Sunday last I attended evening Divine Liturgy at a local Oriental Orthodox parish – one of a handful of places in this world I know myself truly loved in Christ. This congregation conducts a vibrant and challenging outreach ministry to the Knoxville inner-city homeless population; several dozen men and women receive physical and spiritual nourishment from the church each week.John is the pastor of Holy Trinity Ecumenical Orthodox Church, a nondenominational house church in Knoxville. The above opens a sermon he preached recently on the Baptism of the Lord - and by extension, baptism in general.
Sunday was cold – brutally so – and several “children of the streets” sought the warmth of the church during service. One sat behind me, a chronically homeless man who has made some considerable progress in the years I’ve known him; he is now more often clean and sober than in the past. Pray God to have mercy on him. He commented –good-naturedly – on the late arrival of a homeless friend, "God, they’ll let anyone in here.” I looked around and thought, “God, he’s right. They will.” Quite a spectrum of people crowded the small church that night: politically, from far left to far right; economically, from middle class to homeless; intellectually, from sophisticated to simple and even damaged; spiritually – well, who am I to judge that? I know there were saints there, and I know there was at least one sinner, so the spectrum was represented. My friend was right: God – in God’s name – they’ll let anyone in here.
One of the aspects of baptism upon which John focuses has to do with its social implications. To be baptized into Christ means being baptized into Christ's body, "the family of God". Read it all here.