Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Sunday School Lesson Recap: Baptismal Covenants; or, Serving Only "Our Own" Is Not Following Jesus

Last Sunday, we talked about only one aspect of ordinances and covenants: the baptismal covenant to bear one another's burdens, mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need to comfort.

We spent the entire lesson talking about: 1) the fact that the Gospels detail a LOT more time spent serving people than time spent preaching; 2) exactly whom Jesus served during his mortal ministry (lepers, the sick and afflicted, the unclean, the despised, the poor, the powerless, etc. - his "kingdom of nobodies", as a friend of mine once wrote) and whom he did NOT serve (the religious leadership, the rich and famous and influential, etc.); 3) whom he might serve if he was born and ministered now; 4) how all of that relates to our own baptismal commitment to bear, mourn and comfort and, overall, to take Jesus' name upon us and become more Christ-like.

The list of whom he might serve now was created by the students and included: the sick, the poor, unwed teenage mothers, alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, the homeless (especially those who are mentally disabled). I pressed them to keep adding to the list, asking them to consider those who are marginalized specifically by our current Mormon culture and not already on the list, and they added homosexuals and the divorced. I personally added church members who see things differently than a locally dominant culture, struggle with aspects of faith and remain silent in order not to feel rejected in their congregations.

We talked about how natural it is to try to avoid becoming unclean or hurt (and how, in some cases, that is an unfortunate necessity) and how that translates inter-personally and socially into avoiding people who we see as unclean and/or dangerous - either physically or spiritually. We talked about how doing so is diametrically opposed to becoming Christ-like (except in the extreme cases when it is necessary), since he spent his entire ministry interacting with, serving and physically touching the people whom everyone else labeled as unclean and avoided in order to remain clean.

To end the lesson, I quoted my oldest daughter after she went through the temple for the first time. She said:

Dad, we spend so much time trying to build up the kingdom of God on earth that we forget to establish Zion.

I told them that we aren't really fulfilling our baptismal covenants if we aren't serving people who live outside our comfort zone - if we aren't helping people in a deeply personal, individual way who are rejected by other people, even people within our own church circles. I mentioned how much we construct our service projects around helping "our own" and too often ignore the people around us who are carrying the heaviest burdens, mourning alone and need comfort the most desperately. I asked them to think about the people on the list we created and look for ways to reach out to SOMEONE - actively and directly - who would be on that list. I told them that such an effort was vital to being a true disciple ("follower") of Christ - since, to do so, we have to be willing to go where he went and serve whom he served.

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