When i was baptized at the age of 11, I had no idea what the risks of believing in Jesus Christ would be. As the first in my family to become a communicant member of my church, this was a big step for me. I was embarrassed that I had not been baptized as an infant, and yet there was something powerful about making a profession of faith on my own.
"Love never ends,” St. Paul writes in the lesson we read from 1 Corinthians 13. Or, put more positively, “love abides.” What does that really mean—to say that “love abides”? Or, indeed, what possible sense could it make to say this in a world in which the truth so clearly seems to be that love quite often does not abide?
In this new century, any credible answer to that question needs to be prefaced by what we cannot give. “I have no silver or gold,” says the apostle Peter, “but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” Perhaps one of the things we Christians no longer have to give, and probably never had to give, is a neat solution to every human dilemma.
Here in America, our family lives present a strange paradox. We often wish that our families would function in an emotionally healthy way and look something like the family on Leave It to Beaver. Yet it’s normal for a family to be dysfunctional and fractured. There’s our ideal of family, and then there’s the reality.
"It hasn’t always been like this.” These words can refer to church life, politics, international relations, urban crime or the economy. They might even refer to the latest Harry Potter novels, which seem to turned darker and darker—more serious, more ominous, and with the world coming closer and closer to the edge of doom. I don’t blame J. K.
It’s been a good season for scandal. Bribery sent a California congressman to prison. Fraud charges provided courtroom drama in Houston. Everybody everywhere talked about baseball stars on steroids. Along the way, there was the usual quota of exploitation, infidelity and larceny among the clergy.
The exchange seems bizarre to onlookers. Speaking for himself and his assistant coaches, the football coach at Gilman High School in Baltimore asks his players, “What is our job?” The players yell back, “To love us!” The coach shouts, “And what is your job?” “To love each other!” the boys respond.
I live in the north country mountains, where winter begins in late October and gives up, some years, in early May. That means you come to church half the year in boots—heavy boots, in case you get stuck in a snowbank on the way. Which means, in turn, that the carpet on the floor better be some shade of brown.