The Lord’s message arrived strong to the ancient cities of Nazareth, Capharnaum, and Jerusalem; it interrupted as an agent of kindness, mercy, and transformation, that was lived not just in physical health, but also in emotional, spiritual, familiar, social, economic, and political well-being.
El mensaje del Señor llegaba con fuerza a las antiguas ciudades de la Nazaret, Capernaúm y Jerusalén; irrumpía como un agente de bondad, misericordia y transformación, que se vivía no solo en la salud física sino en el bienestar emocional, espiritual, familiar, social, económico y político.
Pastors are called to be visionary; they are asked to keep order and use tried and true formats and materials. They are called to innovate, and they are required to keep the cherished traditions of any individual church alive. They are called to take the long view; and they need to meet the day to day needs of congregants. Can one person do it all? Can that one person do it all well?
When liturgy and worship become the work of the people, space for the sacred stories of those living with mental health conditions begin to have space in the collective experience. Isolation can break down and connection can be formed as people begin to understand the deep humanity of their neighbor in the pew. Remember that worship is a collective act, and the collective is only truly inclusive when all can participate in a meaningful way in the act of worship.
Holocaust Remembrance Day—A reminder of what was lost, and that contemporary attempts at renewing anti-Semitic ideology cannot be tolerated
Genocide is the biomarker that humankind has a long, long way to go on the evolutionary spectrum. Holocaust Remembrance Day should always serve as a reminder of what was lost, and that sadistic, contemporary attempts at renewing anti-Semitic ideology cannot and will not be tolerated.
Moving from self-judgment to self-compassion is a long, slow process. It’s a deeply spiritual process. It begins with simply noticing the judgmental thoughts. Frequently they are so automatic you don’t even know you are having them. A lifetime of self-judgment doesn’t disappear in an instant. In times of high anxiety (like now) it’s easy to go backward.
Both medical science and ancient traditions point to the power of focused breathing to heal both physical and emotional wounds. Perhaps healing the wounds of our world begins with the intentional practice of honoring the life-giving breath shared by all living things.
The way of peace is controversial. To favor peace in practice goes against the culture, and the consequences are negative. It was for Jesus. He mentioned the good news of the gospel in his hometown community of faith, and they were filled with rage and ran him out of town (Luke 4:28-29). Likewise, those who stand against war might find themselves run out by their communities of faith.
Remembering Jesus in Communion is like standing up to an adversary. It is not reminiscence, it is resistance. It is not merely remembering; it is refusing to forget.
“What is grief, if not love persevering?” This quote from the show “WandaVision” has been shared so often on social media because grief is something that strikes us all. Even Jesus experienced grief.
Finding and accessing hope in a pandemic world comes from faith in God that God is not done with our crisis. Who are we to pronounce judgment that God is finished with us, our problems, or our world?
Sam Baker’s brief, beautiful song has kept me going through these strange, otherworldly times of death from a virus on a scale not seen in over a century, of lives and livelihoods disrupted, of businesses, school buildings, churches and other houses of worship closed.
This particular Holy Week is crying out for God’s people to recognize the vitality that has always been there. Is it possible that we have never needed Holy Week more? People everywhere are yearning for a resurrection.
A poem by Wilda Morris.
We are all tired of Covid-19, but evidently it isn’t tired of us. Therefore, we set the policies that feel right to us and respect when others do the same. As much as we care about making people happy, and want to make things easier for them, right now is a time we ask that they cross the river, stay on the train, and do whatever it takes to honor our boundaries. We do so in part because the lives we have, as created beings, aren’t a privilege but a gift we’ve been invited to tend with loving care.
The Lenten season and Holy Week recall gospel lessons and other passages of Scripture appropriate to the season, yet we need to ask if we read these sacred texts of “Old” and “New” Testaments with awareness of the history that has unfolded over the past two millennia.
I have a particular love, and appreciation, for pastors. And I worry that “a time is coming, and now is…” when we will not be able to make a living being pastors.
