one man bringing life – Jesus.

It is so sad that we (I) usually leave the story there:  Adam = bad; Jesus = good.  But, I don’t have to prove the point that Paul did about eternal life in Jesus, because we are all on board with that idea.  So, I can think about the nature of the men he proposes and think about the choices that lead to life in the presence of the eternal.  In The Message, One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.  

We have the story, made into symbols and it all comes down to choice.  A choice to say yes or no to The Divine.

Please take time to read these 9 verses.  They are from The Message and easy to read.

12-14 You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One who will get us out of it.

15-17 Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin. If one man’s sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God’s gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! There’s no comparison between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving gift. The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence. If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?

18-19 Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.

20-21 All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace.When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.

Paul’s argument is that The Law does not bring righteousness (right living) of life.  But relationship, grace, brings righteousness – right living – eternal living.  This living is which has an awareness of the Divine Presence bring wholeness and holiness.  It is choosing for God, each day, each moment considering our response to life circumstances and finding The Way.

I think this is the real problem with Paul placing the “sin” on Adam’s shoulders.  It makes us distant from us, AND it makes us believe that simply believing in “the other guy” is sufficient for right living.  But actually it is not believing in Jesus as much as living like Jesus (not the robe and sandals) but the choices and relationship with the eternal, ever-present God.  Wow, that’s harder.  So, much for a holiday weekend.  The Good News is that God is there, helping us, holding us up, and enabling us to walk the path of light and grace.