One Sunday “Liz” asked, “Does our church do baby dedications?” She and her husband had just welcomed their newborn and fourth child into their family, and she wanted the Lord to be invited into that momentous event.
“Yes, we do dedicate babies,” I said.
However, I have to confess that sometimes I’m not sure what that looks like. Like the time I was asked if I would do a Christmas Tree dedication for a local hospice or Bless the Animals for the SPCA. On the other hand, I have always been sure that such occasions are good opportunities to join God with the common occurrences of life.
Yes, we do dedicate babies, and this past Sunday we did. Our audience swelled to 77 on this day. People who don’t darken the door of a church were sitting there. Not to mention all the others who called themselves Christian or religious but have really never thought about the implications of it.
It reminded me of the time we knitted together Sunday worship with a no-holds-barred wedding with bride in full regalia and the Eucharist front and center. We had a Buddhist, atheists, and the nominally Christian represented in that large audience. We got to talk about Jesus and his bride. We fed the bride and groom the bread and wine as well as those in attendance. It was glorious.
In more than 40 years of ministry I have never had the kind of wide access to people’s lives as I do now. Knitting together worship and life seems to me to be the best and most credible way to talk about how Christ intersects our lives in common ways. In weddings and dog blessings.
What Paul said to the Corinthians about tongues-speaking is pertinent to this discussion. “If you speak to people in words they don’t understand, how will they know what you are saying? You might as well be talking into empty space.” 1 Corinthians 14:9 NLT.
Everyone relates to a baby or a Christmas tree or a family pet. And when God enters into those contexts, the potential for understanding and transformation increases.
Years ago I used to hear fellow believers say something like, “worship is for Christians,” as if it was a private party with a secret handshake. So we didn’t think much about relevance or curiosity and whether we might engage outsiders in the same conversation we were having.
Later we came to believe that we had to somehow entertain outsiders as if they were too shallow or distracted to want to think about matters of the faith. So the conversation became shallow and narrow, only dwelling on things that weren’t too ……..
We have found that talking about the responsibility of parents, the big idea to which a Christmas tree attaches, and the way that God cares about a Dachshund matters to people and opens up further, deeper conversation.
I have come to really love talking about my faith in worship and in the coffee shop, but not in the religious jargon which is commonly heard. Last week I spent a full day with a good friend of mine who is an atheist.
He asked me why I didn’t hang out with the local pastors group. It was a great question, and I got to talk to him about what matters to me.
I’m sure the conversation will continue.