Jesus, on his purple journey, faced injustice, unequal treatment, and unfairness. Yet his final few teachings remain the cornerstone of Christianity
Here’s how you play.
Wake up in your safe suburban neighborhood, move
ahead two spaces…
Walk into store and watch
as they stare at your half-hidden face.
The mask, useless. Your onyx hair and
crescent eyes betray
your invisibility. Move back
When you see hate, combat it with love to bring justice. If you hear cries of violence, rise in solidarity to support movement into liberation. Do not be so concerned with your personal problems of the day that you forget to also extend care to your neighbor. Get to know your neighbors to strengthen community connection, harmony, and safety. Join with others to dismantle stereotypes, myths or misconceptions that prevent us from seeing each other’s humanity.
Israel’s Exile, should be a story that we keep close to heart, for the shape of this story promises to reshape the broken-down story that we seem to be living without revision.
The past few years have helped us identify and begin lamenting some significant collective sins. The question now is: do we have the courage to repent and go a new way?
Given the broken nature of our world today, I say we need all the help we can get—Supreme Court Justices, astronauts, preachers, and all.
Lent is a season that calls Christians to reflect and look deeper within. We are summoned in this season to look into the mirrors of our souls. There is danger and deliverance in looking inward.
In times like these, we can feel adrift. We can feel that we are being pushed and pulled in all directions. We can feel like the wind will knock us down and off our feet if it hasn’t already. We can lose our sense of grounding—of what we believe, what we stand for, what matters most to us.
I’m tired of talking about the pandemic. I know there’s still so much to consider, decisions to make, adaptations to develop, attention to pay to matters like getting the vaccine. However, I feel like I’m having the same conversations over and over. Here are a few questions to generate some different conversations now. Some of these will still be about the pandemic, but it is possible to shift into talking about something richer and deeper in relation to it.
On March 4, 2020 we published the first of many articles in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Today, we mark the occasion with this series of excerpts from articles published over the past year. They are a reminder of trials and tribulations experienced and challenges that remain. As with all that we publish, we hope these excerpts will inspire, encourage, and challenge our readers to bring a greater measure of justice, mercy, and faith into our communities and world.
Women’s History Month for 2021 happily appears to be part of what is becoming the year of the woman here in the United States. Women have, of course, historically served in leadership roles. It is our appreciation of that fact that often seems absent. Deb Haaland has demonstrated effectiveness as a tribal leader, and America is finally gaining some ground with respect to recognizing Native American women.
What our society looks like on the other side of the pandemic depends on what we do to address inequity it has revealed. We have agency. We can choose which direction we want to push ourselves and our society, and maybe even our world.
From the United Church of Christ to the Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America to the Church of the Brethren, pastors across denominations are encountering people in acute mental health crisis. Despite the sustained stigma surrounding mental health in Christian circles, many people still turn to their local pastor before seeking out care from a mental health provider or physician. This undergirds the importance of clergy and church communities becoming better equipped to be welcoming and affirming spaces for those with mental health conditions.
For Christians in America, this particular Ash Wednesday might advance one of the most introspective Lenten seasons in memory. The turmoil of recent months—the pandemic, presidential impeachment, the violent expression of white supremacy—calls for a reconciliation with God that is apt to bring many into a season of meditation to which they haven’t been accustomed.
For Ash Wednesday 2021, when even gathering for in-person worship is a matter of caution and clergy have been debating if, let alone how, one might safely impose ashes, could we make space in such rituals to feel the heaviness of a year now past in our Lenten disciplines and reflection? If we keep our personal piety disconnected from our global and national problems, are we truly learning the ways of mourning and penitence?
With the advent of Social Security, the United States made a concerted, and largely successful, effort to reduce poverty among the elderly. It is time we made a similar investment in the lives of children.
Except for a few short years in K-12 education, my career has always danced between positions in higher education and the church. I have observed some similarities in how the two types of organizations function, especially when under economic pressure.
