The Thank You Note

Blue Cross 3“Do you remember your baptism?” the sermon began. Like many of you, I was a baby, and I do not. “Do you remember the five promises made by you, or on your behalf, at baptism?” I thought I recalled something about renouncing evil or something, and yes, that’s in there, but I was drawing a blank on the other four. Sometime later the sermon finished, we opened our prayer books, and renewed our vows:

“Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?”
“I will, with God’s help.”

Going to church. Yes, I can do that. I think there’s some flexibility for vacations and the occasional desperate need for more sleep, but yes, Sunday mornings I can be in church.

“Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?”
“I will, with God’s help.”

“With God’s help” is key to that one, for sure. You’ve got to recognize Evil and Sin, and those two just love to find ways around your Jiminy Cricket. But saying I’m sorry, and getting back on the good path, I think I can manage that. (See promise #1.)

“Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?”
“I will, with God’s help.”

Now that one has got to be the hardest one of all for me. Proclaiming the Good News is right up there with streaking through the neighborhood grocery store – waaay outside my comfort zone. However, if I think about it, I do wear a cross on a regular basis (that’s short-hand for the Gospel, right?). I do deliver a brief “Minute for Mission” to the congregation every so often (but does preaching to the choir really count as proclaiming?). I do make an effort to be nice to people. And there’s this blog . And doesn’t it count to give money to the church so that the ministers can be paid to proclaim the Gospel? But if this was in the California Vehicle Code, the nice officer who just pulled me over would be getting quite a long explanation, positively dripping with sincerity. (No batting of the eyelashes — see promise #2.)

“Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”
“I will, with God’s help.”

Yep, I’m all about that. It’s a personal mission for me to serve my co-workers, and I love seeing Christ in other people.

“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”
“I will, with God’s help.”

This might be my very favorite baptismal promise. I love giving my hard-earned money to charities, and my top charities seem to be all in this direction. Second Harvest Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, The Carter Center, Food for the Poor, and World Vision, to fight the injustices of poverty. Smile Train, Siena House, Planned Parenthood, and March of Dimes to give dignity to mothers and their children. Never mind “I will” — how about “Let’s Do This!”

Now, renewing your baptismal vows once a year is a pretty cool thing to do. It’s like an annual offsite meeting – you step back from the regular routine and look at the big picture. Where are you going with your life? Are you on track? It’s good to put everything in perspective. But what if, just what if, the Big Boss wrote you a thank you note? You’re just doing your normal job, day in, day out, and you get a letter in the mail.

Well, the other day, I got such a letter. Technically, it wasn’t from the Big Boss, it was from Food for the Poor, but there is no doubt in my mind that some Inspiration helped to pen this one:

“Thank you for responding with compassion to the needs of the poor. Many sit in silence or choose to look away while the poor pray for someone to notice their plight. But you took action. Your loving response reflects the compassion of God! … God asks us to be His hands in this world. Thank you for allowing Him to work through you to protect the poor and needy. Your generosity is answering the prayers of those who groan in their misery for help.”

Now I’m aware that you’re not supposed to do good works in expectation of praise. Montessori schools teach our kids to do things because they’re the right thing to do, not because some authority figure says “Good Job”. I guess that makes me old school. An eloquent thank you from the boss, and I’m like a poppy in the sunshine, smiling at the world.

Do I remember my baptism? No. Do I remember my baptismal covenant? Kinda sorta. But did that thank you note get me fired up and happy about doing Christian things? You bet your sweet bippy. How about it, dear reader? Let’s Do This!

Thanks to Rev. Eliza Linley and Robin Mahfood for inspiring this post.

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