I have always felt deep down to my toes that there is nothing like a faith community when it is working right. I witnessed this as a child, when my alcoholic father came to faith in Christ through the witness of a neighbor and the love of a local church. His life, and subsequently the entire trajectory of my family’s life, changed course dramatically. I have seen this transformation of human lives happen over and over again, as Jesus and his church have partnered together. Participating with God in transforming lives has always been the church’s job, as we hear in Isaiah 58, when God defined true worship: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Faith communities are working right when people care more and more about the things God cares about and less and less about the things he does not care about.
God absolutely cares about recognizing and restoring beauty and wholeness in people.
This Sunday we are having baptisms, which I love because we gather together to witness and celebrate the stories of peoples’ lives being changed by God. Baptism is an acknowledgement that Jesus didn’t just die for us a long time ago and then leave us to fend for ourselves. He invited us then and now to follow him, to die to our old selves and our former ways of living and being. He invites us to begin fresh and to participate with him in extending this possibility to others. Our immersion in the baptism waters is a picture of our dying with Christ in his death, and our emerging from the water represents our being raised to new life. A faith community that is working right holds this picture of baptism always before itself as a reminder of what God cares about: the healing and redemption of human lives.
I cannot wait to celebrate baptism with the Platt Park church family this week