Saturday, March 28, 2009
Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."
Taken from a comment on WorkingPreacher.com
I have been centering my Lenten sermons on the baptismal covenant seen through the prism of the Sunday lections. And tomorrow's lessons are a perfect way to culminate this with "strive for justice".
One of the most important aspects of striving for justice is a willingness to take up the life of those caught in injustice--to have compassion--a willingness to 'suffer with' in order to bring to light the injustices that the world is willing to ignore.
Christ's unwillingness to ignore the injustice of the political and religious systems of his day brought him to suffer with all those who were being denied relationship with their God and the community of the faithful because of their race, their lineage, their social class, their lack of cleanliness, their sinfulness, etc. It is in the conflict between good and evil that we understand Christ's love. It is the acceptance of us by God and the Church no matter the condition of our lives that makes the Christian life so liberating. That grace is always free but it was bought with the ultimate price of the Cross.
We as Christians cannot avoid conflict without watering down the promise of the gospel. It is part and parcel of our lives in Christ. But this does not mean that we must be overwhelmed with the conflict.
I am an Episcopalian priest serving as a pastor of a small ELCA parish. I have watched conflict consume my denomination for the past 8 years--not for political or theological reasons, but because of the need for some to have power. The conflict has often so overwhelmed those of us in leadership that we often have had to choose sides rather than to stand beneath the Cross of Christ. But it has been in the light of this conflict that we as a church have gotten clearer on where Christ is leading us. My family home is situated in one of the dioceses that has chosen to leave TEC. What has been spectacular is the kind of energy and hope that the remnants of TEC have in that place. The faith will not die of conflict. It is in the conflict that we find what is really important to us--it is the community of faith in the Christ who gave us the Way.
The conflict to confront the injustice that was imbedded in the power structures of the church has been difficult and painful. But if we had ignored it, our denomination would have become inane, lukewarm and useless. As we have stood at the cross, the grace of God has helped us reorient ourselves to the kind of justice of inclusion, integrity and honesty that the crucified one calls us to. I am beginning to see the kind of resurrection with in my denomination that witnesses to Christ Jesus.
But since violence, which is at the center of all conflict, can taint this kind of confrontation with evil, we must always be mindful of the need to stand HUMBLY beneath the Cross of Christ. Though we stand in solidarity with those who have been mistreated, we may not fall into the arrogance that often marks the victorious. I believe that is what Jeremiah longed for in his words of consolation in Lent 5's reading. It is in the lived-out experience of God's love for us that will proclaim Christ that will shout the promise of our salvation.