Happy Valentine’s Day! And a Happy Lent! – to quote our friends at Lent Madness.
This weekend’s snow and slippery roads prompted us to cancel our service at church on Sunday morning so instead we shared Morning Prayer using Facebook Live for any who could join us. I was glad to have a venue to share my sermon – not because I thought it was terrific but because I was able to share something that had touched me when I was preparing it. I often use the essays from Feasting on the Word to gain some background information on the readings and this week the Rev. Dr. David Lose, President of Luther Seminary in Minnesota, defined the work of a prophet that I had not considered before. He wrote:
To be Elijah’s heir means far more than simply to do similar miracles. It is to go wherever the prophet goes, to bear the same burdens, to risk the same hardship, to venture into times of both solitariness and solidarity in order to receive and ultimately hear a word from the Lord… To be a prophet is not to be a solitary figure standing at a distance in order to predict the future or call upon the judgment of the Lord. Rather to be a prophet is to enter deeply into the realities and relationships of the people to whom you are sent… To be a prophet is to love God’s people enough to tell them the truth about their condition… To be a prophet is to be completely vulnerable, absolutely dependent on God’s word and mercy
While this description of a prophet is not exactly the same as the words we affirm in our Baptismal Covenant, they seem to have the same intent:
• to go wherever Jesus would go.
• to bear the same burdens
• to risk the same hardships
• to venture into times alone and times in community
• to enter deeply into the realities and relationships with the people around you
• to love people enough to tell them the truth
• to be vulnerable and absolutely dependent on God’s word and mercy.
That’s a call for all of us and I view the work of Resolution Review and this blog as a way to share the work of the Kingdom so that we all might live out the promises we make.
This week, Bishop Gibbs shared with Diocesan Council the priorities of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations for 2018. You might recall that our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry described the three pillars of the Jesus Movement as the Care of Creation, Reconciliation, and Evangelism. These pillars provide the structure around which the 2018 priorities are framed:
Care of Creation and Reconciliation
We advocate to the U.S. government to promote legislation and policies that reflect our role as stewards of God’s creation. We work to ensure the importance of clean air and clean water for all of God’s people, as well as urging responsible use of our planet’s limited resources. Throughout our work and across all of our policy priorities, we seek to understand and address issues of justice and reconciliation. This includes racial reconciliation, as one lens for approaching many issues, from environmental racism to disparities in incarceration rates, to anti-refugee policies and discrimination against immigrants. Specific policy work in this area addresses poverty, health care, criminal justice reform, and international development.
The Episcopal Church is committed to welcoming the stranger and advocating for a humane and proportional immigration system. Right now, our advocacy efforts are focused on urging Congress to pass legislation to protect Dreamers while continuing our prioritization for immigration policies that protect families from separation, offer meaningful access to citizenship, and respect the dignity of every human being. You can take action here.
The Episcopal Church is a powerful witness for addressing the care of our environment at the local, national, and international level. Our General Convention policy calls on lawmakers to significantly reduce carbon emissions within this century, to promote renewable energy technologies, and to financially support developing nations as well as local communities as they transition away from fossil fuels.
The Episcopal Church has long supported a robust refugee resettlement program for those fleeing their countries to escape persecution and war. Through Episcopal Migration Ministries, our Church has worked in public-private partnership with the U.S. Government to resettle thousands of refugees since the inception of the program in 1980. This year, we are focused on maintaining our nation’s historic resettlement program and commitment to protecting displaced persons around the world.
International Development and Conflict
We address food insecurity by ensuring that federal programs, from child nutrition programs to international food assistance, serve those most in need and are efficiently administered. We support legislation and policies that aim to prevent domestic violence and gender-based violence in foreign countries, and that protect the human rights of LGBT persons.
This year, we will continue to raise our voices to ensure that: (1) the federal budget addresses humanitarian, health, and economic development needs of our sisters and brothers overseas; (2) U.S. government implements a strategy to prevent gender-based violence and promote gender justice around the world; and (3) our government remains a leader in conflict prevention, peacebuilding, and advances human rights of all God’s children.
The Episcopal Church is dedicated to drawing a circle of protection around vulnerable communities and intentionally caring for God’s creation. We advocate on a range of other issues where we have Episcopal Church resolutions, which includes topics like human trafficking, common sense gun reform, healthcare, and disaster relief.
Evangelism Aimed to Educate, Equip and Engage
Underlying all of our work is evangelism, as a way of demonstrating Christ’s love for all by caring for the needy, the hungry, and the most vulnerable. By engaging in the sphere of public policy, we are living into our values as Christians and Episcopalians, and demonstrating what Church can be and what it can stand for. We seek to connect Episcopalians to their faith by educating, equipping and engaging them to do the work of advocacy as a part of the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN). We serve as public witnesses for the Church to members of Congress and all who work in policy and advocacy.
We thank you all for being a part of this network, and we are excited to advocate with you throughout the coming year. We also hope to grow the size of the EPPN and the depth of materials available for learning about the issues important to all of us.
Civil Discourse Curriculum
In addition to making the full curriculum available online, we will be releasing the Civil Discourse content available for personal reflections during the weeks of Lent. The curriculum is designed to help people better understand and practice civil discourse particularly as it relates to politics, policy and legislation. The five-week program is best for church groups, adult forms, campus ministries, and youth groups.
Be sure to read our “Voices from the Church” supplemental document that features leaders from around the Episcopal Church reflecting on the intersection of faith, politics, advocacy and civil discourse.
I’m excited about the wonderful opportunities to get involved in these priorities. Check out the links – I think there’s something for everyone! Let’s do this together.
Let us pray –
Gracious and loving God,
Thank you for the work you have given me to do.
I give you my hands to…
create something of beauty,
build something of strength,
comfort the suffering,
serve the broken and needy.
I give you my feet to…
lead by example,
go where I’m needed
I give you my mind to…
learn more of Your world,
learn more of your Word,
see my work as service to You.
I give you my voice to…
proclaim your Good News
speak out for those who can’t be heard,
sing your praise.
I give you my time to…
work for you,
rest and play,
worship and pray.
I give you my heart to…
love as you love,
all of your children.
I give you my life…
use me. Amen
– adapted from the Rev. John Hamilton, Bethany Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, PA
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council