I’d like to begin with a story. A friend of mine and a great friend of peace and justice, Rev. Dick Sering, worked for more than 30 years as a Lutheran minister in the city of Cleveland. His organization, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries (LMM) is one of the largest faith-based organizations dedicated to working with the poor. LMM runs the largest homeless shelter for men in the state, provides services for the disabled, the elderly and juveniles at risk of returning to a life of crime. He began Community Re-Entry, a nationally recognized program that helps people coming out of prison find their way back into society.
A few years ago, he was diagnosed with a fast growing cancer and died a few months after the diagnosis. Many of his Lutheran minister friends stayed with him during his illness. One day a friend said to him, “Dick, you’ve won the City of Cleveland and the State of Ohio Peacemaker of the Year Awards. You won $10,000 and the Peace Award from the Jewish Community. You won the Catholic Peacemaker of the Year Award, the highest award the Catholics give. But you never won a Lutheran award.”
Rev. Serving didn’t respond and his friend felt terrible. He didn’t mean to hurt his friend. So he continued, “Oh, forget it. I don’t think Lutherans give awards. Do we give awards? What is the Lutheran award?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Rev. Sering answered, “Baptism.”
Baptism. Baptism brings us into the family of God. Baptism brings us membership in the Church and the privilege of being able to call God our Father, Jesus our Brother and the Holy Spirit our guide through life. All of us are called to find our path, our way to God and we are all called to build up the kingdom of God on earth as it already is in heaven. Baptism gives us the grace to do so.
Each day we want the word of God to have meaning in the concrete, the here and now…in the problems of everyday life. During this Lenten season, we turn again to reflect on our words and deeds of repentance. We ask, “How can I, this day, fast, pray and change my hearts? How do I respond to the needs of my neighbor? The greatest change of heart is to love our neighbor as ourselves. For this we need grace upon grace. Baptism enables me…(finish the thought…..