Today we celebrate the baptism of Jesus. Yesterday, a disturbed adolescent shot a member of the House of Representatives and others, and that gunman killed a federal judge. What do these events have in common?
There will be voices far more eloquent than mine, minds who will consider the inflammatory words of various groups and the frightening Internet posts of the gunman, and make connections to actions. As children, we're taught that words can't really hurt us--but we know that to be a lie the minute we hear it. I can still recall many a mean remark. It's harder for me to remember the nice things people have said about me.
History shows us that words can often lead to actions, both good and bad. The Civil Rights Movement workers sang songs about overcoming and not being moved--and they embodied those songs they sang. We can trace the history of the Civil War back through many a speech, many given a hundred years before the first shots were fired.
In baptism, we make promises. I have often wondered if families really think about what the words mean. With the baptism of my nephew, I promised to keep my sister and brother-in-law on the straight and narrow--but why did I think I had that power?
Baptism is a sacrament that relies on word and water. The words mean more to me as the years go by--and they also make me deeply uncomfortable when families I've never seen before have their babies baptized with us. As a congregation, we make a commitment to help those families raise those children in the way they should go. It's hard for me to say those words if I know I'm never going to see the family again.
Much of what we promise revolves around words: promises to bring the baptized to church, promises to make sure that the baptized gets the Scripture, and promises that the important stories will continue to be told. Language shapes us in so many ways, for better and worse, and our spiritual ancestors knew that fact.
Again and again, I resolve to watch my words. May they always be an instrument of peace, not a weapon.
feeling the feelings…
11 months ago