What an amazing weekend: The Episcopal Church celebrated with the installation of the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry as our new Presiding Bishop and Primate!! I hope you were able to watch all the festivities. We have certainly seen many lovely photos and videos on social media since then so I thought that, perhaps, rather than merely give you a recap of the events from the weekend, we might build a bridge with some of Bishop Michael’s words and the focus of our own Diocesan Convention of last month.
First, if you haven’t watched Bishop Michael’s installation sermon, I would recommend taking the time to watch it:
Now that you’ve done that, we can get to the “nuts and bolts” of what I’d like to discuss: Reconciliation and the Jesus Movement.
Every now and then a word seems to come into focus and all of a sudden I hear it everywhere. Recently, this word has been “reconciliation.” Think back: the theme of our Convention was “The Waters of Reconciliation;” Bishop Michael’s sermon reminds us: “We made a commitment to live into being the Jesus movement by committing to evangelism and the work of reconciliation — beginning with racial reconciliation;” we even have an order for the “Reconciliation of a Penitent” in the BCP. As I prepare for my ordination next month, I’ve been thinking about this because I know that the ministry of reconciliation is an important element in priestly ministry and, as a member of a Total Ministry congregation, we encourage and support the priestly ministry of all the baptized. We are all called to a ministry of reconciliation. And our world needs this now. We’ve all watched in horror as the tragic events of the last few years clearly demonstrate that the issues that divide us are not relenting.
So, I decided I would start by checking the exact definition of reconciliation. I must admit that here I was disappointed with the first definition I found on-line because it seemed far too simplistic: “the restoration of friendly relations.” I picture two playmates having a quarrel with each other then finally making-up. But the second definition had a bit more depth: “to make two apparently conflicting things compatible with one another.” Here’s where the hard work comes as we attempt to settle conflicts and restore those once-friendly relationships with God and with our fellow humans. Here’s where we often have to “lay down our lives” and give up on the “what’s in it for me” attitude that’s so prevalent today. Here’s where the focus must shift from me and my agenda to God and God’s mission.
As I see it, this is the Good News that Jesus came to proclaim. We can know reconciliation with God in our lives because of God’s unconditional, unearned and unending love for us! Our relationship with God then prompts us to want to share this with others. Reconciliation and evangelism go hand-in-hand. At this point I think I will let Bishop Michael tell the story because he tells it best:
A Word to the Church
God came among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to show us the Way. He came to show us the Way to life, the Way to love. He came to show us the Way beyond what often can be the nightmares of our own devisings and into the dream of God’s intending. That’s why, when Jesus called his first followers he did it with the simple words “Follow me.”
“Follow me,” he said, “and I will make you fish for people.”
Follow me and love will show you how to become more than you ever dreamed you could be. Follow me and I will help you change the world from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends. Jesus came and started a movement and we are the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement.
Near the end of Matthew’s Gospel story of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Mary Magdalene and some of the women go to the tomb to anoint his body. When they get there they find that the tomb is empty, the stone has been rolled away and there is no body there. Then they see and hear an angel who says to them, “This Jesus of Nazareth whom you seek, he is not here, he has been raised as he said he would be and he has now gone ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him. It is in Galilee that the Risen Lord will be found and seen for he has gone ahead of us.”
Which is a way of talking about the world.
In the streets of the city.
In our rural communities.
Galilee in our hospitals.
Galilee in our office places.
Galilee where God’s children live and dwell there.
In Galilee you will meet the living Christ for He has already gone ahead of you.
A few years ago I was in a coffee shop in Raleigh, North Carolina, just a few blocks away from our Diocesan House there. While in line I started a conversation with a gentleman who turned out to be a Mennonite pastor. He had been sent to Raleigh to organize a church in the community on the streets without walls. As we were talking over our coffee, he said something to me that I have not forgotten. He said the Mennonite community asked him to do this because they believed that in this environment in which we live, the church can no longer wait for its congregation to come to it, the church must go where the congregation is.
Now is our time to go. To go into the world to share the good news of God and Jesus Christ. To go into the world and help to be agents and instruments of God’s reconciliation. To go into the world, let the world know that there is a God who loves us, a God who will not let us go, and that that love can set us all free.
This is the Jesus Movement, and we are The Episcopal Church, the Episcopal branch of Jesus’ movement in this world.
God bless you, and keep the faith.
I’m excited about all the possibilities; aren’t you? We know that during the course of the next year, our Diocese of Michigan will be exploring reconciliation very intentionally. As we live into this work, we will be inspired to go out and share God’s love in our workplaces, our communities and our world – our many Galilees.
One resource we have available to us is our Race Relations and Diversity Task Force. Keep your eye on the EDOMI website, our Weekly Connection and the group’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/edomiRRD/timeline) for informative articles and updates on ways you can get involved.
Let us pray –
God of compassion, You sent Jesus to proclaim a time of mercy reaching out to those who had no voice, releasing those trapped by their own shame, and welcoming those scorned by society.
Make us ambassadors of reconciliation. Open our ears that we may listen with respect and understanding. Touch our lips that we may speak your words of peace and forgiveness. Warm our hearts that we may bring wholeness to the broken-hearted and dissolve the barriers of division.
Guide the work of your Church and renew us with the Spirit of your love. Help us and all people shape a world where all will have a place, where the flames of hatred are quenched, and where all can grow together as one.
Forgive, restore and strengthen us through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council