Narrative Lectionary for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year Three
August 20, 2017
Lessons: Psalm 84, Romans 6:1-11
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people are buried in baptism so that we can walk through this life in a new way, reoriented and rooted in Christ.
Key Scripture: Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4
We return this week to another reflection on baptism, and our lesson from Romans gives a timely entry point into a discussion of how baptism reorients us to a new way of life and roots us in Christ. This reality is especially important today as we face increasing division, hatred, racism, and violence.
As baptized children of God, marked with the cross of Christ, and incorporated into the family of God, we are new creations. Sure, we falter and fail, dying daily to sin and rising to a new day and another chance at getting it right, but the reality is that our baptism reorients us and places us in a new location.
We are freed in Christ, but we are no longer free to live life on our own selfish terms. Baptism unites us not only with our Lord but also with the family of God across time and space. We are now called to follow Jesus and to live as he lived. Talk about a tall order!
The good news is that grace abounds. The more difficult news is that this grace is not only for us and for people who look like us, think like us, and act like us. God desires that all people come to the waters of baptism, to the table, and to the Spirit-led life. We do not have a corner on the grace market. This may sound elementary, but it is a point we need to reiterate—especially in a world that would have us believe otherwise.
A painful reminder of this fact is that many of the people who gathered for the alt-right protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend would consider themselves to be faithful, church-going folk. How can this be? How can the same baptism produce such different results?
Perhaps we can find a key in Romans 6:10-11:
The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
If we keep our eyes firmly focused on Jesus, we cannot see anyone as “less than”—not even those who would foment hate. We can decry their actions and work to change the reality that their hate shores up, but we must still pray for them and hold them accountable to a better way.
We belong to Christ, and as part of Christ’s body, we “walk wet” in this world, living out our baptismal covenant in tangible, visible, and countercultural ways. It means that we confront that which is counter to the way of Christ and provide opportunities and ways to work for justice, equity, and peace.
Happy are those who trust in God, who come to God’s dwelling place, and who sing their praises to the Creator of the Cosmos! The good news is that we are part of something bigger than we can even fathom and that there is room for all.
Once again affirm your baptismal promises today, and sing hymns to remind you of the promises and life-changing effects that began the day you were baptized. Some hymns you might choose are “We are Baptized in Christ Jesus,” “Baptized and Set Free,” and “Waterlife.”
Consider with youth how the promises made in baptism continue to be lived out in all stages of life. How do we live into the public profession that was made for us and that we affirm: “to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?”
Invite the children to gather with you around the font. Perhaps you’ve done this frequently—whenever there is a baptism, each year when we remember our Lord’s baptism, or on other occasions. Remember that for children, repetition is key to learning (and helpful for adults, too!), so don’t shy away from spending time encouraging children and their families to share these stories of faith, love, and growth.
Pour fresh water into the font, recall some of the words that are spoken at baptism, let the children dip their fingers into the water and make the sign of the cross. If you use oil to make the sign of the cross at baptism, allow the children to see and touch the oil, perhaps marking each other. Gather small evergreen branches and let the children splash water on congregants. Remind the children how much God loves them, and that God is well-pleased with them too, and has named and claimed them as children. Finish with a simple prayer.
If some children have not yet been baptized, make sure they feel included by talking about how God is ready to meet us in the waters of baptism any time and loves us unceasingly at all points in our life. Assure them of their place and role in the community.
Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert
As God’s beloved people who walk wet in this world, we are called to orient ourselves toward Christ and not the ways of the world. This means we are stewards of radical good news that is for all people. Consider this week how you might “work for justice and peace” as a baptized and beloved child of God?
Stewardship at Home
One of the promises made for us at baptism, and later affirmed, is to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. Given the events in Charlottesville and other places and the increase in blatant racism, violence, and hatred, how can we live that promise out effectively? Find at least one way this week to act for justice for all of God’s children, particularly those who have been marginalized and oppressed. Be sure to debrief with someone. How did it feel? What was hard? What was holy? What was unexpected?
Photos: Dmitry Kichenko, gardener41, and sreacher, Creative Commons. Thanks!
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