June 7, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Matthew 28:16-20 (NRSV)
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
When we turn to Christ, we must turn away from all the powers and lies and corruption and emptiness of this world.
In yesterday’s devotional, we called to mind the Creation story and the involvement of the Trinity in creating the world. With today’s reading, we come in much further along in the story of God’s dealings with his people. We stand on a mountain with Jesus’s disciples, after his Crucifixion and Resurrection, just before he ascended into heaven. And he has a mission statement for his followers: go into the world, he says, and make other disciples. Baptize them in my name, and teach them to follow me. Baptize them in the name of the God who is Three in One, One in Three, who is beloved community.
In most church traditions, promises are made at the time of baptism. In my tradition, adults make them for themselves and when children are baptized, parents or guardians make them for the children. In many traditions these promises include something called the “renunciation”—a promise to turn away from the forces of evil. This promise is very ancient indeed, dating back all the way to the early church. Before taking on the responsibilities of living as a member of the Christian community, persons desiring to be baptized as Christians had to affirm that they would reject all things which were not of Christ.
Today, in the Book of Common Prayer that my church uses, the renunciation sounds like this: “Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God? I renounce them. Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God? I renounce them. Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God? I renounce them. Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior? I do.” Some older liturgies asked if the candidate renounced “Satan and all his works and all his pomp;” pomp means a kind of ostentatious and vain display. Other modern liturgies ask about renouncing “all [Satan’s] empty promises.”
Whichever phrase you choose, the point is clear. When we turn to Christ, we must turn away from all the powers and lies and corruption and emptiness of this world. And this week I have been thinking often about how that renunciation needs to include a renunciation of the structural racism in our society—the long-standing inequities, based in a great deal of painful history, that holds so many in bondage. This is my calling as an American citizen, true. But it is first and foremost my calling as a Christian. It is part of what it means to renounce the devil and all his works and all his pomp.
There are many marvelous resources to help us make this renunciation that are being shared on social media and websites right now (I’ll link to some in the “Act” section below). They are difficult, but they are helpful. I am trying to read and listen and learn. I am trying to leave behind the empty promises of white superiority that were made to me by the corrupt powers of this world. And I am trying to reject all things that are not of Christ.
Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
Today my action step is directed at white folks like me: seek out resources that will help you understand structural, systemic racism. One good place to start is Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, but there are others. Follow the #blacklivesmatter hashtag on social media and listen to non-Caucasian artists, thinkers, and writers. Check out the list of anti-racism resources here. Allow your presuppositions to be challenged by what you read and hear.
(From St. Patrick’s Breastplate, as translated by Cecil Frances Alexander)
I bind unto myself today
the strong name of the Trinity
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me forever,
by power of faith, Christ’s incarnation,
his baptism in the Jordan river,
his death on cross for my salvation,
his bursting from the spiced tomb,
his riding up the heavenly way,
his coming at the day of doom,
I bind unto myself today.. . .
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the name,
the strong name of the Trinity
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One and One in Three,
of whom all nature has creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
salvation is of Christ the Lord! Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Go and Make Disciples (Matthew 28:16-20)
Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
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