Tom’s Turn - From Here to Better
January is time for re-thinking things, particularly re-thinking the way we are living and beginning to live better. At the beginning of the month, we make New Year's resolutions. In the church we annually take another look at how Jesus was an epiphany, an instance of our seeing and knowing God among us. Also in January we remember our baptisms and how we ourselves are called and pulled and empowered to be just like Jesus. Institutionally, we take January as a time to re-examine how we are doing at this corporate thing called Church, this being the Body of Christ. All of these are the same action—us re-thinking our here and now and moving toward the better.
As a congregation, we have real challenges staring at us. We always do, really. It goes with the territory. God chose to call us—humans—instead of doing God's thing in what I could imagine would be a much less messy way. But that was God's choice, this choice for us, to empower us, to do divine work through us. So the challenges to being our institutional selves, challenges like paying the bills and treating each other right, are part and parcel of who we are. They must not deter our greater mission. But, in truth, they are intrinsic to our greater mission—that work of showing forth the grace and mercy of God in real life.
Ten days ago, forty-one of our leaders met to talk about and to experience how we can move from where we are to someplace better. They took away from that meeting several principles:
that deeper and fuller appreciation of each other also leads to concerted efforts to heal the sick, to lift up the broken, to liberate the captive, or, in other words, to do the Lk.4.16ff stuff, theministry Jesus claimed.
These are the things I took away from that day. These are the things that were underneath the Bible study, inside the group-building, at the core of the exercises through which the group was led.
Next we put those to work. Like the movement of January, we move from re-thinking to better living. If you committed last Sunday to work on Christian Education, how do these five principles impact your thinking and planning for that portion of our church's life? Or if you committed to work on Evangelism and are thinking about growing our membership, what do these principles say to you? And so on, for all of the different avenues through which we do our work together. Where does our re-thinking lead?
I closed Sunday's sermon with a quote from William Sloane Coffin's 2011 book of essays on public morality titled, The Heart Is a Little to the Left. I leave you with the entire passage today in hopes that it will guide your prayers about this matter of moving from here to better.
The challenge, then, is to recognize that the world is about two things: differentiation and communion. The challenge is to seek a unity that celebrates diversity, to unite the particular with the universal, to recognize the need for roots while insisting that the point of roots is to put forth branches. What is intolerable is for differences to become idolatrous. No human being's identity is exhausted by his or her gender, race, ethnic origin, national loyalty or sexual orientation. All human beings have more in common than they have in conflict, and it is precisely when what they have in conflict seems overwhelming that what they have in common needs most to be affirmed.
It is that affirmation that will lead us to deeper love and to the better. …...I'll see you and your guests next Sunday. Remember to share a ride when possible, to wash your hands often, and to share God's Good News daily, even if it's only with a smile. To prepare for Sunday, please read Isa. 40.21-31.