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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Deeper

Verse 3 of President Veazey’s January 17, 2010 Counsel to the Church is a call to each of us to go deeper.

3 a. All church members are urged to examine the depth of your baptismal commitment. Having been baptized and confirmed, become fully immersed in the servant life of Christ.
b. Live the meaning of your baptism daily as you grow in the skills and qualities of discipleship. Actively and generously support the ministries of the church, which was divinely established to restore Christ’s covenant of peace, even the Zion of your hopes.
c. The Eternal Christ invites those who have yet to experience the blessings of baptism to “Follow me in the way of righteousness and peace.” Be baptized of water and the Spirit and discover your spiritual home as a fully functioning member of the body.

Examine the depth, become fully immersed, live the meaning, grow in skills and qualities; these are among the key words and phrases that call to us as followers of Jesus. It is an interesting series of verbs, isn’t it? The order of their expression suggests a nice progression in our discipleship.

The first step is to examine our commitment. How deep is it? What does it mean? How serious are we about it? And so on. In other words, we are invited to take a good look at ourselves from the inside out.

The second step outlined is to become fully immersed in the servant life of Christ. To become fully immersed does not suggest that we test the water by sticking our toe in. On the contrary, it suggests we get right in over our head! It suggests we really need to be fully engaged.

Step three in this progression is to live the meaning of our baptism daily. Having examined ourselves and committed to the process, live it out! Live it every day! This one rather reminds me of the old Nike slogan, Just Do It!

The fourth step is to be done in conjunction with the third; grow in skills and qualities. As most of us have learned already, thinking, deciding, and attempting are not enough. We also have to learn and grow. It is necessary to progress in our learning, to learn from our mistakes and to become better at what we do. It is a critically important part of the process.

The challenge in all of this, of course, is that reading this list of words and phrases is not enough; we have to do them! If we accept the challenge, we can grow in our discipleship, become more effective disciples of Jesus, and make a difference in the world. If we don’t, they are just nice words and phrases.

We are called to go deeper. Are you ready?

Posted by Carman

7 comments:

  1. Does (c) imply (or state directly) that without physical immersion in water in the tradition of the Community of Christ, one cannot be a "fully functioning" follower of Christ? Does this statement of belief detract from denominations/faith traditions who do not view immersion as a critical prerequisite to salvation?

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  2. As I read this, I'm getting an invitation to go "deeper" than the literal sense of a "physical immersion in water."

    In fact the phrase is "immersed in the servant life of Christ."I'm pretty sure when Carman used the words "sticking in our toe" he was NOT referring to the physical toe or the physical water.

    Are we willing to re-examine our covenant, whenever and however it was made, and align our lives with the Christ model?

    We can spend the time to debate the form or we can live the substance.

    At least that's my take on it, for now. (Nice to see you there Chicken!)

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  3. Hmmm...that sounds like a good lawyer question, Chicken!

    I guess it depends on how you interpret "the body." If the body here refers to Community of Christ, then I would say the answer to your question is no. It simply means one is not a fully functioning member of Community of Christ. I certainly don't speak for President Veazey, but I can't imagine that he intended to speak for the entirety of the Christian faith.

    As for viewing immersion as a critical prerequisite to salvation, that is not a position of Community of Christ either.

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  4. I look at this section in 2 parts. The first (a) and (b) are directed to Community of Christ members, challenging them, as you are here, to go deeper in their examination of their commitment.

    The second is in (c) which is an invitation from the Eternal Christ to experience baptism. Indeed, there are even quotes "Follow me in the way of righteousness and peace."

    Perhaps, it is as you suggest Carman, this is Steve Veazey, president of the Church inviting others to join the membership. But, being challeneged to look more deeply, does there not appear to be a theological "endorsement" of baptism here, as a means of following Christ in righteousness and peace?

    In Romans 3, Paul discusses righteousness, claiming that no one is righteous, no one knows God. Indeed - "the way of peace they do not know." He argues that we need to reject "the Law" and find righteousness through Jesus Christ. Ironically, in my opinion, that ritual acts (such as baptism) are not the key to "righteousness and peace" but that faith in Christ Jesus is.

    Now these words appear in the Inspired Counsel which, to me seem to imply that baptism (however one might define it) is a gateway to this righteousness and peace. This seems opposite to what Paul was saying.

    Alot in here. It's fun to discuss and go deeper. Thanks for the opportunity.

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  5. Good conversation, Chicken. I agree that verse 3 is in two parts as you have said, and (c) is an invitation to non-members. The issue is the juxtaposition of the invitation to baptism with the reference to "righteousness and peace," and in particular, "righteousness." In a sense, it appears to have been Jesus who started that association, at least according to the Gospel of Matthew. In 3:15 (NRSV) Jesus, on the occasion of his own request for baptism, is quoted as saying, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Matthew appears to be saying that Jesus did this because it is just or righteous, even though he was understood to be without sin.

    The above is from a scriptural point of view. From a practical or experiential outlook, I am remembering the baptisms I have attended of a number of people whose lives have been filled with difficulty and who might have been characterized as "hard-living." For them, the concept of following Jesus into the waters of baptism for forgiveness of sins and starting over on a clean or righteous footing have a very profound meaning. The hope for righteousness and peace is very real in such cases, and so is the joy the baptized persons experience. It reminds me of Jesus reference to "more joy in heaven over the one sinner who repents than the ninety nine 'righteous persons' who need no repentance." (Luke 15:7) For those persons, this conversation would probably not mean much, but their baptism meant everything!

    Glad you are digging deeply into the document. Enjoy!

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  6. Thanks Carman - you're starting to help my crystalise my confusion with this section (c). Baptism (the physical act of immersion) is either a necessary act or it is an optional blessed and symbolic sacrament.

    The first sentence of (c) seems to say that it is the latter as the Eternal Christ invites to experience the blessings and endorses the righteousness of baptism, but goes short of ordering or commanding baptism. Like marriage, administration or evangelist blessing, the first sentence of (c) indicates that this sacrament is a wonderful and righteous experience that we are all invited to share in.

    However, the second sentence in (c) seems to swing more to the former. That in order to be "fully functioning" we must be baptised. Earlier, you indicated that you thought this perhaps wasn't Christ, inviting people generally to be baptised, but it was Brother Veazey extending an invitation to become members of this particular denomination by being baptised in water.

    Even if I accept this interpretation - doesn't it reveal an odd aspect of the Community of Christ views of baptism, that Christ himself doesn't require physical baptism to become part of his Community, but the Community of Christ does?

    Just thoughts to think about.

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  7. There is certainly a peculiarity in (c), and I think you have put your finger on it, Chicken. To me, it has to do, in part, with the punctuation and syntax of the paragraph. The first sentence is expressed as an invitation in the voice of Christ, with the last part in parenthesis. This is followed by a period and then the second sentence. To me, the second sentence is a continuation of the invitation. (I hope that is not in conflict with what I said earlier.) Had the two sentences been separated by a semi-colon rather than a period, this interpretation might have been more obvious, although it might have been awkward grammar.

    Of course, both President Veazey and former President McMurray have talked about the struggle to put into words that which is ultimately beyond words, and I certainly would not try to tell them how they should accomplish that task.

    You are correct, I think. This does point to something of a disconnect between the church’s view of what is needed to be a “fully functioning member of the body”, and the recorded words (and apparent example) of Christ. The reality of our system is that one needs to be a baptized member to do several things in Community of Christ, most notably to be called to priesthood ministry. I think the Counsel to the Church goes part way to relieving this situation, and that may be a big help. Perhaps that is the best solution we can hope for, at least for now.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. It makes us all think a little deeper!

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