Dear friends in Christ,
Perhaps, like me, you have been disturbed by the news recently. Sometimes it looks like violence is spiraling out of control. Racism and sexism and other forms of discrimination, oppression, and diminishment appear to carry the day. It sure seems like we lack the kind of political leadership we need to change our world for the better.
Amidst all this, the lectionary this coming Sunday brings us an excerpt from St. Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth. His letter is informed by some real experience of hardship and persecution. St. Paul has been imprisoned for his faith. He has persisted “through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…”
And how does St. Paul tell the church to respond to adversity? The way of Christ’s love is “by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God.”
This does not mean “being nice” or empty “thoughts and prayers.” There is a kind of ferocity in St. Paul’s advice. This comes from a man who sang hymns in prison. He is a person of action. He is a person of constant witness.
What would that look like? Truthful speech could mean naming evil when we see it. Genuine love could mean making the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ real for people. Holiness of spirit could mean seeking justice without resorting to the evils we deplore.
I was struck by news reports out of St. Louis, where our Presbyterian siblings are meeting for their General Assembly. In a worship offering, they raised $47,000 to pay bail for inmates who are imprisoned for non-violent crimes and who cannot afford bail. They are literally freeing prisoners. It doesn’t get more Gospel than that.
St. Paul writes, “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” He’s not talking about getting our ticket punched to go to heaven. St. Paul – and the entire Gospel – understands salvation as participation in the abundant, eternal life of God in Jesus Christ. It is salvation, healing, wholeness, and redemption. St. Paul says we shouldn’t wait. Today is the day to work out our salvation.
What will that look like for you? What will it look like for your church? In a couple of weeks, the Episcopal Church will gather for General Convention. What can we do there? Can the Episcopal Church free captives? Can we proclaim the kingdom in ways that change lives? Can we show mercy in a world that is too often focused on score-keeping or even oppression?
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