by John White
For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self…
Romans 7:22 (NRSV)
W.P.W. is my sermon title for my first Sunday back in the pulpit following General Synod 2017, the biennial meeting of the entire United Church of Christ (UCC). Can you guess what it means? Take a minute. Give up?
There’s a baptism within our church family this coming Sunday, does that help?
W.P.W. isn’t an acronym; it’s the initials of a person’s name, two month old Wyatt Paul Walker. On Sunday Wyatt’s wonderful parents will bring this child to the front of our sanctuary during worship. They’ll make promises on Wyatt’s behalf, to encourage this child to “renounce the powers of evil and desire the freedom of new life in Christ.”
When a baby is born we delight in the “original blessing” of that birth. Young Wyatt has never thought of anyone differently because of the color of their skin, their gender, their sexual orientation, their height, their weight, their affiliation with a particular political party, their religion or lack of religion, their disability, their IQ or anything else. Wyatt loves simply and simply loves. That judging one another stuff is learned behavior.
… In 2016 two of my favorite musicians, Willy Porter and Carmen Nickerson released their version of a song written by Cory Zimmermann in 2001 and titled This Time Tomorrow. Their version follows seven other versions, with all proceeds going to a Cancer Foundation called “This Time Tomorrow.” You can check out their website at www.thistimetomorrow.org
The movement started in 2001 when Cory’s friend Dick Ticcioni was diagnosed with Lymphoma following a hernia examination. Cory wrote the original version of the song then invited other great talents to bring their unique musical expression to the lyrics.
The song asks the question: “Will I be here this time tomorrow?” In Dick’s case, he entered remission and life continued. The song ends with the words: “Morning comes and rainclouds clear. You’ve won the battle. The future is here.” Yet in the middle of the struggle, between birth and death and whatever follows that, the song asks other questions like: “Why me? Why now?”
As one of over 700 voting delegates at General Synods 2015 and 2017 I experienced one of the greatest privileges along my life’s journey, to participate, to show up, study, listen and learn some helpful stuff, while unlearning some unhelpful stuff too. For me, the answers to the questions: “Why me? Why now?” are simple. I breathe. I have life. I’m someone’s child. I’m someone’s neighbor. I call earth home. I have a responsibility to do my part. On a day in 1962, the day of my baptism, my parents made some promises on my behalf. Like Wyatt’s parents this coming Sunday morning, they promised “to encourage me to resist oppression and evil, show love and justice, and to witness to the work and word of Jesus Christ as best I am able.” And so I do.
From June 30 through July 4 in Baltimore, Maryland, I did my best with my electronic clicker in hand, to vote for the newly named Three Great Loves of the UCC: Children, Neighbor and Creation as I do my part to create A Just World for All. My vote didn’t agree with all other votes on every matter, yet we trusted each other to listen for the movement of Holy Spirit so we might follow Jesus’ radical ideas of love for W.P.W. and for every other child, neighbor and the earth herself.
With deepest gratitude to you who reads this and to The United Church of Christ for the journey we share. Blessings always, Pastor John
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