We are called to build a more just, fair, equitable, inclusive, and hopeful society. In these troubled times, we cannot—must not—seek to go back to “normal.” Our fundamental task is to re-imagine and recreate our lives, communities, and this nation.
I am cautiously hopeful that representative, principled, leadership will rise up in this nation – that we will indeed build back better for everyone through a more equitable and unifying agenda more than we ever have before. Those of us who are Jesus followers have a role to play in leading in a more excellent way of love, and nurturing others to do the same.
Lent comes around every year in the Christian calendar as a time of reflection, self-denial, and confession. It has traditionally been a time of some kind of fasting or abstaining from certain things. If there’s ever a year to rediscover Isaiah’s words about ‘the fast God has chosen,’ it’s this year: “…to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” (Isa. 58:6 NIV). In particular, maybe this Lenten season is the time to get serious about loosening our chains of racism.
As two members of my congregation recently let me know that they had received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, I decided to write a prayer to be recited upon receiving the coronavirus vaccine for members of my congregation and for the wider world.
Like the Duke and Duchess of Hastings in the Netflix series “Bridgerton,” we have forgotten how to love. We have forgotten the joy of being together and hearing one another’s thoughts and perspectives. However, we cannot blame the pandemic on our separation. We have allowed social media to be the divider, allowing it to separate us into polarized camps. But if we could remember, we could heal. It is a choice, but it is one we need to make.
Faith-based investors urge companies to rethink political spending after attack on Capitol, caution against return to “business as usual”
The January 6 attack on the Capitol revealed the fragility of our democracy. When it comes to corporate political spending, ICCR investors believe a return to “business as usual” is something we can longer afford.
Now that we’re well into 2021, we’ve discovered that all the problems of 2020 didn’t just magically go away, alas. We can expect 2021 to maintain continuity with 2020, and in fact, carry forward the trends that have led us to where we are today.
In his Letter, King saw with clarity from a jail cell what many in Birmingham could not or would not perceive in the social order’s status quo predicated on segregation and inequality. I prayerfully hope that we will experience indictment anew from King’s Letter as a people gathering to celebrate King’s witness just weeks after early January’s national turmoil. The myopic habits to exclude and occlude others in society are still strong in the American psyche and certainly proved pernicious in the last few years—and devastatingly so in recent weeks.
King aptly grasped that the love Jesus displayed and taught was not reflected in American Christianity. American Christianity sought a gospel that suited itself, not a gospel that drew individuals closer to their Creator. King had moved beyond American Christianity, comprehending a belief that united humanity. As we reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, may we hear the messenger that spoke beyond American Christianity and challenged us. May the message of loving one’s neighbor challenge us to live lives that reflect the message Jesus proclaimed. May we find ourselves being the good Samaritan on the Jericho road, in Jesus’ parable, regardless of the stranger’s ethnicity, gender or age. May we reflect on the love ethic taught by Jesus and preached by King. May this message empower us to resist hate and recognize that we are all connected in the tapestry of life.
We can learn much from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership when considering it in total: being guided by a foundation of beliefs; leveraging educational and formational experiences that help us connect with others; and employing courage to stay the course. However, we must additionally extend ourselves beyond King’s leadership by exercising a humility that seeks the ideas of those without power and amplifies the voices of those who have been marginalized.
What is the measure of a human being in today’s daunting world? We must return to the core of our being, the depths of our kindness, in order to answer that key question for ourselves, and Dr. King continues to show us the way through his writings and his spirit.
Following the attack on the Capitol one week ago today, we asked our contributing authors to share a brief reflection or excerpt from what they were planning to say to their congregations in sermons, pastoral letters, and prayers.
As the calendar turns and an extraordinary 2020 concludes, advertisers for gyms and weight loss programs bombard us with some version of, “A New Year, a new you!” The fitness industry’s perennial pursuit of profit based on our short-lived desires for self-improvement is worryingly ingrained into the lifecycle of the American psyche. However, the annual call to honest self-examination is an important challenge that resonates. Nobody needs honest reflection and a “New Year, new you” campaign more than the American church after its response to 2020.
