Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? I will, with God's help. (BCP, p. 305)This past Sunday, we concluded our Lenten sermon series on the Baptismal Covenant while taking on what I see now as one of the most challenging promises we make to each other and to God. We commit to taking all the work we have done so far as people of faith and put it to work. No longer is our faith practice to be one of self-care and development. No longer are we able to continue under the illusion that our immediate environs and those we know (enough) to avoid anxiety-producing contact are enough of a mission field. It flips and raises the term "NIMBY" (not in my back yard) in some alarming ways.
Our faith, we find in affirming this promise, is not just a local phenomenon. It is a global action plan. I am called on, not just to clean my own life up and get right with God, we are also called on to act in the world to promote justice and peace. We are called to confront injustice and the noisome conflicts that disrupt the abiding justice and peace of the kingdom of God. Along the way, we are also promising to respect the dignity of EVERY human being.
I got that lesson offered to me on Sunday morning through the provision of a box of Peeps. Our youngest class of Sunday Schoolers had the "Paper Bag Sermon" choice for the 10 AM sermon, and chose to give me a dozen of those fluffy, sugar-coated candies. They were classic Peeps, in the shape of the little chicks, like those above. I had the challenge to link them topically into the sermon, preaching on the above Baptismal Covenant question and in context with the Gospel story of Lazarus being raised from the dead.
How would you approach that conundrum, or rather that packet of conundrums, wrapped in cellophane and squishy sweet?
Well, through a simple question: How do you like to eat your Peeps? If you think there is only one way, then check this site out! So, as I asked the kids (and the congregation) the question, two things became clear: 1) if people liked Peeps, they had a favorite way of eating them, and 2) not everyone likes Peeps!
Some folks like just one Peep, others think of a box of them as a single serving. Some like them all the time, and miss them out of season. Others are glad when they disappear from the store (because they have gorged on them, or because they despise them). Some like them stale, and others cannot tolerate even a little dryness. Some only like the bunnies. Some only like the chicks. Some prefer the traditional flavors, others the exotics. Some can't imagine them any way than out of the box, and others can't wait to experiment.
Some have never heard of Peeps. Some haven't given them any thought at all.
It became clear to the congregation that there were MANY opinions about the RIGHT way to eat Peeps, just in the confines of our community. Realizing this as a group, I asked, then what does that mean about respecting the dignity of EVERY human being?
One little boy raised his hand, "It means that we have to respect everybody, even when we don't like them or if they are mean to us."
And what does it mean to respect someone's dignity?
"It means," said another little girl, "that no matter what the issue we have to look for peace, and not for a fight."
Now, why does a story about a man who died, whom Jesus brought back from the dead, relate to Peeps and our Baptismal Covenant question for today?
"Because every thing Jesus does in this story is about fixing hurts between people."
...Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." (John 12: 43b-44)
When we respect the dignity of every human being, what other course is there bu to strive for justice and peace? If we are to live with integrity the other promises of the Baptismal Covenant, then we are perforce taken to this point...we can hold nothing back as we seek to love and serve our God, in Christ...in community.