Archive for February, 2012

When Demons Attack

// February 24th, 2012 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

I struggle with sin. Not so much the doing of it, though I do my fair share, but the naming of it. I struggle with how to talk about sin or think about sin. Like many of us, I grew up in a church that used guilt and shame to win conversions. And, after the conversion, the guilt and shame never stopped, leading to many tearful walks down many aisles hoping that this time would finally work. Sin was an affliction and Jesus was the cure, but I never felt cured. Instead, I just gave up, decided to find my own way. There had to be a better way, a new way. Perhaps in this Lenten season, that new way can be found in a very old way.

A fourth century mystic named Evagrius Ponticus included in his instruction manual for monks advice for fighting demons. Yes, demons: Gluttony, Lust, Avarice, Sadness, Anger, Acedia (bored restlessness), Vainglory, and Pride. Evagrius probably believed that these were literal demons that were literally attacking him, but he also clearly had a sense that it was an internal struggle in the soul. We all have voices in our heads telling us that we’re not good enough, that there is not enough in the world to have justice. And, worst of all, that God made it this way, meaning there’s probably no way out. So we grasp and we hoard and we fight, all to stave off the inevitable reality that there is an end to things. All of our hoarding, all of our control, only pushes that end a little farther away from us – and probably closer to someone else. Sin is ceding control to those voices, living into the fears and injustice that they construct.

Evagrius’ instructions were intended to prepare the monk for divinization, union with God. I cannot promise that we will get there. However, Lent is a time of preparation for life in Christ-Sophia, God’s dream for the world. Salvation for us; salvation for the world. In order to live more fully into that dream, we must deal with sin. Salvation is quieting the voices in our heads that tempt us to doubt the person that God made us, true faithlessness. Salvation comes to the world when we speak the Word of God and the Wisdom of God with the voice that God gave each of us.

I hope you’ll join us during our six-week Lenten series as we travel home to the self that God made and find the voice that proclaims justice to the world.

Grace and Peace,
Scott

February 26: Our Demons, Our God, Ourselves
What does Jacob wrestle with?

March 4: Demons of Desire: Gluttony, Lust, and Avarice
How do we draw the world in and push God out?

March 11: Demons of Repulsion: Sadness, Anger, and Acedia
How do we push the world away God with it?

March 18: Demons of Reason: Pride (and Shame)
How do we lie to ourselves?

March 25: Fear
What is the source of the demons’ power?

April 1: Palm Sunday
What happens when we find the voice that God gave us?

Celebrate Mardi Gras CITC style!

// February 21st, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

If you don’t find yourself in New Orleans this year but are in the mood for some Creole cooking, zydeco rythms and eccentric company then come out and celebrate Mardi Gras with Church in the Cliff tonight!

7pm at the Shirleys, 221 S. Edgefield Ave.

Fronagetarstuin

// February 18th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Our lectionary brings us to what is called The Transfiguration, where Jesus transforms into a divine figure on a mountain top to Peter, James and John. Traditionally this story has been understood as a reminder of Jesus’ divine pedigree due to thegrowing disbelief of Jesus as the Son of Man. The timing of this passage, after all, takes place along the journey to Jerusalem where we know Jesus’ fate. But perhaps there is more to this story than the ostentatious, “Hey, I’m Jesus, look at me!”  Perhaps there is a lesson in discerning the act of transfiguration.

By definition, transfiguration means a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state; one no longer of this world.Here’s how the disciples experienced Jesus’ transfiguration:

  • Jesus took them on a hike up a mountain
  • Jesus’ clothes suddenly appeared whiter than bleach white
  • Elijah and Moses came along to chat with Jesus
  • A voice started booming from a cloud
  • And then Peter, James and John were told not to talk about it with others

Peter, James and John were terrified. Terrified like any human being would be in the literal face of change- a paradigm shift in theway one understands the world. When we are exposed to a transfigured moment- the birth of a baby, the loss of a job, or thebeginning of a new relationship- our first reaction is usually excitement and fear. And after that change is exposed, we want to try and understand it;, we ask questions, we ask “why?” And inaccepting an understanding of that “why,” we, ourselves are transformed.

Transfiguration for us might not appear in a talking cloud, but opening up to the possibility (or even embracing the possibility) of a transfigured world where God is revealed around us, providesthe opportunity for our own transformation.

