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“All That We Say, All That We Do”
The First Sunday of Christmastide
“Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” I cannot speak for you, but, as for me, that verse from today’s epistle lesson has long held a place near the top of my list of the most impossible sounding verses in all the Bible; a stern sounding call for all that we say, and all that we do, to be said and done in the name of Jesus.
That severe sounding exhortation comes at the close of a longer passage in which the writer of Colossians calls on the readers of Colossians to “Clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience;” and, to, “Clothe themselves with love,” the kind of language the New Testament sometimes uses as an image for baptism; “clothing ourselves with our baptism”, which may be another way of saying something we say at every baptism here at Northminster, when we pray that the one being baptized “will never quite manage fully to dry off;” wearing the water of our baptism to work and school, in lunch rooms and locker rooms, classrooms and court rooms, “clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience and love,” because we are wearing, everywhere we go, the water of our baptism.
And, if we live that way intentionally enough, for long enough, practicing, day after day, the spiritual discipline of living up to our baptism, we might, eventually, discover that the same verse which we once read incredulously, “Whatever you say, and whatever you do, do it all in the name of Jesus”, we now live instinctively.
I’ve known, in my lifetime, a few people who live that way, and I imagine you have, too. Not flawless people, or perfect, but, people who, whether they were once sprinkled, poured on or immersed, get up every morning and wear their baptism everywhere they go; people who, in the words of today’s epistle lesson, are so clothed with kindness and courage, truth and love, that the spirit of Jesus does seem to be embodied in all that they say and all that they do; the kind of people who help the rest of us by showing us how kind and courageous it is possible for people to be; people who call forth that which is deepest and best in us, and who make the rest of us want to be better, just by being exactly who they are; the Holy Spirit and the human spirit so seamlessly interwoven in their lives that we can no longer tell where one ends and the other begins; the magnetic field around their lives drawing the trajectory of our lives upward into an arc of love and grace which more nearly embodies the spirit of Jesus; the kind of people who wear the water of their baptism so faithfully that they eventually, instinctively, do seem to say all that they say, and do all that they do, in the spirit of Jesus.
A way of speaking, and acting, which could begin, for the rest of us, with something as simple as asking ourselves, over and over, all through the day, “What would a baptized person say in this conversation? What would a baptized person do in this situation? Will my baptism let me laugh at that? Will my baptism allow me to be silent about that? What does my baptism require of me in this moment? What does my baptism demand from me concerning this political choice, or that moral justice issue? Would a baptized person text what I’m about to text or post what I’m about to post?”
The longer we practice living that way, the more we might grow into that once seemingly impossible call to say all that we say, and do all that we do, in the name of Jesus; until, someday, that same stern standard which we once read incredulously, we now live instinctively.