I am uninterested in living into the false image of the flawless pastor. I’d always rather be the authentic pastor, the one who has been to the valley and sits with another individual who is traversing those shadowy passages themselves.
In America today, it is clear that a radicalized minority, with the backing of the President, poses a risk to the republic—one that is perhaps greater than past majorities united by common interest. What then are we to do? Where, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., do we go from here?
Following yesterday’s failed coup at the U.S. Capitol, we decided to republish this 2019 article on the symbolism and sanctity of a building designed to reflect and serve a quasi-religions function—to be nothing short of a civic temple.
If humility means acknowledging when we are wrong, then humility also encompasses politicians accepting the results of elections, even when they cannot believe, or would rather not concede, the choices voters have made.
The work of Christmas, because it is the work of Jesus, becomes for us a lifelong Christian imperative. It begins by caring about the things Jesus cared about. Then, perhaps someday, we might at least make a difference to one of them.
Just as an Easter faith celebrates the resurrection each Sunday, a Holy Saturday faith—suspended between the bad news of the crucifixion and the good news of the resurrection—might have significance beyond Holy Week in a world similarly suspended between death and life.
Peace, when it comes, is indeed a gift, and certainly when it is brought about by the Spirit. How, though, are we becoming peacemakers during this holy season? How are we promoting peace now and into the New Year, which holds both promise and challenge?
Unbeknownst to my family when my husband and son were sick last Christmas, God was preparing us a year ago for a season of birthing that would be—and still is—profoundly difficult. When I read the song of Mary now, in the midst of this pandemic, my longing is not for the return of Christmas past. I believe we are laboring together for a world where the hungry are filled, unjust rulers removed from their thrones, and the humble raised to places of honor. I remember anew that the light we pass is symbolic of the call to radically redistribute God’s resources in the world. We aren’t yet holding that newborn life in our arms, but the midwife has asked us to breathe deeply and feel for when it’s time to push. We are preparing the way.
Being pregnant at Christmas, especially this year, feels in a strange way to be a sacred act. We made the conscious decision to try and expand our family in the midst of great uncertainty. For me especially, this pregnancy is a very real sign of hope after two years of infertility, miscarriage, my mother’s death, and then 2020 in general. Advent is the season of hope, regardless of how we will be able to celebrate it. Our family will retell the Christmas story and the expectation that God remains with us even in the midst of despair and turmoil.
Dr. Seuss’s classic tale, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” reveals that there are people who struggle with the “good cheer” at Christmas. There are people who do not find the season of expectation enchanting, nor do they look forward to it.
This season of Advent and Christmastide, plagued by a pandemic and the fallout of a divisive election, has the potential to be emotionally heavier than ever before.
It’s going to be a tough Christmas season with the need to be especially careful as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. How can you connect with the people in our congregations who need care and connection? In-person visits are still prohibited in senior living facilities in many places. No matter official policy, you don’t want to put any vulnerable person in your congregation at risk.
This pandemic has weighed heavily on our traditional plans of Advent and Christmas and required us to think creatively, but that does not mean our hope is lost. The Christian Church first started as a movement of house churches and micro-communities struggling to figure out how they can practice their faith in extremely challenging times. This year for Advent and Christmas, your church, family, or community can pivot to have a vibrant and imaginative holiday season.
It is not a new idea to consider Advent, Christmas and the new year as an annual “reset,” a chance to begin again to repair the broken pieces of our lives. But it may be time to rethink how we are to make our way forward in such a time as this – clear-eyed and determined, wielding glazing kits, sewing kits, whatever tools we can muster. We are people of hope, after all. And no matter the rancor and outrage and sorrow and fear of this year, a light is coming.
Advent is a season between. Advent is about celebrating the coming of the Messiah in Jesus and the second coming of Christ. It is about living in such a way that we are honest about our grief while also living with hope. It is asking God to show up and expressing our gratitude for all the ways God is already present. Advent is a lot like dawn…it is neither night nor day. But like a watchman, we turn our back on the darkness and turn our face toward the eastern horizon in hope for coming light.
