This morning I woke up just after 4 a.m., with the words “public trust” clearly in mind. I asked God what this was about and immediately my cousin Fred came to mind. Fred has a deep and abiding love for the environment and for the North Carolina Mountains where he has spent most of his life.
Many years ago, Fred committed significant mountainside acreage to a public trust so that it would be preserved in its pristine state, not only for this generation but for countless generations to come. No doubt he witnessed substantial real estate development over the years and wanted to ensure that the land was protected.
This image of the mountain as protected land that could be both nurtured and enjoyed for generations to come is fitting for this All Saint’s Sunday. We celebrate the sacrament of baptism in community – publicly rather than privately – and we renew our baptismal covenant as a reminder and strengthening of the promises all baptized Christians make. We vow that “whenever we fall into sin” (not if but when), we “will repent and return to the Lord.” And, as we pray for those about to be baptized, we commit “to do all in (our) power to support them in their life in Christ.”
Growing into Christ’s vision for us is not easy. We are made new in Christ through the sacrament of baptism. Living into this new life – allowing the “old” to pass away – is often-times uncomfortable. We are invited to let go of our dependence on creature comforts and the worldly trappings of success. We are called to find meaning and affirmation by loving our neighbor as ourself, which includes loving our enemies, loving those who disagree with us, and loving those who revile or hate us (Luke 6:20-31).
We need one another, for accountability, and prayer and support – and for a sense of family and community. This afternoon, at our “church without walls” service, we will celebrate the lives of all Christians – those who have come before us, those who walk with us, and those who are yet to come. We will have the opportunity to renew our baptismal covenant. We will reaffirm our vow to “respect the dignity of every human being.” None of this is possible unless we become willing to die to self. Only then – through this dying to self — are we raised to new life in Christ.
God makes all of this possible.
(If ever you visit Beech Mountain, be sure to stop in at Fred’s General Mercantile for an excellent breakfast or lunch or for ski, grocery or gardening supplies.)