3 Resolutions for the Church

The following are three resolutions for 2016 that I offer for the Church universal. While this is no means an exhaustive list, it’s hard to work on more than three items of transformation at once. I also believe if we get these right, we will get a lot of other things right as well.

 

Be Civil, Nice, and Respectful of One Another

2016 is an election year. The former political junkie side of me still gets excited. The current clergy side of me is fearful. I’m fearful that the way we talk to one another about political matters will continue to encroach on how we talk to one another in general. Most clergy also hear the following comments in most presidential election years-“you are being too political” or “you are not being political enough.” I believe people are curious as to  what Jesus would have to say to our land today. I suspect most of us wouldn’t like it as much as we think. While we can argue about whether Jesus was political or not, one thing is certain- Jesus was contextual, and I am sure the election will be at the center of many a conversation. I pray that our candidates are civil and respectful of one another. I pray that our conversations are civil and respectful. Let’s remember that we when talk about candidates and their supporters, we are talking about real people. Let’s remember that when our government makes decisions, real people are affected.  We are all first and foremost not Republicans, Democrats or other- we are beloved children of God. That’s the glue that holds us all together. The church can be a model for how people of different opinions talk to each other.

Draw our Circles Bigger, Not Smaller

Our land is growing more diverse and one of the benchmarks for healthy churches is a commitment towards diversity in all forms- gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious background etc. For some, the reaction has been to close ranks and to attempt to draw lines of who is in and who is out. I am reminded that no matter how big we draw our circle, the circle drawn by God is always bigger. When it comes to welcoming all, we are never ahead of God. God’s mission for the church includes everyone’s gifts and graces. When we are busy judging, we are wasting precious time that we could use loving others. Let’s recognize that everyone is just as important as we believe ourselves to be in the eyes of God.

Leave Fear Behind

We live in a world where the threat of terror is real, fueled by extreme ideology. We cannot allow this fear to fuel how the church lives and loves in the world. We cannot allow fear to cloud how we respond to basic human suffering, as it has with the refugee crisis. Do we want the Church’s witness to be that fear is more powerful than love? At the very least, can we engage in meaningful interfaith conversation, seeking to understand, rather than jumping to blanket conclusions? One of, if not the most, faithful things the church can do, is bear witness to the truth that love is more powerful than fear. We can never be the people God creates us to be coming from a place of fear.

The First Birth Annoucement

Advent 2015We love to get birth announcements in the mail. The announcement usually arrives with a picture of the baby, the proud parents and sister and brothers’ names and their weight and height. For a baseball card comparison, it’s life’s rookie card. Jesus’ parents didn’t have to send out a birth announcement because of an angel of the Lord did so for them. I am bringing you good news of great joy.

Do you know the rest of the announcement? It’s important stuff. “Do not be afraid, for I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people.” Eugene Peterson calls the birth of Jesus “an event for everyone.” We focus on the good news for us and our lives, but what about for everyone else. Not to mention that the very first words after the birth of Jesus are “do not be afraid.”

As we open gifts on Christmas morning, are we also willing to open our hearts and spirits? Are we willing to embrace that the birth of Jesus is good news for all the earth? Are we willing to quit letting fear rule our thoughts and actions?

Our land today is ripe with fear and misunderstanding and all of the bad fruit that fear and misunderstanding produces. Perhaps I am a bit naive but I still believe that we are stronger together than we are apart. I believe there is no “us” and “them” but only “we.” As a follower of Jesus, I am concerned that if we will not work for and stand up for peace, then who will.

Very soon, a word of hope will be spoken into our anxiety and fear. Are you prepared to receive and believe this word? It was the first birth announcement.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy for all people.”