Sealed to Christ
Sealed to Christ
Rev. Fritz Nelson
January 10, 2020
A song came to me the other day as I was processing the social, moral and political turmoil of the last few days. A song from my childhood. An obscure song from singer/songwriter Rich Mullins called Maker of Noses.
The song starts with an idealistic vision of what our world can be. Food on every plate, work is rewarded, race is irrelevant, where justice reigns and truth finally wins.
Everyone he knows, he continues, wants this world too. But, and now I’m quoting the song:
When I ask them how to do it they seem so confused
Do I turn to the left? Do I turn to the right?
When I turn to the world they gave me this advice
They said boy you just follow your heart; but my heart just led me into my chest
They said follow your nose, but the direction changed every time I turned my head
And they said boy you just follow your dreams, but my dreams were only misty notions
But the Father of hearts and the Maker of noses and the Giver of dreams, He’s the one I’ve chosen. And I will follow Him.
Who do we follow? What do we follow? To get the world we want? We crave? How do we discern the truth from the lies, what will lift us up, fill us up, nurture our children? What will make our fallen world, our fallen selves, our broken communities, our struggling families great again?
On Wednesday, as horror flickered across our televisions and computers like images from a third world capital, we saw what doesn’t work. We were left scared, afraid, disillusioned, angry, confused, heartbroken as the country we believe in was assaulted by its own people, its own leaders. Some were sporting badges and insignia of groups known for their hatred. Others we’re bearing banners of our faith yet not acting like we think Christians should act. As a body they acted in the name of President Trump – who many of us support, who many of our neighbors support. Some of us sympathize with the motivations of those who rushed the capitol. We share their fears and their concerns. But this isn’t what we voted for. Its not the nation in which we want to live.
Jesus goes down to the Jordan to be baptized by his cousin John. He goes to proclaim his allegiance, to claim his identity. Some in his community had aligned themselves with the occupying Romans. Others in his community had aligned themselves with the establishment religious leaders who controlled the temple and spiritual life. Still others had aligned themselves with radical zealots who sought revolution. Jesus, in his baptism, chooses to align himself first and only with God. He accepts God’s claim on him and his life. In return God calls him “beloved,” “my son,” the one in whom I am “pleased.”
Just as God claimed Christ through his baptism, God claims us through our baptism. In baptism God seals us to him. We die with Christ. We rise with Christ. God claims us, makes us his own, freeing us from the dominions and powers and falsehoods of this world and enslaves us to himself. Through the Holy Spirit we become empowered to live holy, joyful and committed lives. The grace given through baptism frees us from eternal judgment from our sins and enables us to start anew in this life. The seal we carry from our baptism binds us to the law of Christ. Our baptisms declare who we are. We know who we follow. We know what’s up, what’s down. We know what’s true. We know how to waiver neither left nor right. We know what works. We can test the spirits to see whether they are from God.
We reacted in horror on Wednesday because we knew, even though some in the crowd carried banners proclaiming the name of Jesus and others carried the very same flags we fly in our sanctuary this was not from God. We know because scripture warns us about false prophets and darkness and the immense capacity of humanity to confuse evil with good. We know because, sealed to our savior, we’re able to discern love from hate. We know only those who exhibit love can be born of God. We know whoever does not love does not know God – for God is love.
While reacting in horror we also preserve hope. We preserve hope because scripture shows us how, empowered by God’s grace, humanity has an amazing capacity to exchange evil for good. We, who have been judged by a graceful God, have the capacity to repent. We, who have been forgiven by Christ, have the capacity to forgive. We, who have been empowered by the Holy Spirit, can follow the law of love set out for us by Christ.
We have the power to discern ever present false gods and idols and allow the one and only true God to command our allegiance and loyalty.
We have the power to name those who declare God’s endorsement over that which is not holy and not fall for their false piety.
We have the power to live into God’s rest, so we do not weary in our faith or in doing good in our broken world.
We have the power to honor traditions and authority while also following the paths of the prophets and naming the hurt, pain, injustice and unholiness in our society and institutions.
We have the power to love our enemies, forgive those who have wronged us, turn the other cheek while also expecting justice for those who damage our communities and nation.
We have the power to discern truth from lies and to be steadfast in our own truth telling.
We have the power to build the society of which so many dream – to build a society grounded in love by steadfastly following the one who is love.
Inside the Capitol on Wednesday were many good and faithful Christians – both Republican and Democrat - who have been called to serve God, and their country, through the work of government. One of those is Senator Kirstin Gillibrand. I know this not because of anything she’s posted on social media, or her official bio or because I agree with her political positions, but because I spent a day with her and watched how she interacted with the poorest of the poor. Listening to their stories, praying with them, encouraging them, loving them as if they were the only people who mattered.
At the end of her statement about the attack, a statement rooted in her personal experience and lacking the hyped up rhetoric we’re used to seeing from Washington, she declares: “I am a Christian. My faith teaches me to love one another as myself.” She’s an American, yes. She’s a Democrat, yes. She’s a Senator, yes. She has aspirations to be President, yes. She’s also a mom and a wife, one of many whose first call was to a loved one saying, “Yes, I’m safe, I’m okay.” But first and foremost she’s a Christian, sealed by God to Christ in her baptism. As the storm descended, as evil sought her in its grasp, she knew exactly who she was. She knew exactly what was up and what was down, what was right and what was wrong, what was lies and what was truth, what was of God and what was not. She also knows the way forward, the way out of this mess. Sealed to Christ in our own baptisms, so do we.