Tag Archives: ministry of reconciliation

We can’t leave the ministry of reconciliation

reconciliation

It is so tempting to close ourselves off after deep wounding, after failed attempts to come together as people of faith.  We might ask ourselves, “Why isn’t this working out?”  Still, we must believe that God is at work, that while we want to throw our hands up in despair, God’s hands are still in.  All in.

God has not pulled away.  God still believes that we can be reconciled, that we can pull off this fellowship.  Two feet in.  When we walk by faith, we don’t take any steps back.

Because our faith is not in us but in Christ and his bloody hands are still extended.  We don’t have the option of withdrawing as his cross is an open invitation and an ongoing reception.  It’s not over until Jesus gets a hold of the one that left all ninety- nine of us (Matthew 18.12).  Jesus is the gate so we must remain open… like the Lord’s Table (John 10.7, 9).

This is why the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion is so important.  Every month or each week, we are called to come back to the table– but not back to the drawing board.  All is not lost.  Still, “It is written…”

No matter what the newspapers print and despite all of our reporting on separations, splits, divisions and disagreements, there is still a report from the Lord.  Lean forward and listen out for it.  It won’t get as much attention.  God’s voice is still and small.  Still, we are called to “be still and know that God is God” (Psalm 46.10).

So we must keep our ears open, our eyes open, our hands open, our hearts open and our mouths open.  We must be ready to give and receive the blessing of belonging, to be reminded that we belong to and with each other, that we were all made for each other.  In the end, it will all, we will all come together.   Being reconciled to God through Christ Jesus, we are right where we need to be (Second Corinthians 5.18).

God’s still pulling it all together, still pulling us all together one heart string at a time.  Give it time because it is all in God’s time anyway.  God’s will be done.  All called and hearing the same command to love and hope and trust, we can’t leave the ministry of reconciliation.

 

Healing Relationships

CZQ4aooWAAAkhG7We give and spend millions of dollars in hopes of curing diseases that infect the body and prematurely take the lives of those we love.  Worthy causes they all are.  We also need to invest in a cure for race.  This social infection compromises our relationships, vanquishes our self- awareness and understanding of our neighbors, local, national and global.

The effects of its prejudices and stereotypes have been devastating.  It causes people to separate into groups of us and them.  We take sides that do nothing more than pull us apart.  Without techniques and proper training, there seems to be no means of putting them back together again.  Friendships never form and we will never know how much has been lost in the absence of cross- cultural conversations.

We walk miles to raise money for these causes.  It is good for our health and for the momentum of those who fight, but what of the distance we do not travel to make connections, random but intentional, with those who do not share our culture and traditions? Race has caused our members to be spread so far apart, not wanting to touch though we cannot function without each other.

Jesus asked a necessary question of a man who had been ill for thirty- eight years, “Do you want to be made well” (John 5.6)?  Because it cannot be assumed that because a person is ill or even asks for help that she and he want the condition to change.  Sometimes, we can get use to fighting, arguing, hating, living separately.  And while the possibility of wholeness is accessible through the presence of Christ, we have gotten use to lying down.  We’ve gotten comfortable with our position.

Today, I challenge us to answer the question or stop talking about the problem.

 

A Vision of Reconciliation

Image result for reconciliationRev. Dr. Willie James Jennings, the Associate Professor of Theology and Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School, wrote in his book The Christian Imagination: The Theology and Origins of Race: “In truth, it is not at all clear that most Christians are ready to imagine reconciliation.”  I had to pause there.  Not only was it true, but more needed to be said.

I could not move to the next sentence.  I lost interest in reading the next chapter.  Instead, I needed to sit down with these words and listen for more of their meaning and implications.

Dr. Jennings did not say that most Christians were not ready to answer the call to the ministry of reconciliation or even to practice reconciliation (Second Corinthians 5.17-21).  He said that most of us are not ready to even imagine it.  Think about that.

We cannot get a picture in our heads of reunion.  The social construct of race has really gotten in the way and it is hard to see around it to how we can be brought together again.  We aren’t even able to see how this is going to work or see ourselves in this work.

Sure, we have the Scriptures for it but what about a plan of action?  Where are the real success stories?  What about an actual ministry of reconciliation?  Let me check the list of committees.  Fellowship.  Outreach.  Missions.  Education.  Reconciliation?  Nope.

Maybe the word is too long.  It is too much too say and it does not produce quick results and instant gratification.  It will not make us feel good right away.

I did an internet search of images of reconciliation and the pickings were slim and poor.  See the image at the beginning of this post as proof.  Most were cartoons as if to suggest that there were no real life examples.  Some were statues so we are inspired by the word and we would like to look at it– even if it is not real life and the bodies are stuck in this position of embrace and welcome.  This is not realistic.  Others were artistic renderings of biblical stories of reconciliation so as to point to the model and the call to be reconciled.  But, actual and real pictures of reconciliation were hard to find.

