One of my common themes as I talk with people about the state of the church today is “people don’t just ‘fall in’ the doors anymore.  You have to go out where they are and bring them in.” And this is true.

But sometimes they do just fall in.  I was in my office on a rainy February afternoon working at the computer.  Becky, the receptionist came in asking rather excitedly “Do we have any books about Christianity?”  In the few seconds it took  me to process that questions she continued, “There are some people up front who want to learn about Christianity.”  I went with her back to the front office and met Amir and Laleh (names changed).  He is a graduate student at Emory, she is his wife.  Amir told me that they were from Iran and wanted to learn about Christianity, could we help?

Becky and I went into a frenzy gathering materials and telling them about all the opportunities our congregation offered to explore the Christian faith.  Not scared off by our enthusiasm, they came the next Sunday and the next.  They found a sunday school class that wholeheartedly helped them with their exploration of the faith.  They  began attending worship regularly.  And so it was that last Sunday evening we stood around the baptismal font as they gave their testimony and were baptized into a living relationship with Christ and his body.

One of the things that made this baptism so poignant was the fact that their decision to become Christians probably would cut them off from their family and native country.  Conversion from Islam is a crime in Iran.  They are the only Christians in their families.  What would induce two intelligent people to make such a costly decision?  Lelah said that even when she was in Iran she had begun to read the Bible and was attracted to Jesus.  Amir expressed his delight that Jesus was a savior, not a “boss” or dictator.  They had found their “pearl of great price” in Jesus and the fellowship of his Body. The group at that worship service lingered together afterward, basking in the joy of this baptism.  We were inspired by the burning passion on the faces of Amir and Lelah.

And so I have found myself thinking about my own faith and passion.  I have to admit that my default mode is to live in my version of Christianity like an old bathrobe, comfortable, comforting, not demanding much.  I find myself resenting God or sometimes other people when I am pushed out of my comfort zone.  I see many others in the church who are with me in the bathrobe.  And I also realized that none of us can cannot make ourselves more passionate. So here is my prayer (adapted from John Donne) for myself, and for the church of which I am a part:

Batter our heart, three-personed God, for you as yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That we may rise, and stand, o’rethrow us,

and bend your force to break, blow, burn, and make us new….  AMEN

John Donne