These are the storied waters by which we baptize, and tonight we celebrate with our brother Ryan who has responded to the call of the Holy Spirit to come and die. To come and die to the numbing death of conformity to a culture of violence. To come and die to the wasting death of complicity with a culture of scarcity. To come and die to the corrupting death of privilege in a culture of supremacy. To come and die to the tragic death of waste in a culture of consumption and degradation. Ryan has heard the call to die to all that is killing us, and to rise with Christ, the firstborn of a new creation. So we celebrate with him, and his family, and his beloved, Rachel, and with the whole church, the rebirth of a new disciple, a new storyteller, a new artist in the commonwealth of God, the anti-empire, the reign that has no end.
At the center of our low-wage scandal there is a cross. Like the cross that bore Jesus, the low-wage cross is a sign of the world’s disregard for life, a sign of the empire values of profit and expansion over God’s values of dignity and compassion. As Christians we have a relationship to the cross that looks foolish to others, but to us is the wisdom and power of God. Where the world sees shame, we see dignity. Where the world sees despair we see hope. Where the world sees death, we see new life.
Jesus, like any good teacher, won’t do all our work for us. Jesus won’t fall prey to the intellectual or political traps we lay that try to neutralize him by making his call to discipleship so ideological that it can be ignored. Instead, Jesus lays a question before us and demands that we really listen to it, that we consider its many angles, that we search our religious tradition, our scriptures and the witness of those who have gone before us. Then, having done that, that we tell the world what we think with courage and humility knowing that each of us is working out our own salvation with fear and trembling.