Sermon Text: I'm In!
You gotta love grandchild stories. Karen Van Kleeck told me a great one not long ago. Karen and Bob have a granddaughter named Julianna. When Julianna has a meal with them, they all say grace together. Julianna is not quite clear on the word used to end the prayer. Instead of “Amen,” she says, “I’m in!”
You know, that’s a great translation of the word “Amen.” “Amen” means “Yes” or “I assent to this,” or, as Julianna so delightfully puts it, “I’m in.”
Any time we have a baptism, as we did today at 8:00, we welcome a new person into our church family. This morning it was baby Gavin, the newborn son of Alanna Cooney Lenga and Tyler Lenga. Once he learns to talk, he can now say, “I’m in!” Because he is in.
In the Baptismal Covenant, we are asked this question: “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers?”
Think about what that means. Where do we hear the apostles’ teaching? Where do we go for fellowship? Where do we symbolically break bread together? Where do we pray together? Well, of course — in the gathered church community. In baptism, we promise to be part of a church family.
Life is all about community. The very first book of the Bible says that it’s not good for a human being to be alone. We were created for partnership and community.
Evolutionary psychology confirms the wisdom of the ancient Biblical witness. Humanity took shape in tribes of anywhere from a dozen to a hundred fifty people. There was a social leap when groups of primates co-operated for survival, and it changed the very structure of our brains. We belong in community, in social relationships.
So to be healthy and happy as Christian people, we will indeed “continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers.”
One of my all-time favorite images of what the church is all about is the story of a little disabled boy. His name was Tommy, and he had been born with only one arm. When he joined a kindergarten Sunday school class, the teacher worried the other kids might be mean to him. But they accepted him happily into the group.
Yet then the teacher thoughtlessly said, “Now we’re going to do a poem with gestures: ‘Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors and here’s all the people!’” Too late she realized Tommy couldn’t do the gestures with only one arm. But the little girl next to Tommy reached out her hand and said, “Tommy, let’s you and me be the church together.”
I love that story because it is so clearly about what church really is.
All of us are Tommy and that little girl. All of us are broken or wounded in some way. Here, others can provide what we lack. Here, we can provide what others lack. Here, we are all in it together.
We are asked another question in the Baptismal Covenant. “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” I think this has become more important than ever in our time.
We live in a fractured country. There are people who exclude certain groups, who spew hatred of outsiders or categories of people, who deny dignity to people who are different from themselves. That has got to stop. We can’t wait for our politicians to lead in this change, because I don’t think they are mature enough to do it. It calls for grownups, and for people who take their faith seriously.
“Will you respect the dignity of every human being?” Here, you are God’s beloved. Here, you have dignity as a member of the community. Here, you are family.
You are God’s beloved out there, too, but sometimes that message gets lost in all the turmoil in our culture right now. So it’s more important than ever to be the church together. It’s more important than ever for the church to lift up basic human dignity. It’s more important than ever for us to strive for justice and peace among all people.
Jesus thought it was so important that he said it twice to the disciples in today’s Gospel text: “Peace be with you,” he said when he first appeared. And then when the disciples realized it really was him in the flesh, he said it again: “Peace be with you.”
So, will you be part of God’s beloved community? Will you invest yourself in the family we call the church? Will you be part of a society dedicated to peace? Will you respect the dignity of everyone?
In the Baptismal Covenant, we say, “I will, with God’s help.” And I hope to God we mean it. It’s a commitment worth making and renewing.
Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
My answer comes from a little girl named Julianna.
Amen. I’m in.