Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bringing the Church with you

Acts 2: 1-21
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
May 20, 2018 – Pentecost and Confirmation Sunday


         This past week Olivia and I, along with Harry and Peggy ******* and what looked like a full house at Mitchell Hall, attended a conversation about energy and innovation with former Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz.

I “collared up” as some of my colleagues put it because I wasn’t attending solely as a private citizen but as a community leader in a denomination and a local church that has declared the environment, clean energy, and climate change a justice issue. I wanted to bring Church into the room because in some corners of Christianity there are those who not only deny the role of humanity in climate change but also actively preach against science. I wanted to bring Church in the room because there are social, cultural, and spiritual aspects to our energy problems, which means we will also need social, cultural, and spiritual solutions.

         I even got to ask a question, using a quote by environmental lawyer and advocate Gus Speth that I’ve quoted here before. The short version is that Gus Speth realized the three biggest environmental issues are selfishness, greed, and apathy, which require a cultural and spiritual transformation. I wanted to know if Mr. Biden and Mr. Moniz had witnessed any transformation like that and where did they think it could be coming from besides faith communities.

         Joe took the question, and he really didn’t go where I wanted him to head with it, but that didn’t really matter so much. The Church was still in the room and the question was asked, not only of those leading the conversation but of everyone in the room.

         In the Pentecost story, when the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they became not just Church in that room but church for the world—and received is a tame word for what happened. A sound like the rush of a violent wind came through the room. Flames danced above their heads, they spoke in different languages, and Jews from every nation, immigrants living in Jerusalem, understood them. Jerusalem was the New York City of its time.  These disciples were headed for the wide and wild world; to not only bring the Church with them but to be Church wherever they went—to be love and forgiveness and compassion and justice. Their lives would never be the same again.

         Church came into every home and pub and restaurant that watched the royal wedding yesterday when Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry gave the homily—a 13 minute homily, which means he was only getting warmed up! The center of his message was this: “…imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love is the way.”

         He continued: “When love is the way, unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive, when love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook. When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the Earth will be a sanctuary. When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more. When love is the way, there's plenty good room, plenty good room, for all of God's children because when love is the way, we actually treat each other well, like we are actually family. When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all … that's a new heaven, a new Earth, a new world, a new human family.”

         This is what it means to bring the Church with you. Love is the way and we are the means by which Love makes itself visible, palpable, real in the world. Love is the way when we accept and affirm and recognize and value everyone, sacrificing our own privilege and comfort for the sake of another.

         It has been an honor and a pleasure to engage with you, the Confirm Not Conform class, about how love is known through you: what kind of person you want to be, what’s important to you, what life is asking of you, and assure you, as we do with everyone, that no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, that you are welcome here, no matter what. You are thoughtful, caring, loving, interesting, imaginative, intelligent, hopeful people. You want to do what is right, stand up for something important, make a difference in this world.

         Bring Church with you wherever you go, in whatever you do. Bring this church with you. Bring diversity with you. Bring the poor and the hurt and the marginalized with you. Bring questions, especially the hard questions and the questions no one else is asking. Bring respect for every voice, every opinion. Bring the village. Bring our flaws and our sins for none of us can hide from ourselves or each other. Bring forgiveness. Bring unconditional love. Bring compassion. Bring justice. Bring generosity. Bring hope. Bring the truth. Bring joy. Bring your whole hearts. When you do this, when any of us do this, we are not only bringing Church with us, we are being the Church, the Body of Christ. When we do this, we embody the truth of what it means to be human, what it means to be the Beloved Community.



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