Monday, November 14, 2016

God's Mission of Reconciliation

“Even as our attention is captured by the present, we know how to take a longer view.” – the Institute for the Future

Red or blue state, winner or loser, many woke up last week wondering what the outcome of the presidential election means for them, their community and for America as a nation. Analysts and commentators didn’t miss a beat in the wee hours of Wednesday morning as they began to offer their ideas and translations of the events that transpired less than twenty-four hours before. I, too, woke up curious about the future. I found myself listening to God and praying throughout the day.

Though there is still much to process, what I am clear about is that despite the chaotic reaction to the election, God’s kingdom is not of this world (see John 18:36). The work of the gospel was not changed on Election Day, nor will it change in the coming weeks or months. Despite the turmoil, the Episcopal Church will remain a Christian community committed to spreading the gospel of Good News to all people.

We will continue to proclaim that God has a mission of reconciliation with the world. This mission of reconciliation is a gift to all people, and the Episcopal Church is part of that mission. This is our work and it remains unchanged. We believe that God’s mission is undertaken in collaboration with service and evangelism.

We believe a church reconciling the world with the Gospel is made of both large and small Christian comminutes that are supportive and willing to seek out partners and neighbors. This means that we must begin to build collaborative partnerships to work on sustainability, and we must seek to improve the intrinsic value of the lives of those who dwell in our cities and in our country. People’s lives must be better tomorrow because we are here serving as the Episcopal Church today. This grace-filled service is meant for all people, without regard to societal designations of who is “in” and who is “out”. Jesus pushed the boundaries by eating and drinking with people that religion and society thought were unacceptable; the church must learn to do the same.

We also believe that an ever expanding and growing web of Christian communities of every size is essential to the work of reconciliation and service. To be a part of what God is doing, we must grow our communities within the contexts that surround us. We must seek to sow, plant, reap and harvest communities of every kind so that there are new and multiplying opportunities in which people may come together to share and participate in the love of God. In a world where people are only recognized and accepted for what they can contribute, our Episcopal communities must be places where all people are welcome and recognized as made in the image of God.

All of this will be supported by our commitment to the work of God; the physical giving of ourselves over to God’s mission in body, mind and soul. There are not half measures and there is no passive citizenship among the baptized. We look for ways we can use our God-given gifts for the work of ministry. We pray and discern how best to give our time and energy to the work that is before us. We support the work by making financial commitments based on the blessings that we have received.

We must continuously remind ourselves that God’s kingdom, God’s reign and God’s power are not of this world. Where the voices of the establishment tell you that you must earn God’s love and God’s generosity, the Christian community proclaims a Gospel that says categorically, “NO.” God’s grace is free and cannot be purchased by the individual’s goodness, devotion, loyalty or hard work. Grace is always freely given as a gift.

In every season, the church’s mission continues as it has from the time that God’s winds moved over the waters of creation. From the beginning of time, God’s people have been called to work on behalf of a God who led the people out of Egypt. God is a god of our forefathers, who brings release to the captives, who journeys with people in their wilderness leading them to green pastures. This mission will always be supported by those who believe that God came into the world in order that the world might be saved. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). God invites us to love each other as family and to serve hand-in-hand, giving of ourselves and in response to God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.

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  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
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  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball