One of my pastors, Rev. Jenny Schultz, wrote this in response to the horrible violence we’ve seen recently. I found it to be helpful and inspiring for me as I am shocked and grieving by the violence we all see, and I’m sharing it as a week in the Word message for us.
I’m always looking for voices to highlight as “Weeks in the Word”. Please share with me sermons, notes, Bible studies, and messages of other progressive southern voices that inspire and call us to be people of compassion and justice.
I hope this pastor’s words give you hope too.
Your progressive redneck,
I think sometimes we, parents of little ones, think that baptism is simply a religious rite that we need to check off the list, so we dress them up in flowing gowns and head pieces and take them to church. As I was sitting here this morning feeling almost paralyzed by these images of violence that continue to fill my feed I am reminded of the significance of my children’s baptisms, of the water that gently covered their brows, then drip-dropped down their tiny faces, tickling their noses and softly leaving their skin once again. As a mother this water helped ensure my babies’ safety as they grew and developed inside of my body, and then ushered them to their next adventure when birth would bring them into the next world. This same life-giving water fills their bodies even now as they learn to talk and walk, to wonder and dream, to read and to write.
This same water is life-giving to all that has been granted life among us; every creature and plant, everything that has breath, everything that has a will.
I also understand that this water gives life equally to those who cause harm and those to whom harm has been done. The same waters that ushered my babies into this world will take life as quickly as it began. So maybe the significance has nothing to do with water itself, really, but with the way in which we decide to respond to these watered babies, those to whom the church has promised to guide and those from which the church would hide in fear. Each of us begins life inside the belly of another yet not all of us are delivered into safety from the womb, and for many among us the idea of living water ended soon after delivery. I’m not saying that baptism would yield any such utopian society or even advocating that baptism is an anecdote to end violence, but simply remembering that baptism itself can be a reminder of the grace this world needs right now. It is rather a luxury to stand in view of those gathered in fine dress proclaiming their vow of support that we might grow in Christ together. So rather than tiny rhinestone headpieces and long flowing lace sewn gowns perhaps we might truly reflect upon the waters of our baptisms and use the luxury of community to brace us for the casket-lined streets that have become far too common a scene.
I know that when I feel helpless and angry, I am all too-ready to demonize the other, especially politically speaking, and as the time grows nearer for us to rally behind one color or the other I fear that we will not only speak in ways that polarize “the other”, but will lose sight of the water that Jesus says is to be a “living” salvation for all. Today, I am committing to reflect upon my own baptism, upon the water that gives life to every living thing” and rather than spouting out or agreeing with harmful and divisive rhetoric I will seek to find a commonality that might nurture us one step closer to peace, setting aside our guns, whether physical or metaphorical. That all may be one…