Thursday, May 26, 2011

Who Are We IN Christ?

What follows is part of my annual report to the congregation - June 1, 2011.  It also owes much to a presentation I attended last week at the Festival given by Diana Butler Bass.

Who are we IN Christ?
Who are you?  Who am I?  How do we define ourselves?  I suspect that for most of us the way we would answer that question is by saying what we DO – I am a pastor, a farmer, a grocer, a lawyer, a nurse, a teacher and so on.  Or perhaps we would answer the question by listing our relationships – I am a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a grandparent and so on.  Ok, if I change the question and ask – Who are you IN God?  How would you answer that?  What does that little preposition mean?  How does it change the question?  Or does it?
In ancient times when someone was baptized they received a new name.  This was to symbolize that (following the words of St. Paul) in Christ we are a new creation; in Christ we have a new way of being in the world.  And we rest in Christ totally.  We are in Christ and Christ is in us!  The hymn I Bind Myself (which is also known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate ELW #450) puts it this way:
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

That says it all doesn’t it?  Baptized in Christ – we are Christ’s – now and forever.  Now what does that mean for our lives?  What does it mean for the way we live our lives, the way we are in relationship with others, the priorities we set and the choices we make?  What difference does being IN Christ make in your life?  For each of us there is going to be a different answer.  God calls all of us to follow, but we are not all called or gifted in the same way.  As we come to the close of this school year and begin looking to the next year of ministry what are ways that we are each called to live IN Christ.  How is that manifest?  To what new ministries and experiences is God calling you?
Ultimately to be IN Christ means that it is all encompassing.  To be a Christian is not just a set of things we have to “believe.”  Being IN Christ means a way of living, of relating to others and of setting priorities.  According the Diana Butler Bass being IN Christ for both individuals and churches means three things in particular: 1. Experiential belief – that is, our faith emerges out of our experiences of God at work through us and around us; 2. Intentional practice – that is, our calling is to go in search of ministry opportunities – not to sit back and wait for things to come to us; 3. Relational belonging – that is, this church, this parish is a group of people who are not only in relationship with God but also with one another and that we experience God present and active in the world through our relationships with other.  And that brings us back to #1.   So who are we?  How do we define ourselves?  Being IN Christ includes both our relationships and our vocations.  In fact, it includes every dimension of our lives.  

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