Sermon at St. Paul, Salem, Oregon
I get to see some remarkable communities of faith in my travels, people of many different languages and tribes, cultures and traditions. A couple of weeks ago I worshiped with a Hmong congregation in
Several months ago I was in
The Christians who show the world what love looks like donât do it out of fear. As Romans says, the spirit leads us into awareness that we are children of God â and itâs not a spirit of fear, but of love. Johnâs gospel is pretty blunt about it. The version called The Message puts it like this, âGod didnât go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.â The gospel is about the good news of Godâs love. And when we really and truly know we are well-loved, we begin to be able to respond in kind.
In 1928, the bishop of
The missionary discovered people who needed food and clothing and education during the Great Depression, and he helped mobilize the larger church to respond. He settled in and discovered a people who bathed in the creek every morning (which is where their English name comes from), and prayed to the Great Creator as they turned to face the four directions. As those Creek people learned about Jesus through the concrete experience of love, they also heard some parallels with their own experience of the Great Creator. They began to ask to be baptized. The missionary baptized many, in the same swimming hole where they had long said their morning prayers. And the missionary recorded all those baptisms, and the births and marriages and deaths in the community, and his successor continued to write down names and dates.
In 1977 the Poarch Band of Creek Indians applied to the
Without the willingness of someone to go to rural
That reality of new and more abundant life is the result of somebody being willing to go and share the love that he already knew. Today weâre reminding a number of people about their own belovedness, for thatâs what happens in baptism. We hear God saying to us what God said to Jesus at his baptism, âyou are my beloved, and in you I am well pleased.â Confirmation and reception are an opportunity for adults to claim that belovedness in a conscious and public way â to claim that love and commit to living in a way that shows and shares that love with the world. Those five promises we make are about how we intend to live in the world. Baptism and the rites connected with it are what Jesus called âbeing born from aboveâ and being âborn of water and the spirit.â They are an invitation to see the
Yesterday at the Cathedral in
I saw a small example this morning when I was running along the riverfront. The riverwalk is paved with bricks that have donorsâ names on them, and the small decorative tiles made by children â surprising bits of color and creativity in the long stretches of paving. Both are small, sacramental signs that somebody loves you enough to make this a more beautiful place.
How will you be love in this world? There are as many answers as the people in this room â each unique, each part of the infinite creativity of God. How will you be love?