Sunday with Walter Brueggemann
The holiness of the baptized community
The holiness of the church does not consist in true doctrine that everyone accepts. It does not consist in true morality that everyone embraces. We know of course that the church has often specialized in doctrine and morality. But the truth is that the holiness of the baptized community consists in the habits of generosity, grace in speaking, and tenderhearted forgiveness. Imagine such an agenda for the church: generosity, grace, forgiveness. These are the marks of baptism, these are the marks of Jesus, these are the shapes of our new life in Christ. The truth of the church, dramatized in baptism, is that our life is so safe that we can trust ourselves in the world. And when we do that, the world will see our holiness, our righteousness, our life in God. That is who we are. That’s us! And we are not like them, because our life in generosity, grace, and forgiveness is in the image of God. By our life, God is honored and the world is healed. That’s us!
The baptismal conversation is not dishonest about our hurt, does not deceive about our failure, does not deny about the violence all around of which we are apart. The baptismal conversation does, however, place in the midst of hurt, failure, and violence this other word which has been spoken over us, spoken before us, spoken against us, spoken on our behalf. This other word is hesed, God’s steadfast love which overruns our hurt, outdistances our failure, supersedes our violence, outflanks our sin. In the end, because that other word is true, our words are changed. Our words are now serious speech, ready in hope and confidence for a new obedience. Baptism is a decision to stop the mindless preoccupation of the world and focus on how the world will be, when recast in fidelity.
• A Gospel of Hope, pp. 148-149