Dear Partners in Mission:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
It is hard to believe but it has been a year since we first began hearing about this “novel Coronavirus” that was spreading in China. We have learned in the last year a great deal. We have suffered significant losses. We have adapted and changed in the way we proclaim the gospel. And despite all the challenges, that gospel has remained constant, our hope and our rock. Our true identity.
Over the past year we have experienced our nation, synod, congregations, families, become more and more divided along partisan lines. As I wrote to you last Thursday this deeply concerns me because it threatens to undermine the primacy of our baptismal identity and the call baptism places upon our lives. In the liturgy of Affirmation of Baptism this call is made explicit…
“You have made public profession of your faith. Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism: to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?”
To this we reply, “I do, and we ask God to help and guide me.” Then the assembly is asked if they will support us in this vocation and call.
This liturgy emphasizes the primacy of our baptismal call and the assumption, the expectation, that the community will support us in this work. To be a part of the way of Jesus, which means living with our neighbors. Not seeking after power and privilege but instead striving for justice and peace, serving all people, proclaiming good news, hearing the Word and, when possible, sharing the Lord’s supper. To be together, which means listening to one another, engaging one another in conversation, and in so doing, listening for God.
In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either.” As we live in this challenging time I would invite you to join us for the 2021 Tri-Theo Conference, January 25-26. We will be digging into Bonhoeffer’s life and teachings, particularly his Lutheran baptismal identity and how that gave him tools for being in community, listening to one another, standing with the marginalized, and confronting the evil of fascism. As this is an online event, anyone who desires to participate can register.
Our baptismal identity is to be the primary mark of our life because it invites us into this listening community and in the end, it is the identity we will cling to in our death. The moment when we trust through baptism we will hear God welcoming us into life eternal. I pray that we as NT-NL Synod will continue to live into the promises we made when we affirmed our baptism, support, and listen to one another along this path. To let go of the easy and rehearsed narratives and listen to how God encounters us along the way in our neighbor.
Let us pray…”We give you thanks, O God, that through water and the Holy Spirit you give us new birth, cleanse us from sin, and raise us to eternal life. Stir up in your people the gift of your Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence both now and forever. Amen.” (ELW)