Why is that?  Why is it that we do not have images and real models for the ministry of reconciliation?  Perhaps, it is because reconciliation is a troubling word for Christians.  We have had a long history of division, separation and splits.  While we are being made new, I believe that we have held onto some of the old words and in so doing, we maintain these old and difficult relationships with each other.

If we are to have a vision for reconciliation, we must allow God to make us completely new– not simply swap out the parts that we don’t like.  That’s the only way that this is going to work.  We’re going to have to start from scratch, using God’s words only.  I may be biased but it sounds like words associated with race would have to go.

Take a picture of reconciliation when you do and send it to me.

It’s not a multicultural church if… (Pt. 2)

613998In April, I talked about the ways in which being a multicultural church is easier said than done.  How I wish that our faith would be enough to bring us together.  Because it is more than enough if we would allow it.  Our shared relationship with Jesus Christ is enough to bring us to the Lord’s table if we would put down our privileges and entitlements.  Still, we want God to sit down with us and not them.

Praying hands should be able to hold hands, to join hands with persons of other cultures.  Voices lifted to God should be able to speak to persons of other cultures.  How is possible that God’s people, Jesus followers practice racism, prejudice and stereotyping?  Surely, we have forgotten his commandments.  Obviously, we are not following in Christ’s footsteps.

Sin is the biggest difference yet God did not allow this to come between us; instead God became like us in Jesus Christ.  But, we cannot get over the differences in our appearance, perspectives and traditions?  Yes, we pretend to for one day and a couple of hours on Sunday mornings.  Fooling no one.  Well, maybe just one– yourself.

But, time’s up.  The scales must come off.  If you read the list below, then your vision will return.

It might not be a multicultural church if…

  1.  The members of different cultures do not have a relationship with each other outside of the church, if they only see each other on Sunday mornings, if all they have found themselves to have in common is that they attend the same church.
  2. You cannot talk about race, racialized or race- related incidents with a measure of respect and understanding, without labeling or judging, without withdrawing from the conversation through silence, reverting to stereotypical assumptions or resignation because you are right and they are always wrong.
  3. Your talking about race threatens your relationship with other cultures, if there is an unspoken rule that we don’t bring race up around here and if someone does, they are ostracized (because race has nothing to do with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, our faith, worship, right?).
  4. You don’t know the cultural cues, customs and traditions of the other cultural groups represented and you don’t see a need to.
  5. You speak disparagingly about the dress of other cultures, critique, criticize or seem confused by their hairstyles or clothing choices or see their appearance as something to be tolerated (if only in your mind).
  6. You speak of the other cultures represented as persons to be fixed, helped, aided and view yourself as the source of their change (if only said to persons of your cultural group).
  7. You see the cultures represented as an internal missions project, a do- it- yourself renovation of those people (Remember: You don’t have to say it; you need only think it and operate from this premise.).

I hope that this post is challenging.  It might even upset you.  And if it does, ask yourself why?

One last thing, sitting on the same pew does not make you a multicultural church.  It’s more than a new seating arrangement.  We will all need to come a whole lot closer if we are to be a true multicultural church.

 

 

Let’s Talk About It Again (and again)

Screen-Shot-2015-08-21-at-10.28.15-PMI recently listened to an interview on racial reconciliation.  When the African American man was asked about the way to reconciliation by his European American interviewer and self- described “white ally,” he started the conversation with American slavery.  I was immediately struck by the fact that he felt the need to start there, that reconciliation had a backlog of nearly four hundred years.  It is no wonder then that we often feel overwhelmed, helpless and even tempted to give up, to stop talking, to throw in our hopes and quit.

The distance between us can only be shortened by the number of conversations that we have with each other.  We don’t need walk a mile in each other’s shoes; instead, we need to sit down and talk awhile.  Now, the subject matter will not always be easy; the words and experiences that we will discuss may not produce immediate connections.  But, the bond will form through our vulnerability, in the exchange of words and the holding of these memories.

We will need to talk about race not just in the comfort of workshops or even over dinner but over the course of our relationships, cross- cultural and otherwise.  It is important not only to discover what we have done to each other in word and in deed we mean but why this word or that person carries that kind of meaning. We need to talk it out, to hear ourselves out, without uncomfortable interruption or angry interjection. We need to listen to what we are saying about other people and to our selves.

And we will need to say it now and every day after now.  We will need to say what we mean when we utilize the words of race in our relationships, when we describe ourselves and our neighbors in its burdened colors.  What do we really mean?  What are we really saying?  Why does race have such a hold on who we are and how we relate to each other?

If you haven’t noticed, I am interviewing you now.  Not to worry, I am your ally.  So, let’s talk about it for as long as we have left as I have no interest in handing down to the next generation a backlog of conversations that we never got around to.