Wes

Wake up!

// February 13th, 2012 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

We don’t do a lot of preaching at CitC, but if I were to preach, I might say something like this. I wrote it for my preaching class. I hope that it becomes good news for someone.

Scott

———————–

Matthew 8:18-27 (NRSV)

18 Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 A scribe then approached and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” 23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. 27 They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

Our passage today is about a boat ride. It begins with Jesus giving an order to the disciples to get in a boat and go to the other side of the lake. So, of course, all the disciples get in a boat and go to the other side of the lake. Well, not quite yet. A couple of people have questions and concerns and Jesus, being the nice boss that he is, wants to make sure everyone is comfortable with this boat ride idea before embarking.

One scribe, maybe a bit of a suck-up, tells Jesus that he would follow him anywhere. Of course, Jesus is thrilled to hear this and says, “Great! Get in the boat so we can go to the other side of the lake.” Not exactly. Instead, he tells the scribe that “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Then another disciple asks that he be allowed to go bury his father, who has just died. Of course, Jesus is compassionate and so tells the man, “Sure. You can just catch up to us later on the other side of the lake. Take whatever time you need to grieve.” Not exactly. Instead he tells the man to “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Because you are all smart readers, you know that when an author tells you something is going to happen and then it doesn’t, there must be a reason for that. Here, Jesus tells the disciples to get in a boat and they do not get in a boat. Whatever is going to happen on that boat has something to do with the questions and concerns of these would-be disciples. So let’s see what happens on the boat.

We know this story well – it appears in all three Synoptic Gospels – it’s kind of a classic. The disciples get in the boat and, soon after leaving the shore, a storm rises up. But this is no ordinary storm. Matthew uses the word for earthquake, which is used later in both the crucifixion and resurrection scenes for an apocalyptic flavor. Scripture tells us that the boat is being covered by the waves. With modern CGI graphics, we see these scenes all the time in the movies, so maybe they have lost their sense of danger for us. And when we do go on the sea, it is usually in huge cruise ships in calm waters. But imagine being in a small fishing boat with giant waves towering over you and crashing down. There is something ultimate about this storm, something final. They could die. And yet, through all this chaos, Jesus is asleep.

The disciples come to Jesus, terrified, fearing for their lives. They wake him up, crying, “Save us! We are perishing!” What are they thinking here? What do they expect him to do?

When Jesus wakes up, before he does anything about the storm, he decides to frame his actions as a teaching moment: “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Jesus says this a lot in Matthew. It’s unclear whether it is a term of annoyance or affection or perhaps both. In any case, he repeatedly points out to the disciples their little faith. Each time, it is a teaching moment like this. There is clearly something that they don’t get. But what is it? What do they not understand?

Because this story is familiar, because we know it so well, we also know the meaning quite well. This is about the hardship of discipleship and God’s presence in our lives through that hardship. The church is like a boat on a rough sea. If we just believe in Jesus, everything will be okay. But is that what is happening here? Do the disciples not believe that Jesus can do something to save them? If so, why did they wake him up? And why would he chastise them for doing so?

For an alternative understanding of the story, we need to look at Matthew’s final use of the phrase “little faith.” It occurs in 17:20, when the disciples have failed to cast out a demon and do not understand why. Jesus responds: “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” They should know this because, in Jesus’ Missionary Discourse in chapter 10, he commanded them: “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” Jesus promises the disciples that they will have the power he has and he commands them to use it. On this, John’s Jesus agrees: “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”

Let us return to the boat and the questions we have about what the disciples did wrong. In reading the Gospels, it is easy for us to identify with the disciples. We are called to be disciples, so it makes sense that they are our models. But the disciples in this story are at the beginning of their journey. They don’t get it. Maybe that’s why we identify with them; they are as dumb as we are, which is comforting to know. Like the scribe, we have probably claimed a commitment for which we were unprepared. Like the other disciple, we probably think we can be a disciple and keep up with the world’s expectations. But Jesus gives us no illusions about such things. To be a disciple is to follow Jesus, to follow God wherever God goes. One cannot do that and sit on the sidelines. We don’t go along for the ride to watch God do stuff. We are there to get involved, to get our hands dirty, to risk death.

