I Will, With God’s Help

Homily 11/8/2020
Epiphany Parish, Walpole, MA

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God,
our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

I will, with God’s help.

These words are so familiar to many of us. We’ve spoken them countless times on days just like this. We’ve said them in the presence of a crying baby or maybe a sleeping one. Perhaps we’ve said them in the presence of an adult at an Easter Vigil. I said them to my own baby back in January.

I will, with God’s help.

What are we saying when we agree to this? What do we mean by publicly proclaiming these words?

We’re in fact making a pact. We’re taking vows. We’re entering into a covenant. We might not even know the parents. Many of us certainly haven’t held this lovable baby yet. And yet, here we are, speaking these words. These incredibly important, weighty words.

I will, with God’s help.

In this morning’s fiery reading from Amos we see a prophet who’s expressing that God is fed up with the people of ancient Israel. Amos, a shepherd, was called by God to become a Prophet. Amos took this call very seriously and began to prophesy to the ancient Israelites who’d lost their way. They had become swallowed up by pursuit of the wrong things. The people were following the laws by having rituals or liturgies, making burnt offerings to God, observing the Sabbath, etc. but their intentions weren’t authentic. They were going through the motions and doing the bare minimum while the poor were abused and taken advantage of and the wealthy were living extravagantly. People had fallen short of God’s expectations for them and righteousness and justice were nonexistent. And they had stopped caring for those who needed care the most. In his book,
The Prophets, Abraham Joshua Heschel explains the mutuality of the covenant between God and God’s people, “There is a living God who cares. Justice is more than an idea or a norm. Justice is a divine concern. What obtains between God and God’s people is not only a covenant of mutual obligations, but also a relationship of mutual concern.”1

Basically, “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) 

Now, fast-forward almost 2,600 years and we find ourselves in the presence of this special child who is about to be baptized and with whom we will create a covenant and in doing so reaffirm our own covenant that was made when we were baptized. God trusts that we will keep our covenants out of love for God but also out of love for one another. In our desire to “strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being”, will we fall short? Will we hurt one another? Will we become blinded by our own self-serving desires? Of course we will, often. But God expects we will confront our mistakes, confess our sins, make relationships whole again, and get back on track. But, we can’t do this alone. Especially in times of great fear, uncertainty, selfishness, and hate we cannot depend on ourselves alone to stay out of the path of giving in to the things that separate us from the love of God. And so by entering into a covenant together we’re stating that we will support and hold up one another and in so doing, we carry this commitment out into the world.

I will, with God’s help.

When we arrive at The Baptismal Covenant in today’s service, I encourage you to pay close attention to what it is you’re committing. Not just as your commitment relates to Mabel, but also as your commitment relates to God and the world around you. This little child will grow up in this world. How can we better live out our baptismal covenant in ways that will make this world a better place for Mabel and all children?

I will, with God’s help.

Amen.

__________________________

1 Heschel, A. J. (1969). Amos. In The Prophets. New York: Harper Colophon Books.


© Margaret Lias 2020