Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
The balmy summer is now long over, and the crisp autumnal air is in and winter is not far away. Soon, the beginning of our church calendar, the Advent Season, is upon us. For those seasoned in life, every passing year may seem a repetition of the same. Upon closer reflection, we realize every year is new, bringing new challenges. This year, we face divisions, here and abroad, rooted in historic enmities that are magnified by the leaders’ inability to tell the truth not only about their adversaries but also about themselves. Some describe the discord as “tribalism,” which many of us find quite telling. Gone are the dreams of global cooperation, of rich and privileged nations helping the struggling developing, smaller nations. The United Nations’ pledge to do all they/we can to avoid another scourge of war. Withdrawals from multi-national collaborations, coupled with retreat to “our country first,” have exposed this and other nations to much feared vulnerabilities. “Cold War” seems to be back with escalation of the possibility of nuclear confrontations. In today’s volatile world, nuclear arms seem to equalize large and powerful nations with smaller ones. Are these intractable problems that confront all of us? Or, are there ways to curtail the dangerous course? What are our responsibilities as Christians who seem to follow the way of God in Christ? What in our small community, our small parish church, do to speak for the best in our nature? Questions abound.
We might remember that the great prophets of the Hebrew Bible lived in times of deep crisis. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Amos, among others, lived in a time, not unlike ours today. Boldly they demanded that the powers that be on earth repent of their ways and urged them to heed and follow God. In their prophetic world view, God could not be manipulated by people in power; God firmly stood against them. John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth continued in the same prophetic tradition.
Some may wonder why, in our small town and in a small parish, we need to
bother with what is going on in the wider world, far beyond what matters to us daily. The Body of Christ has no October 2018
boundaries, political, linguistic, racial or cultural. The Body of Christ is one. If any part aches, the rest of the Body not only feels the pain but seeks to heal it. Tribalism, let alone division, has no place in the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is global, encompassing everyone, especially those crying out for help. God loves the whole world. To think that God serves only the Christians is to misunderstand the teaching and ministry of God in Christ. When we greet each other as “brothers and sisters of Christ,” our hands reach out far and wide. God’s love not only has no boundary; it breaks all boundaries.
Since the dawn of environmentalism in the second half of the 20th century, advocates and activists have often used the expression, “Think globally, Act locally.” We cannot simply clean up our own homes, towns to clean up the world. But, that is where it starts. Don’t we see rivers and ponds, where nobody lives, full of plastic bags and straws? In parts of Asia, I have seen plastic water bottles strewn all over the streets, choking up waterways. Who is cleaning them up? Whose responsibility is it? All too often we think locally and act only locally. “World peace” begins at home, at our church. “Think globally, Act locally” began with the environmentalists who warned us of pollution and climate change. Now is the time when we must apply it to other arenas of our vital concerns that can, must, change the wider world, not just for the good of our own communities, but, ultimately, for the good of all.
Yesterday, I was able to attend the revival service in Worcester, where our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, was the chief speaker. For nearly an hour, he spoke with exuberant passion. Were I to dare summarize his message, it would be: God is love; love is God.
As we face the beginning of the Advent Season, and as we face the ever-fractured world around us, time is ripe for us to seek and find the timelessness of God, whom we proclaim as our Creator and Redeemer.
Fr. Jim +