But it is not risk for its own sake. Matthew uses the word “righteousness” a lot. Whenever you read that, substitute “justice.” “Righteousness” in our culture has become so much about personal piety and morality. That’s not what Matthew is on about. Matthew is primarily concerned about what he calls the kingdom of God, which is a kingdom predicated on God’s justice. Jesus is the definitive representative of that kingdom and the eschatological judge that will bring it into being. As disciples, followers of Jesus, we are to participate in bringing it into being.

This is not a story about us because being a disciple is not about us. Sure, we all need saving at some point, but that is not what being a disciple is. Being a disciple is following Jesus and being Jesus for the world. We are to be like Christ: the definitive representation of God’s justice on earth. This is what faith is: not believing, but doing. It is living faithfully to God’s dream of justice for the world. What then are we to do?

It’s hard to look at the news or check facebook without seeing the rising death toll. Every day, the life of a young man or woman – kids, really – comes to an end. There are the tragedies of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rwanda and the Congo. There are kids starving to death and kids dying of juvenile diabetes because they live in nutrition deserts. And there are kids taking their own lives. Gay – and gayish – kids are taunted by their peers, placed in jeopardy by a culture that rejects them. Our culture demands certainty about gender and sexuality and too often it is Christians making the demands. These kids are told that, because of who they are, they will never have a place that feels like home, no place to lay their heads.

Rolling Stone recently reported on a school district in Northern Minneapolis, which, in response to pressure by Christian groups, enacted a “No Homo Promo” policy that prohibited school employees from discussing homosexuality in any way. The result was that, when gay or gayish kids were teased, mocked, bullied and abused by their peers, teachers could not respond. The kids cried out, “Save us!” But if the slurs hurled related to homosexuality, teachers and principals remained silent. These kids were set adrift in a hostile sea, the wind of insults and waves of abuse crashing down until only death seemed certain. Those in whom they had entrusted their lives were asleep. So what then are we to do?

Be like Jesus. Wake up! Rebuke the wind and the sea! Rebuke the chaos that towers over the vulnerable and the despair that threatens to drown. Rebuke those who would construct a world that makes these things not only possible, but makes them appear to be the only option. Fight the forces that threaten death. Demand justice. God has anointed us, has blessed us with this power. If we have faith like a mustard seed, we can move mountains. We can literally change the landscape, the very shape of the world. If only we have faith, if only we are faithful to the dreams of God for the world. Wake up and do justice.

Healing: Is There Choice?

// February 10th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

In the healing narrative recorded in Mark 1:40-45, a man with leprosy says to Jesus, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Jesus does so choose and makes him well. In one of the healing stories in the Gospel of John (5:2-9), Jesus initiates the conversation with a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years, asking him, “Do you want to be made well?” This man never says he wants to be made well; he just says he has no one to put him into the pool of Bethesda, known for its healing powers. Jesus heals him anyway.

In I Kings 5:1-14, this week’s lectionary passage from the Hebrew Bible, we find another man with leprosy, Naaman, an important military leader. At first he thought he was too good to wash in the Jordan River, as Elisha had instructed him to do if he wanted to be healed. But Naaman finally did wash seven times in the Jordan, and he was healed. It seems that he had a choice, and he chose to do what was necessary for healing.

So does God choose to heal some people and not others? Does healing depend on something the person has to do—like want to be healed, choose to be healed, wash in a river, eat the right foods, exercise, etc.? As a chaplain with cancer patients, I have wrestled with these questions for many years. These are some of the questions we’ll explore on Sunday.

Cancer is like leprosy in some ways. It has social as well as physical consequences. Even though most people no longer have rational beliefs that cancer is contagious, they may withdraw from their ill friends because of their own fears of illness and mortality. People with HIV/AIDS, mental illness, and other illnesses may also experience social ostracism because of people’s fears and ignorance about the diseases.

So maybe we’re not so far removed from these biblical stories about lepers. And even if we don’t believe illness is caused by sin, a common assumption in the first century, our modern “health and fitness” culture often suggests that our wellness and healing are in our own hands. We need to eat right, exercise, meditate, pray, manage stress, have faith, think positively, etc., to prevent cancer and other illnesses, and then if we become ill, to cure those illnesses. And if we become ill or don’t get a cure, we may feel guilty or feel that others blame us because we didn’t have enough faith and/or the best lifestyle. What complicates things is that some lifestyle behaviors, like smoking, may cause illnesses. Also, some people may want to hold on to illness because of the secondary gains they get from it, like special treatment from family and friends or exemption from demanding responsibilities and expectations. So do we have a choice in our healing?

