WHEN I WORSHIP –“Trinity’s Trifecta” (conclusion)

“WHEN I WORSHIP –“Trinity’s Trifecta” (Conclusion– a longer than normal post!)

Almost there...almost where I'm supposed to be..."

 Ok, this should be interesting.  First of all, let me say thank you for your encouragements over these weeks and allowing me to share some of my sabbatical journey with you, my family, friends, colleagues and faith community… your desire to come along this path of God gives me reason to sing that old McGuffey Lane song,  … “People like you…make life nice for people like meI like the things you do; don’t you know what you do to me…???”

So here is the last part of my 3 fold Sunday experience and the conclusion to ‘Trinity’s Trifecta!’

When I worship (or get into a conversation of matters of importance, even) some things happen.  One, the time spent is an affirmation of that thing that dwells deeply in me and it’s what I and others call…the “holy mystery of God.” It is gift and it is living.  It is not just the ritual of doing something over and over…it is the ritual that draws me to the understanding that I cannot sustain myself on this planet alone…as I need God’s love, grace and guidance and a community of people to be part of.  Christianity is not a solo journey….

The second thing that happens at worship is that I get some clarification.   The Word, the story of God informs my path; helps me look in the mirror and points me in a direction that is ‘other’ oriented.   Church is not about me; it’s all about God and the God who came to us in Jesus of Nazareth, fully human and fully God.  He is the ‘model’ of the Godly life and when I hold my life up to this Word and this living being…I get clarified pronto!  From a newcomers’ perspective that clarification may come very gently or with a thud.  Each of us is unique and therefore what gets clarified is subject to the circumstance.  God’s grace will always be sufficient and always enough!  As people of faith, we must trust that!

The third thing (remember I’m writing with a bend to 3’s!) is a combination of gratitude and sending.  That’s why I’m drawn to the Lord’s table.  Eucharist literally means, “thankfulness” and it is here I am fed, strengthened, renewed for mission and reminded that I am important to God…and therefore equipped to go and tell the story…in a certain sense to go preach, teach and baptize, making disciples…all that Matthew 28 stuff and I don’t have to be ordained to get that OR do that!  Bread and wine; body of Christ and blood of Christ shared as Word are given with a purpose and fuel me FOR purpose…

Ok, and now to the 3rd Sunday, the next to the last Sunday of my journey into ‘other’ congregations…

As you know, many of the very large churches (Houston has more very large churches than any other city in the USA) are starting satellite ministries and this particular Sunday I was able to attend one of those satellite worship services.  It was a risk as you never know who will show up to preach or if you get a simul cast link of the main event preacher from the mother ship (no angst here, folks…churches are “ships” in mission and we are the ‘bride of Christ!”)  and in my case, it was the guest preacher…who after a few short minutes, I realized, was on a mission for God!  It seems this particular Sunday, the church had scheduled the day for ‘baptism’ BUT, it also seemed that they didn’t know if anyone would come!

The service was simple.  No liturgy, just a rolling faith commentary from the worship leader, an opening prayer, some church announcements and lots of singing, too!  The last of the songs, a song about baptism ( a song I never heard before) was powerful, and authentically Lutheran but you already know this was not a Lutheran church because most pastors I know would never consider an altar call and expect people to come forward (o ye of little faith!)  This church did!  Songs.  News.  Message.  Invitation.  Simple.  No ‘alleluias;’ No Lord’s Prayer.  No Creed.  No Eucharist.  No sharing of the peace.  If you had never attended a Lutheran or Episcopal or Methodist church, you would never have known what you were missing…but the place was packed…

And without going into all the preaching details, the service had one intention…tell the people there…”this is what we believe” and if you want to be baptized today, they would make that happen for you.  But, here’s the brief synopsis…

The preacher’s intention was not to argue baptismal theology and to be placed in a position to say, “we have it right; others do not.”  He said this over and over.  “I’m not arguing the history of baptism here…” but he was letting you know they are a Bible believing church and this is what the Bible says about baptism;

