Ash Wednesday 2012

Vince Lombardi believed the key to success was a solid knowledge of the basics. To this end, when he started with the Green Bay Packers, legend has it, he introduced his player to the football.

Coach Lombardi is not the only one who believes in fundamentals.  One of the best and most academically rigorous independent schools in Boston does not instruct its students using the curriculum of modern education. Instead, they continue to use a classical curriculum to prepare its students for higher education.  This means every young person who graduates from this institution has a working knowledge of Latin and Greek languages, Greek philosophy, as well as mathematics and science.  It is their belief these areas of study develop the foundational skills students need to understand and analyze the world around them.  Their philosophy works.  Every student who graduates from Roxbury Latin is accepted into colleges on par with Harvard and Yale.

Our ongoing growth as a Christian people is also dependent on the fundamentals of our faith, this is why this season of Lent is a core part of our life together.

Every year, when we as a community gather for the five weeks leading up to Easter, we are guided towards the paring down of our lives and encouraged to focus on the core tenants of our  faith.  In the early church, the season of Lent was used by the church as a period of time to re-instruct those who had fallen into notorious sin in order to guide them back into full communion on Easter Day.

As modern day Christians, we are invited to examine the whole of our lives in Christ and encouraged to find new ways to deepen our walk.  This year, in an effort to help in our efforts of spiritual growth I will be focusing my thoughts each week on the vows of baptism.

Why the vows of baptism? Because the vows we take at baptism define the relationship God seeks with each and every one of us.  Also, our  baptismal vows provide us with the basic building blocks that form the foundation and the boundaries of sound Christian ministry.

Think about it, our baptismal vows call us to: continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and the prayers; to resist evil, and whenever we fall into sin, to repent and return  to the Lord; to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; to seek and serve Christ in all persons loving your  neighbor as yourself; to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.

Based on the commitment these vows require, is it any surprise that baptism since the Church’s earliest days has been perceived as both a vow of life long fidelity to God and as the gateway towards full membership in the Church?  Our bishop has often said the most significant change the prayer book revision of the last century made was to restore the  prominence of Baptism in our lives and as communities of faith.

Sadly, despite the significant role baptism is meant to hold in our lives, it seems very few of us think about them on a regular basis or  know what they contain, even though we renew our baptismal vows at least four times a year.

Time and time again I have been asked by those who hold no faith, or who have walked away from the Church for various reasons, what the purpose of the church is and what makes the church any different from any other social club.  The answer is twofold.  First, the Church is the body of Christ, and this means at the center of our existence is the love of Christ for the world, and our desire to embody this reality.  And second, the church is a body of individuals whose corporate life is guided by the vows we make at Baptism.

Every day, the media bombards us with varying arguments on a myriad of moral questions.  How do we understand the morality of birth control, and gay marriage in light of our vow to seek and serve justice and respect the dignity of every human being.

Very recently I read the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, it is the story of how a black woman’s cancer cells were harvested in the  late fifties without her knowledge and have been used by scientists all around the world for the advancement of medicine and the development of pharmaceutical products that many individuals and corporations have made millions from, while the Lacks family, to this day, still cannot afford basic healthcare.  How do I respond to the myriad of ethical questions raised by the writer Rebecca Skloot, as one who has vowed to seek and serve Christ in every human being?

Our vows also take us from the world of morality and medical ethics to the mundane minutia of our every day lives as we all strive to manage priorities.  How do we, as a people who have vowed to continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and prayer, order our lives around prayer, study and worship while functioning in a society that demonstrates no respect for family time, let alone time with the almighty or the community of Faith.

How do we proclaim by example the Good News of God in Christ, by living into what Christ taught during the Sermon on the Mount; to turn the other cheek,  to go the extra mile and to love our enemies when the world we live in seems to be more about fear and revenge than about love and forgiveness?

All of these questions are just the beginning of the challenges we face when we choose to make the vows of baptism the center of our lives and commit ourselves more fully to the risen Christ.  This is why I have chosen to use this Lenten Season of reflection and repentance to once again introduce the foundational vows of our faith as I invite each us to recommit ourselves anew, to the One in whom we live and move and have our being.  Amen

As we enter into Lent, I invite you to begin asking, how am I already fulfilling the vows of my Baptism. Fr. Craig+

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