In my experience as a chaplain, I’ve prayed with people who desperately want to be physically healed and are not, and others who don’t want to survive but who do. I’ve also seen prayers answered the way people want them to be answered. Although some progressive Christians don’t believe that Jesus actually performed miracles of healing and that supernatural healing does not happen today either, I do believe in healing miracles. I’ve seen them in my ministry as a chaplain, miraculous healings of many kinds—body, mind, spirit, social.

Another important question is this: How will we as a faith community choose to relate to people with disabilities and illnesses? In the passage for this week from the Gospel of Mark, we see that Jesus was moved with compassion for the leper and reached out to one of the most excluded members of the community. By touching this “social outcast,” Jesus restored him to the community. This social healing may have been as dramatic as the physical healing.

Do we have choices in healing, as individuals and as a faith community?

All Blessings,
Jann

Presentation of Jesus

// February 4th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

The scripture (Luke 2:22-40) this week is about expectation and fulfillment of ritual, not to mention prophecy, with multiple characters proclaiming great things about the child Jesus.

Wow. This is serious theater, with amazing characters, one of whom hasn’t left the temple in years, and another that tells of a sword that will pierce the soul.

Poor Mary and Joseph stand by while strangers pass their child around and declare what is to come.

All of this makes me think of  our expectations of the Messiah, of the one who is going to come along and make our lives right and set things straight and, by golly, just you wait until this guy gets grown up, and then everything’s going to be all right.

You just wait and see. Things are going to get better.

But do they get better? Is there still injustice in the world? Poverty? Hunger? Disease? Exploitation?  Violence? War?

Of course those still exist. And since they do, then how do we understand just exactly what the Messiah is all about? Wasn’t someone supposed to come along and fix all the bad stuff?

Those questions then allow others to raise the question, “Why does God allow suffering in the world?” Or, why is there still evil? ( No matter how we might define the E word.)

But that also challenges us to ask what our own roles are. Have we participated fully in ending injustice? Have we done all that we can to end poverty and war and disease?

It’s easy enough to put it all on the shoulders of another, of the one who is supposed to come along and  make everything right.

Or is that truly the role of the Messiah? Perhaps the Messiah is more about showing us the way and providing us with new tools and new ways of understanding—and transforming us!– so that we can go about God’s work of setting things straight. Maybe each of us has a role to play in this grand piece of theater, of  preparing the way, of presenting the Lord.

We’ll talk about it on Sunday.
David Marquis

A Fishy Calling

// February 4th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

When I first read the lectionary text for this week, I laughed a bit. Of course the story of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew to follow him and be “fishers of men” is a familiar part of my childhood faith tradition. When you attach a biblical story to a silly song with cheesy hand motions, it just seems to stick in your brain a little better. Don’t believe me? Check out this link and thank me later.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzKgA1igyjY

Most sermons I’ve heard on this text have to do with evangelism, or catching souls for Jesus. It’s not a very personal image of evangelism, but what I do like about this story is that it is a very personal story of calling. Jesus came to Simon Peter and Andrew in their environment, and he spoke in their terms. He issued the brothers a simple invitation to follow him, and to leave their fishing business behind and join Jesus in his business- the business of people. It must have seemed an adventurous job offer because at the end of the day, these three guys left their entire livelihoods behind to join him.

For a long time, I struggled with the idea of calling. The clouds don’t part to reveal glorious sunbeams and a heavenly voice that explains our life’s purpose. Jesus doesn’t typically sidle up to us at work and give us such clear instructions, but some how there is a deep seeded desire in us to have a life’s work that means something and to figure out what the heck that is. Maybe it’s as simple as being in the business of people in our own unique setting in our own unique ways. If calling is personal, maybe Jesus doesn’t ask us all to be fishers of people. In your context, maybe Jesus asks you to be a networker of people, or a communicator of love, or an activist for justice, etc.

What does calling mean for you? How are you joining Jesus in the business of people in your unique context? Do we have a calling as a community? If so, how do we encourage one another to live into it? I’m excited to explore these things and more with you on Sunday.

