The Church needs to be a part of God in Christ’s healing and reconciling work for the world. If we ever thought we could be sleepy, or go about our lives just minding our own business, we know differently now. The underbelly of racism has shown itself again in all it cruel detail, and our nation and the world are trying to find a way forward. And even as we grieve for racial injustice, our hearts and minds are perhaps made aware, or reminded of other injustices: The reality of how sin and brokenness mars God’s good creation can be seen in the prejudice and violence still being committed against LGBTQ folks. It can be seen in the human pollution that has led to the climate change that continues to create ever more erratic weather patterns and conditions that place an additional burden upon the poorest of the poor living in areas struck by drought and famine, conditions all too often leading to social unrest and war. Yes, in that strange way that one grief can remind us of all the other griefs, we who are being woken up to see the blight of racism may find ourselves more acutely aware of all the other difficulties and struggles present in the world.
Yet there are signs of hope my friends. Mostly peaceful protests that are in fact sending the intended message that change must happen; signs of hope with legislators responding, and ways of organizing ourselves for the good of helping one another within society being examined – how can we best allocate resources for the building up of a verdant society and people? There are signs of hope, with God’s good green earth having a chance to breath as people stayed home and less carbon was pumped into the air and because less electricity was needed there is even talk afoot that some or many coal plants may never go back online, instead being permanently retired to the back lot of those days when we didn’t know better.
Into this mix of crisis and possibility God needs us as a Church to be a part of Christ’s reconciling work for the world.
When Jesus was traveling about the countryside, nearly 2,000 years ago as humans reckon time; when Jesus was traveling about the countryside, teaching and healing, we hear that he saw the crowds and “had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Seemingly in response to this need on the part of the people, Jesus summons the twelve disciples and sends them out to proclaim the good news, that is, that the kingdom of God has come near. God has come near to our suffering and the suffering of this world. This good news had implications for their lives as it does for ours.
For this, my friends, is the same good news that seeks to call us from where we go astray, inviting us to come home to the bosom of the God who loves without limit. And this is the good news that makes our calling as the Church somewhat unique and absolutely vital in the midst of this mixed up, madhouse world in which we are currently living. For we as Christians are fueled by the power of a Greater Power that will not rest until the great work of redemption has been wrought on behalf of this whole creation. Fueled by this Power we as Christians can and should link arms and hearts with people of different faiths and civic organizations; link arms with everyone who shares the common purpose of lifting the whole of humanity, deserving of a shared dignity from out of the depths of despair into which she has fallen. We as Christians are uniquely suited to lead this compassionate charge for the Light for God in Christ shows us the true extent to which Light is possible through the work of the cross. The cross, where Christ’s glory was found through suffering.
So we know, and can testify to the world around us, that if we suffer, and as we stand alongside who are suffering, there is a justifying work that has been accomplished by Christ and this work will not let suffering be the end of the story. Instead, this justifying, loving, and holy work of our Savior who weeps for the suffering of this world and certainly is weeping for the suffering of our brown and black sisters and brothers; certainly weeping for the polluted air and oceans and streams; certainly weeping for the LGBTQ folks and their families who are still all too often ostracized and against whom violence is also being perpetrated; this Savior’s justifying work will take even such suffering, if it must exist in this present realm, and work it over for some kind of good. Hence by grace, as we hear from Paul in his letter to the Romans, suffering can become endurance and endurance can become character and character can contain a wisdom and maturity that by grace knows the hope that will not disappoint – the hope in God’s love poured out in mercy for us and this world.
This is good news like a Shepherd’s guiding staff, herding us back to clarity and to remember our purpose for living: to serve God as healers of the people and the earth.
But how? How shall we the Church be the healers of earth and people?
I have thoughts on this and probably you do, too, but I do not entirely know what can be done. Yet I heard a story, that in Stuttgard, Germany this past week two of the orchestras there resumed giving concerts. Given the need for physical distancing, they set up seven locations where people could sign up to go and hear a ten minute concert given by one of the members of the orchestra. Many who have attended spoke of the power of the experience that began with the performer and attendee looking into each other’s eyes for sixty seconds. Then nine minutes of music being played, and then the attendees were supposed to leave without saying anything or interacting in any other way. People said that this time of looking in another person’s eyes, this time of music proclaimed in the midst of crisis was a powerful reminder of the shared humanity of those involved.
Perhaps, perhaps we need to find ways to daily engage the eyes of those around us; perhaps with our actual eyes over Zoom or through plexiglass at the grocery store with the clerk. Perhaps also with our words, weighing and considering their meaning before laying them at the feet or on the shoulders of those around us. Maybe looking others in the eye by engaging in deep listening with our brown and black sisters and brothers, or in this Pride month with our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Leaning in to listen deeply to the needs of the earth that would sustain us and all life; trying not so much to impart knowledge, to enforce our ideas of what should be. Rather seeking to understand these stories and hear God’s wisdom emerging from them.
Yes, if we ever thought we could be sleepy, or simply go about our own business, recent events should now have woken us up. And perhaps one grief has led us to remember or become aware of the many griefs. Yet there are signs of hope. And there is a holy calling as God’s holy and resurrected people to be a part of the change we wish to see, a quote one of our Redeemer community members reminded me of just yesterday, as coming from Nelson Mandela.
The stakes have perhaps never been higher, the depths of suffering perhaps never so deep. Yet God in Christ is, as always, wading into the midst of this world by the power of the cross so as to bring us out of the tomb and into the Light; out of the tomb sent to bear the Light so that others may come to praise God. We, who are called disciples for Christ, are called for the world and all of God’s people; called to be shepherds amidst the confused flocks; called knowing it is not be our strength, but fueled by the grace and wisdom of Christ that redemption shall flow through our hands, our eyes, and our words to join together the forces of Light to stand resolute in the face of all darkness in this world.
I leave you with these words from Paul to the Romans:
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God (Romans 5:1, 2)