The Rev. Rob Courtney
Rector, St. Paul's Episcopal Church
On Sunday we began a sermon series called, Epiphany—A Season of Self-Discovery. In the opening sermon I asked us to consider, “What defines you?” You can hear the sermon on our YouTube channel. When someone asks us to tell them about ourselves I think we are consciously or unconsciously letting people in on what defines us.
Reflecting on this idea as we were saying our Baptismal Covenant I began to wonder what it would sound like to tell others about ourselves by beginning with our values. I don’t ask that because it’s something I do, but wouldn’t that be interesting and refreshing to hear from someone. Imagine saying to someone you meet, “Tell me about yourself.” And they say, “Sure, well . . . let’s see . . . I’m someone who values my spirituality highly. I’m part of a nurturing Christian faith community. I genuinely enjoy self-exploration, trying to understand myself and my motivations, seeing where I fall short and trying to discern how to be better. I value taking part in things, and speaking in a way that offers good to people around me. I value being empathetic, seeing the inherent worth of people around me, and not simply dismissing people I disagree with—meaning I try to love people even if I don’t like them. I believe in justice for all people, and want to be a part of a culture and society that looks out for everyone, not one that seeks self-interest at other’s expense. That’s who I am.” Maybe that’s too intense for polite conversation at a party, but whew! I sure would be interested in getting to know a person who responded like that before they ever told me what they did for a living, where they went to high school, how many kids they have, or about their saltwater fish tank hobby and the anemones they just got. Maybe all that’s the follow-up answer.
While some people might phrase it a little differently than our hypothetical party-goer, but that person just described a picture of the Christian life as it’s envisioned in our Baptismal Covenant from the Prayer Book. They just didn’t say it in churchy language, and it’s clear they’ve really thought those questions through, and they’ve chosen to make it the framework of their fundamental identity. Do those values as stated resonate with you? Is that summary reflective of the Baptismal Covenant as you understand it? How would you respond to the “tell me about yourself” query from a values-based perspective that genuinely reflects your beliefs?