Thursday, June 30, 2011

Our Christian Duty

July newsletter article by: The Rev. Dr. Valori Mulvey Sherer, Rector

“The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great kindness. The LORD is loving to everyone and his compassion is over all his works.” (Exaltabo te, Deu, Ps 145:8-9)

Over and over again, in the Old and New Testaments, we hear of the graciousness of God, the lavishness of God’s love, the fullness of God’s compassion, and the inclusiveness of God’s mercy. As Christians in the Episcopal tradition, we believe the nature of God is love, and that the redemption won for us by our Savior is for the whole world. (BCP, 849).

So my question is: so what? Actually, I have to give credit to my Theology professor, Dr. Bob Hughes, for this question. Whenever we engaged in discussion about God, our relationship to God and one another, or the doctrines of the Church, my professor would ask “the So What” question. His purpose was to help us to see that knowing what we believe is important work, but it’s only part of our purpose as followers of Christ. At some point we have to get beyond our need to establish a community of agreement and get about the risky business of being a community that acts on our beliefs. In other words, it is as important to know the love of God in Jesus Christ as it is to obey his commands which call us to put that love into action.

Our church is a community of followers of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world. Our mission is to “restore all people to unity with God and one another in Christ.” (BCP, 855). We are a community called to love as God loves – to be gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and loving to everyone – even those we don’t like, don’t approve of, or don’t agree with.

We are a community that is called to model the Christian friendship shown to us first by our founders, Saints Peter and Paul – icons of Christian unity in diversity. Peter, the poor fisherman, chief apostle - the rock upon whom the church was built, and Paul, the wealthy Pharisee, Roman citizen, and apostle to the Gentiles, disagreed vehemently with one another about whom the Church should welcome and how, yet maintained their friendship until God showed them how to go forward together through what had seemed to them an impasse.

Waiting on God’s will to be revealed is always difficult, but Peter and Paul showed us that 1) it can be done; and 2) the fruits of that kind of faithfulness are beyond our ability to imagine or comprehend. I wonder if Peter thought Paul’s desire to open the Church to the Gentiles would prove to be the ruination of the church. I wonder how many faithful followers initially “left the church” once the Gentiles were allowed in? I wonder how many withheld their tithes in disapproval?

The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Shelby, NC is God’s church, called to do the reconciling work of God in Christ. The people called by God to be part of that work, whether as ministers/members or recipients of the ministries, are all beloved of God. The diversity among us is meant to be there. As God builds and rebuilds our church, our faithfulness to God and God’s command to us to love will yield fruit we can neither imagine nor comprehend now.

Our duty is not to determine our own path, but to discern and follow the one given to us by God. Our duty is “to follow Christ; to come together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God.” (BCP, 856)

As we enter the time of year our culture sets aside for vacations and restoration and begin the second half of 2011 together, I offer this prayer for our parish family: “Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers for this parish family. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, 817).

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