Loving Christ, Serving Christ
The Summer of . . . This is one of those years that may end up with more than one nickname. But it is Summer again and this Sunday we go back to Summer Worship services ONLINE at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. The Bible in a Year Class will be online at 10:30 a.m. And we will still have our ZOOM coffee chats after services.
It means more than you know to see faces every week, and I hear that from others in conversations all week long. I am grateful for you continuing in fellowship with your church, as you vowed in your Baptismal Covenant.
Bishop Will you continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
People I will, with God’s help.
Regular worship. I long for communion with everyone at the table. But the Coronavirus numbers in the county are continuing to climb for now. The case number is a little deceptive because the state does not track recoveries, and the capacity for testing has grown. But the percentages and new case numbers are on the rise, and ICU beds are filling up.
We are responsible for the care of our flock, and so we will gather together when we it is safe to do so. We are also continuing to plan for reopening in stages when those numbers do fall.
I tend not to make many bold letter statements about issues outside the church, and I separate partisan politics from the pulpit for obvious reasons. I also make clear that Jesus and the Bible are our guiding lights. Our hope is not in a party or a nation, though we may affiliate and support them; it always has to be tempered by our primary commitment to Christ and his Kingdom.
Jesus was not a Republican or a Democrat. He was not an American. He was not white by any definition we have used for the last 400 years. Jesus was a Galilean Hebrew, a Jew of the tribe of Judah, descended from Hebrew royalty, who grew up in a nowhere town. He should have been a nobody, but his life, teachings, death, and resurrection not only changed the course of history, they have changed you and me.
We should never wear another label that obscures the one that says “you are Christ’s own forever.” It was placed on you at your baptism, sealed with oil like a Hebrew king or prophet or priest.
As our God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, maker of all humanity, has made us his own through the everlasting covenant written in his Son’s blood and speaking within you now in the powerful quiet voice of the Holy Spirit, so have we been sent into this world, our world, our nation, to every race, creed, and nationality to proclaim the Good News that God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall have everlasting life.
How dare we do less than that? How dare we be less than that?
God did not send us to love only some people. God sent us to cross the bounds and proclaim his love. As we have watched the protests and riots that have erupted in the last three weeks, it is clear that we have not yet become the people we hope to be.
We have to try again to reimagine our corner of the world as a more just, more fair, and more humane place if we are to hope to see the Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.” Yes, that is a massive work that will take the best minds and most humble hearts of our generation. It will take real listening and honest speaking. It will take us being more like God.
There is no shortcut. And, we may fail. We have before. Though I do not confuse the United States of America with the United States of God, I have hope. Because when George Floyd was murdered, even police called it murder. Because the riots ended quickly, but the work has not. We have a role to play as a royal priesthood. We represent God’s reality in all of this.
A few months ago, before we really knew much about this new virus, we had a service for the Rev. Absalom Jones that for us was also a service for our own Rev. Dr. Deacon Brady Hopper. We heard our Canon to the Ordinary Anita Braden bring the Gospel to us with joy and laughter and honesty and truth.
I would remind you of her words that day. “Today we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. We stand, but we also strengthen our backs and broaden our shoulders for the next level that we are being called to move toward. All of us are being called to move toward. That is the reconciling love our Lord Jesus Christ. We will love one another despite everything that is seen in the other . . . We will not spit on one another, but we will stand and become the light of God in the world today.”
We must continue to stand for God’s reconciling love, especially now. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used to train people in nonviolence, warning them that it was dangerous, difficult, and may demand their very life. We may not be in that kind of danger, but we must have the same resolve if we are to be faithful to Christ in our day.
We cannot pretend to know how to get to where Christ is calling us, but we must follow Christ together forward into a new day that right now we can only imagine.
The Rev. Daniel P. Richards
Christ Church of the Ascension
Paradise Valley, Arizona