Love and peace,
Janalee

Dealing with Demons

// February 4th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Mark 1:21-28 (NRSV)

21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Hey everyone, Genny here to start this week’s email off with a confession: I dread the exorcism stories in the Gospels.  It’s the type of narrative I have the hardest time relating to: miracle stories are definitely a challenge in this scientific, post-Enlightenment world of ours, but at least I can connect to the longing for wholeness and life that resonates in those stories.

But demons?  I’m immediately thinking of people’s heads spinning 360’s on their shoulders, priests desperately flinging holy water, and other various Hollywood-inflicted travesties that make little if any sense in the world I inhabit.  Yet, here we are, Gospel of Mark, ole’ buddy.  This is the story we’ve got, front and center in a chapter designed to introduce us to the big themes in Mark’s version of the ministry of Jesus.  The fact that this is the very firstmiracle story in the Gospel of Mark means paying attention is especially warranted.  So here we go, exorcisms and all!

What are we 21st century Christian-folk to do with a text like this?  I’ve got some hunches – I’ll even give you a hint: I’m pretty sure this whole first chapter of Mark is illustrating Jesus very short first sermon in this gospel: “The time is fulfilled, and the kin-dom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (v.15).  The world today is still full of hurtful stuff that holds us back from being the people we hope to be, in the world we dream of living in.  We do hurtful stuff, we’re affected by hurtful stuff, and a lot of the time it seems like we can’t escape from things that seemingly possess us and possess our society.   Jesus is pointing to a way out in this passage.  Can we really believe that things can change in our own lives and in the world around us?  Or is it the same old story?

Please join in the conversation Sunday as we talk through meeting ancient stories with our current lives.  Looking forward to being with you.

God and the False Self

// February 4th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them — they are more than the sand; I come to the end — I am still with you.

This Sunday we will be discussing a Psalm, a song to God, the glorious psalmist that attempts to put words on the unknowable, infinite.  We hopefully, can take some time to fathom the limitless and contrast it with the limited.  We each carry with us a self, ego, persona; whatever you want to call it, for our time let us consider it the False Self.  In the light of our own constructed and developed over our lives False self let’s consider the Self of God, Higher Power, Cosmic Consciousness within each of us.  How do we identify the False Self?  How do we look honestly at its impact on our daily lives?  How does the False Self cut us off from or block us from the Infinite or True Self?

Lots of questions to carry into the New Year, into a new phase in this community and maybe with each other’s help some understanding of who we are and where we want to go.  Our community stands at a crossroads.  We can rise up to the challenge and move into a community of awareness, growth and collective reality or we can stay with what we know, what we feel comfortable with and that which feeds the False Selves we bring with us into the New Year.  Each day, each week we face decisions and choices.  Within this uncertain, maybe luminous space our decisions shape who we are,who we want to be and where God is in the mix.  See ya Sunday.  Live long and prosper.

Alan Stephenson

New Beginnings

// February 4th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Mark 1:1-11

1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'”

4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

The someecard reads: “I can’t believe it’s been a year since I didn’t become a better person.”  It’s the New Year.  Will it be the same as the Old Year?  One of the better features of the liturgical year is that we get to start over every year.  Every year in the fictional world of the liturgical calendar, Jesus is born and lives and dies and rises again.  But this is the beginning.  Again.  The beginning again.

This week’s passage is Mark 1:1-11.  For those keeping score at home, the lectionary starts at verse 4, but I like the beginning because, well, it’s the beginning.  Our Christmas stories typically come from Matthew and Luke, who choose to locate the beginning of the story of Jesus at his birth.  However, Mark and John choose something else.  For John, the beginning is so far in the past as to not even be the past, but a time beyond time.  Mark chooses the much-easier-to-explain beginning of Jesus ministry, his baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan.

As an “ecumergent” church, there are probably a lot of different ways of understanding baptism.  However, there are a couple of things we all might share.  First, baptism is the beginning of inclusion in the Body of Christ.  Whatever we take being a Christian to be, baptism has always been a critical sign of commitment to being one, of living into whatever we take it to be and claiming the right to wrestle with what it will be.  Second, there is some sense in which whatever has come before is washed away.  John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance and forgiveness.  We turn away from the mistakes of the past and turn towards the possibilities of the future.  We turn toward God.  Like the New Year, it is a new beginning, beginning again to be the thing we always knew we were.

Join us this Sunday as we share in our new beginning, beginning again.

Grace and Peace,
Scott