  • But, then he went on to speak of his understanding of Bible baptism and place it all in the context of a phrase I had not heard before… “baptism is like planting your flag and YOU will want to plant it on the right side of ‘salvation.” NOTE:  So in a sense as I look back… he wasn’t even arguing baptism…he was arguing “when” and “how” and by “whom” salvation happens!  Ahh, and I don’t think most folks there caught that…
  • And so now the conversation expanded about that ‘right side’ of salvation and in so doing rejected parts of scripture (where whole families were baptized and Saul of Tarsus was baptized in Annanais’ of Damascus’ s kitchen!  AND the history of the oldest strains of Christianity (Roman Catholics, Coptics from Egypt and the Orthodox folks from Greece, Russia, the Ukraine) who all baptize infants and adults and do not require total immersion as well as the Didache   …the oldest book we know with the ‘teachings’ of the Christian church from  the 4th century. Hey, I like a good spiritual conversation but there was much left out for the common hearer or seeker on a Sunday morning…
  • The outcome for me easy.  He said if I wanted to believe that my baptism as an infant on April 4, 1954 was legit, then it was legit but he didn’t have to believe that it was because baptism was for adult believers and by full immersion…  So, I didn’t come forward for the altar call…
  • And I didn’t come forward for second altar call.  Yep, on my way to feeling just a bit spiritually ‘beat up’ the first call wasn’t enough…even after about 10 people came forward…and after he reminded people that if you have a ‘lump in your throat’ and your ‘heart was pounding’ and that was God’s Holy Spirit talking to you  (Sheesh, I had a Mormon missionary say the same thing to me 25 years ago after he tried to pray me out of Lutheranism…)…but my heart was pounding and there was a lump in my throat and I determined that it was the Holy Spirit telling me to stay in your seat…you’re a guest in God’s house…and don’t make a scene…;>]  But, that was not the end…
  • After about another 8-10 people came forward for the second altar call there was a THIRD!  Yep, a 3rd altar call…maybe the preacher knew I was going to write about this…but without any hesitation he reminded the people that this would be “their day”… and that they should not wait or hesitate as who knows what will happen tomorrow ( which to me is kind a guilt invoking way to get someone to buy life insurance or fire insurance…which baptism is certainly NOT!) and with the reminder to ‘come on down…just come forward’ another 10 people came to the front of the staging area before being taken off into a room to get their faith squared away and then the most amazing thing happened…everyone was dismissed!  The only people who had to stay were the ones being baptized…everyone else hit the hallways for the parking lot and the noon Texans football game… “baptized into the community of faith…Christ’s church” …the ones who along with Elvis had just left the building…I prayed on the way to the car…really I did… 

So hear me as I try to offer an affirmation, some clarification with gratitude and purpose…

Where is the ‘right side of salvation?’  Some Christians say it is when “the believer” says, “I’m saved.”  One must be of some semblance of an adult age and be prepared to go all the way down into the water…it all depends on the believer…

Other Christians say the right side of salvation is all about God. The angel came to Mary and said to call the baby, Jesus, as he would ‘save’ the people from their sins (Jesus / Joshua/ Ye shua means “the one who saves”)… Jesus yanked Zacchaeus out of a tree, gave him a value lesson over dinner on the Godly life and said, “salvation has come to this house today…”  And while Jesus was dying on the cross…the scoffers and mockers said, “he can save others; but he can’t save himself…” which all equate to me that the right side of salvation may not even be the cross but perhaps…BOTH sides of Jesus…as the saving power we receive is of God and that means God has planted his flag to proclaim salvation…rather the one who is saved… 

The NT said it this way… in 1 Peter 3:18… “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit…”  That means God has come to us… we don’t go to God or Church to be baptized…and in our context as 21st century church…we are SENT into the world to be Jesus to seek out the lost so that…well you get that picture, right?  I like to ask, and you should too… “what part of Christ died once for all don’t we understand...?”

Luther asked the question, “how does water do this great thing?” and then went on to answer… “it’s not just the water but the Word of God (Jesus himself) who is present in with and through the water with the promise of God that sin is washed away (original sin for sure) and continues to cleanse us daily as we walk in that covenant of baptism, again, established by God…

The question of ‘teaching’ came up as well and it is easy to understand that an infant knows little of Jesus, the Church and the mature Christian life.  But, that same child knows little of the value of food, water and shelter and as responsible adults we do not withhold these things from said child and that is why those who baptise infants take time over time to ‘teach and learn’ the ways of God…in our church we call it a ‘catechism’ which leads to Confirmation Sunday and an affirmation of baptism…that gift of God that was theirs at baptism and now claimed with a new heart and mind… the power in baptism…

  1. that forgives us of original sin and rushes us into God’s ocean of life;
  2. that names and claims us as God’s child; loved now and forever;
  3. that make us member of the Body of Christ and the local congregation of faith;
  4. that provides us an indwelling of the Holy Spirit and all his gifts; and
  5. offers us the gift of eternal life, which begins now…not the day we die!

And as for ‘fire insurance,’ some Christians of all corners of the kingdom have this child-like faith that says…”get er done…get the baby baptized…we don’t want the child destined for hell…” which is never the point of baptism…to get us “off the hook” so to speak… Rather, baptism  gets us ON THE HOOK connecting us to the Body of Christ, to the people of God and the missional work we are called to do…

 The Bible says, that in baptism, we are given all the gifts we need to live well and wonderfully (my paraphrase) in God’s kingdom… to live with passion and with purpose…and therefore gives us good cause to baptize as soon as possible and let God go to work on that child’s heart and life…  and remember, there are no soloists in Church… we need each other to learn from and grow with as we seek to be the body of Christ in the world today…

May you recall your baptism today with affirmation, clarity, gratitude and purpose…

    Brian

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About briangigee

Loves life; lives love! Bud and Doris' eldest son. Descendant of 'refiners' and 'reformers.' Husband to Margo. Father of 5. Grandfather to 2. Brother, uncle, friend and colleague. Working parish pastor. Became a naturalized Texan in February 2013.
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