Baptism - A New Identity & Purpose
- Wednesday, June 8, 2016
- By Father Robin Ruder-Celiz
When was the last time you were called by God? Over the past few weeks and throughout the Easter season we read from the book of Acts about how the disciples and the faithful are commissioned and sent out into the world to continue the good work started by Jesus. Healings are performed and people are raised from the dead, such as Tabitha who was sick and died until Peter came along. These and other events around the known world are beginning to create a stir for the ancient People of God. People are asking questions and wondering, “What’s going on. What’s the fuss all about?” Well dahh, we are prone to question things that come at us that disrupt our normal routines. We see activity happening in a certain place at a certain time and we grow curious and ask questions which brings us to this week.
Peter, he’s the one that seems to be really busy at the moment doing all this work, has to explain himself to the people. They want to know why he is spending his time with the so called “unclean” people of society. Peter’s response is essentially to say in God’s eyes there is no such thing as clean and unclean people. Rather all are made clean by God.
Like Peter we too are sent into the world. Our call or charge comes to us through our baptism. Baptism is our commissioning from God for service in God’s world. We do not have the luxury of deciding when we are going to be born or even when we are going to be called. However God does call us, all of us here today, for a specific reason and purpose. From all our different backgrounds and circumstances we gather at this time in this place to be the Church because God has called all of us together for a specific purpose in God’s world.
Through our baptism we are invited and called by God to participate in this work, or Missio Dei, God’s Mission. Because of this we form part of God’s plan for the world. That can be really mind-blowing when we actually think about it. We, you and me, actually form part of God’s divine plan. I don’t know about you, but when I think about that I suddenly feel completely inadequate and overwhelmed. It is humbling to think about. But it is true. Whether we like it or not, whether we accept it or not, we have been chosen by God at this time and in this place to be a part of God’s divine plan. We may not know exactly what this plan is most of the time. Sometimes when we think we have a pretty good idea we fall short and couldn’t be more wrong. Sometimes, however we do manage, despite ourselves to get it exactly right. We can look back over our history and name the people and circumstances where we as the People of God, the church have played a role in influencing change in society. People like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King Jr. Archbishop Michael Peers and the list goes on to include you and me.
While we may not always be clear about what it is that we are called to do we do know a few things that are true.
We do know that God is already alive and active in our lives working in and through each one of us for the good of the whole world.We do know that for better or for worse we are called to be the church in this time and place. As the church we know, because our history has shown us that we are to be a disturbance in society. In that we are to be the voice of reason, to speak the truth even when it is unpopular to do so. We do know that we are loved by God. No matter how many times we feel that we fall short of what it is we are supposed to do, God, our God still loves us, calling us again and again to reconnect and recommit to the Divine Plan. This, all of this, is what it means to be a Baptised person.
In our Baptism we sign up and take on an identity for the work of the church and the People of God. This is a life that challenges us, moves us and shapes us. It is work that can be exhilarating and rewarding while at the same time is gut wrenching and can break our hearts. It is a life and work that we are compelled towards no matter how hard we resist. It is hard work but always Holy Work.
As I have alluded to, the life of the Baptised Christian is not always easy. It does mean that there will be times, many times when our life and work as the baptized will be tough and challenge us to the core. This is why we are called as baptized people to live a life in community as the church. It is through these tough times that we rely on our community, our church family, to guide us and hold us up when we are weak. In turn, when we are strong we hold up and support others who need us.
One of the great gifts of our baptism is that we become a member of a network and family of people who work with one another for support. They encourage us in our discernment and at times challenge us. Challenge us to grow and develop in our faith and to strive further for a better future that lies just beyond our imagination.