Thursday, January 17, 2013

Call Congress Now!

An Extreme Makeover
 For You
The Church and Congress

One of my favorite TV Shows is Restaurant Impossible. Robert Irvine is invited into failing restaurants to evaluate the management, staff, menu and decor of failing restaurants. He then performs an intervention to bring the business back from the brink of failure to brisk and bustling business. 

What can be said of a restaurant can also be said of a home. Extreme Makeover is another popular TV show that tells the story of a family whose goodness compassion and need deserves a whole new setting in which to live our their lives.

I'd like to see a show about making over tired old churches and congregations. But let that wait for another day. 

For now, wouldn’t it be great if we could find a way for us to do a makeover of Congress? Most of us, I’m sure have the feeling from time to time that an intervention of some sort is in line. When dealing with the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling, spending cuts and tax reform, certainly intelligent human beings can come to some form of compromise that satisfies the greater good of all that will leave us at least moderately satisfied that we can all give an take a little.

And too, the violence we see in the country at the hands of guns, rifles and assault weapons is such that we cannot go on without some kind of review of our public policy with regard to their possession and registration. 

In the weeks since the terrible massacre of children in Newtown CT, there has been some conversation about a ban on certain kinds of weapons. There is also a growing consensus that universal background checks might be in order so that even private sales, gun shows and internet sales should require an evaluation of an individual’s fitness to bear arms. 

The fact is over 11,000 are killed by guns in the United States every year. The number killed in other western industrialized countries is democracies is not in the thousands but in the hundreds. It might make good sense for us to take a look at what they do to control gun violence and apply those learnings to our own national setting. 

But then the debate is less a conversation as in so many other polarizing issues that face us as a nation. It is rather a shouting match. Nothing inspires intransigence more than this one issue. There is almost no willingness to compromise in certain quarters. 

This past Sunday we marked the Baptism of our Lord. We celebrated the moment when Jesus went down into the water and emerged to hear the words of God; “This is my well beloved son, listen to him”. Jesus and his advance man John the Baptist require all of us to be Baptized. 

Baptism is at the very least an extreme makeover. It picture human nature being turned inside out and upside down in a way that is itself almost Nature Impossible.

In the early days of the church’s life, we were subjected to persecution and martyrdom. But none of murders led to our death as a movement. Instead the church grew and prospered as hearts were changed to see the courage we had as Baptized Christ-like persons.

Unfortunately after the Edict of Milan we too became an all to familiar force for violence in so many places on the planet. Thousands have paid with their lives in the Name of Jesus. And too in the Name of Allah, and in the Name of Yaweh. 

Baptism is an extreme makeover. It is human nature impossible. We are told in today’s lesson from the Acts of the Apostles, that it was not enough for the Samarians to be baptized in the Name of Jesus. James and John were sent to them so that they could be baptized in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the fullness of time the church came to understand that baptism must be so complete, so full, so comprehensive, so total, so extreme, if you will, that it must be done in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 

Samaria, a different kind of place. The faith they held there was considered to be an apostate faith by many of the orthodox faithful Jews of the day. But to the early church they were considered part of the salvation scheme of God. To Baptize them meant that they too could be part of the Peace of God that passes all understanding. A peace that turned its back on the violence. 

It became the custom of the church to Baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is the requirement of the Episcopal Church; namely that we baptize with water and in the Name of the Holy Trinity. The Sacred and Holy Trinity calls us into the Creative, Saving and Sanctifying work of God; God the Father, the Savior, God the Son the Savior, and God the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier, the Gift Giver, the Holy Wisdom from on High.

Baptism is then an extreme makeover for all. It is almost impossible to live in the nature of God, when we are born to live in the nature of humankind. History is the chronicle of organized violence, nation against nation. 

When Jesus came to live among us, he became our victim and suffered and died at our hands. This is why his baptism means so much to us, because he and John before him called us to repent, to an extreme makeover and be baptized ourselves.

If you think Congress needs an extreme makeover as I do, let it begin with you and me. I do not need to tell you from this place what I think needs to happen with regard to the issue of gun control or the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling or any other issue that is so urgent. 

But I will tell you this. You and I have a civic responsibility to be in touch with our Congressmen and women and tell them what we think. I don’t need to tell you what to say. You tell them. I believe this is what may be missing from our democracy. We may not realize that we are the most powerful lobby of all. We the People. To many of us have left that to the well funded big guns out there. (You should pardon the expression.)

If you live in the Douglassville/Amity Township, Reading area your Congressman is Patrick Meehan, a good Irishman. Give him a call, email him. Tell him what you think.

If you live in the Pottstown, Wyomissing, Birdsboro and Boyertown area your Congressman is Jim Gerlach. 

By the way, you sure have Gerrymandered the map of the 6th and 7th Congressional Districts of Pennsylvania. But I am in no position to point fingers at Pennsylvania when it was Governor Gerry of Massachusetts who signed into law a district that looked like a salamander. Hence the term “gerrymander”, coined as it was by the Boston Evening Transcript in 1812. 

Tired of the violence? Make peace. 
Tired of well funded lobbyists with undue influence with our elected representatives?
Does your Baptism matter? Make some phone calls.
Tell them what you think.
Tell them and tell them again.
And don’t give up until they listen or until you elect someone who will listen.

Then in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, I remind you of your Baptism, or your extreme makeover. Now, go and make over Congress; and extreme makeover. 

The Children of Sandyhook are waiting for you to speak up for them.

Peace to you all,
Fr. Paul

By the way the Congressional switchboard is (202)224-3121.

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