Today we will be baptizing Serena. Baptisms are joyous events in the lives of individuals, their families, and the church. Serena’s baptism is especially joyous for me, because I was privileged to participate in her parents’ wedding, and even more so, because I first met Serena the day she was born. In the nearly eight months since that day, we’ve watched her grow, develop a personality. Though unbaptized, she has already attended at least two vestry meetings where she has delighted, and occasionally diverted, us all. Continue reading
Today is an exciting day in the one hundred and seventy five year history of Grace Church. It is also a day tinged with just a little bit of sadness and regret. We are celebrating the success of our Giving Light Giving Hope capital campaign that has raised nearly a million dollars and laid the foundation for renovations to our spaces that will equip us to engage in mission and ministry in the coming decades of our rapidly changing world. Continue reading
It seems like every week this summer I come before you after a week of horrific violence and tragedy in the world and try to offer some consolation and hope from scripture. Then in the following week, even worse things happen. I won’t recite the litany of the past months to you, nor even the tragedies, violence, and injustices of the past week. The images are all too familiar to us now even if they were shocking when we first saw or heard about them. Once again, we have had laid bare to us the racism, injustice, and inequity that pervades every aspect of our society. As a human race, we see ourselves in all of our evil and inhumanity. Continue reading
I had a series of conversations this week that had a common theme—the spiritual journeys we are on in our lives. My conversation partners differed in many respects. Some were members or friends of Grace, some were newcomers, seekers, one was a woman I met at a gathering at the university. Of all of them, the most interesting journey was that of Peter Reinhart, the bread baker, teacher and writer who visited UW this week. Peter was raised Jewish, encountered yoga and eastern religions in the sixties and early seventies, found his way into an intentional community that combined aspects of new thought, eastern religions, and Christianity and eventually with that community joined the tradition of Eastern Orthodoxy. Continue reading
Today, the seventh Sunday of Easter, is one of the oddest of all of the Sundays in the liturgical calendar. We are in something like suspended animation, or stopped motion. On Thursday, the calendar, even if we at Grace Church didn’t, commemorated the feast of the Ascension, when Jesus Christ departed from earth and from his disciples forty days after the resurrection. Next Sunday is the Feast of Pentecost, when we celebrate the coming of the gift of the Holy Spirit on the assembled disciples, empowering them to spread the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world. But today, today we’re waiting. Continue reading
Over the weekend, Sarah Palin succeeded in outraging Christians on both left and right with her statement that “waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.” That her comments brought about a round of applause at the NRA convention is evidence of the complete moral bankruptcy of conservative politics and the profound lack of understanding of Christian history and theology.
It just so happens that today, April 28, is the tenth anniversary of the revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. That ten years later, some Americans still believe torture is morally acceptable and consistent with American ideals is repugnant. That people who call themselves Christian can advocate its use and compare it to the rite of initiation into Christianity is beyond belief.
Less than two weeks ago, Christians remembered the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. Crucifixion was execution by torture, excruciating painful, done for no other reason than to strike terror in the hearts of Roman subjects.
Others have written about Palin’s sacrilegious statement. What’s particularly ironic is to think about torture and baptism in terms of the New Testament:
Therefore we have been baptized with him into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so that we too might walk in newness of life–(Romans 6:4)
Our Savior, Jesus Christ, was a victim of torture. For Christians to applaud, to laugh, at a comparison of torture and baptism is to be like those Roman soldiers who mocked and scorned Jesus.
Even if our President, Department of Justice, and the Court of Public Opinion refuses to bring to account all those who committed or advocated torture, we as a nation, we Christians will have to account for the evil that was perpetrated.
The questions are heavy, ominous. They sound like they come from a different age or perhaps from a horror movie:
Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces that rebel against God?
Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God? Continue reading