Dear Brothers and Sisters of the South Georgia Conference,
As United Methodists and followers of the Prince of Peace, we deplore violence such as that of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol yesterday. How ironic that this act of darkness would occur on Epiphany - the day of light, commemorating the arrival of the Wise Men who traveled through darkness by the guidance of a star. What does it mean to respond rather than react to the shocking scenes we witnessed yesterday? This Sunday presents us with an amazing opportunity if we will recognize and act on it.
On the second Sunday of the New Year, Christians celebrate the baptism of the Lord, recalling how Jesus came to be baptized by John the Baptist. It is also a time when each of us is challenged to renew our own baptismal vows. As you read them, notice how they speak directly to the violence of this week as well as the many other acts of violence that occurred in communities around the nation during 2020.
The Book of Worship reminds us that, since the earliest days of Christianity, “the vows of Christian baptism have consisted first of the renunciation of all that is evil and then the profession of faith and loyalty to Christ.”
This Sunday, I call on all South Georgia United Methodists to renew these vows. First, let us make it clear that we renounce violence like that which occurred Wednesday. In addition to feeling sad and upset, let us do something: unite in naming any violent behavior we see and then say plainly, “We renounce this.”
Renunciation paves the way for the second vow: we confess Jesus Christ as our Savior and unite ourselves to His Church which opens us to people of all ages, nations, and races. Here we become part of the worldwide movement in which Christ is our Peace and breaks down dividing walls of hostility to create one new humanity.
The third vow recognizes that there is that in the world which is opposed to God. There is that which wants violence, hatred, oppression, and death. Will we give in to this violence? Or will we resist it through the freedom and power God gives us? Will we resist this violence in our ways of thinking, our ways of speaking, and our ways of acting? Will we preach this, teach this, and promote this in our community and in our nation? Will we call upon our leaders, in the church and the community, to model this gospel-based resistance to violence?
Respond to violence by remembering your own baptism: renounce, confess, resist.
Alive Together at the Table,
R. Lawson Bryan