I have always been a rather odd presence in my youth group. Whether it was my tendency to always go barefoot, steadfastly referring to God as She or They, or strongly supporting sexual and racial minorities no matter the argument, there has always been something a little different about me.
I don’t think I would have been nearly so “odd” if it weren’t for the influence of my parents and all the members of the Baptist Peace Fellowship ~ Bautistas por la Paz. So I thank you for helping me grow into the strange little activist that stands before you today.
Peace Camp and BPFNA have been affecting my life since before I was even born. I have come here every summer of my life, sometimes reluctantly, and in a way it has been rather like my “water.” Reaffirming my ideas and challenging me to push harder, teaching me the ways I can work for peace and justice during the other 51 weeks of the year.
Here I am surrounded by “odd.” And I love it. No matter how much I had to be dragged here, I have always loved the people. You have been my water. I have always been encouraged and loved in this place, whether with a big hug, or a “look how big you’ve grown” or an “I saw your mother’s Facebook post.”
But I am not here to thank you. I would like to encourage you as you have done for me for so many years. I encourage you to reach out and find more odd people and to give them the love and support they need. We must also reach out to those who do not share our opinions, no matter how hard it may be. Jesus befriended the tax collectors and rather than arguing, he sat and ate with them, influencing them by his presence alone. It will be harder for us and take longer, but the work of peace is always so worth it.
Don’t act only when a situation arises, actively seek out ways you can help people and ways you can help yourself to grow. These are the ways you can continue to be the water in which people are purified and reaffirmed in their faith. We must go into the world not as a trickle but as a flood, covering the earth with water, washing away evil and injustice and much like the biblical flood, helping the world to be born anew.
None of these things are easy, but you have done them before and I believe that we, with the Grace of God, can do them again. We can force the necessary changes, we can push the world forward because we are water. God created us of water and the spirit, such as She created everyone. And together we are a force to be reckoned with. We can change things because that is what water does. Constantly shifting and cycling through the world, we can push the world and people to own up to their own mistakes, be more inclusive, strive for equality, and work toward a world in which there is no center or margins but we all are just people together.
I would like to close with a verse from Hebrews 10:22. “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” May it be so.