Advent is the season of anticipation and hope, and we are all yearning to make connections and meaning in a season that promises to be unlike any other. The pandemic doesn’t mean that churches have to give up on traditions. They simply have to be creative in how they implement them this year. If done right, we might find that the new ways that we live out our traditions help us to make meaning in unexpected, delightful ways. Such surprises are always a part of this time of year, and the Great Surpriser is sure to show up this unusual Advent season.
What does it mean to be people of faith, people of Advent, in these times?
As different and potentially difficult as this Thanksgiving holiday may be, especially for those who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19, we aspire to live into the words of the Apostle Paul, rejoicing in the Lord always.
The people of Israel had to wait more than 700 years before the Messiah promised in Isaiah would finally appear in a manger in Bethlehem as recounted in Luke. They could not rush the event. Employing a trait almost completely absent from the sensibilities of our on-demand culture in the 21st century, they had to wait in the hope that the bright, new day God had promised would surely come to pass.
Advent 2020 puts Christians in precisely the same position; we have to wait for the new day, for the emergence of what Josiah Royce, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lewis all referred to as “the beloved community.”
Happy Thanksgiving! If you are an American Indian, are of Native American descent, belong to a tribal community or not, the Thanksgiving holiday might not—speaking of the Mayflower—float your boat. But knowing that at least some people are cognizant of the missing links to so many Native American interactions with encroaching Europeans, and that they are willing to acknowledge them, gives those like me a sense of hope, and, remarkably, thanksgiving.
This is an unusual Thanksgiving—some families will gather and others won’t due to COVID-19 restrictions and personal concern for health, as well as the challenges of travel in a pandemic. Whether or not you see your extended family for Thanksgiving, I invite you to give thanks for them.
In the prophet’s prayer in Isaiah 64, read on the first Sunday of Advent, the mess is named. The bliss is sought. For a post-Exilic community and a pandemic-hammered Church, the full range of emotions is found in speaking to God. We hear the prophet’s call for thanksgiving. We are chastened to remember God’s past acts and the fierce love of God.
Appropriately, Matthew 25:31-46 is the Gospel lectionary reading for Christ the King Sunday (observed this year on November 22, 2020). On a day when we are just at the cusp of observing Advent, we hear a text that reminds us who we follow: the Christ who will know both sheep and goats, praising and indicting with a finality that leaves the reader with very “real world” choices about how they connect faith and personal responsibility together.
C.S. Lewis’ words from when the world first confronted the possibility of total annihilation, speak to us still. How do we face the possibility of the world’s end? That final last night?
We must see the good works we individually are called to do and do them. We must remain at our post, working at our calling, whether our activities are ended by catastrophe or by the true ending of the world.
We have a deadlocked country poised to blow, with leadership throwing gas on the fire. When the election is settled, the loss, shock, cynicism, disillusionment, and abandonment so many are experiencing will remain.
Veterans Day is every American’s day. It is justifiably set aside to recognize those who have honorably served in the nation’s armed forces, yet the people also have a role in national defense by virtue of citizenship.
The Serenity Prayer is not in the Bible, but arose from the lips of a renowned theologian preaching at a summer service in a small New England rural church. It is our prayer, not just for a momentary bit of spiritual relief, but for a soul-deep serenity in turbulent times, for a God-inspired courage, and for growth in our own wisdom to discern the difference between acceptance and action. In the worst of times, these crazy times, it become our earnest plea:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
The 1787 U.S. Constitution provided a framework, penned to help us form a more perfect union. But even the framers recognized that we had not arrived at perfection. It was aspirational. The continued evolution, which has helped the document realize greater inclusivity, has helped us move closer to that ideal. I would hope that we would continue to allow our constitutional framework to expand until we reach that perfect union where all people are recognized as created equal.
As we find ourselves nearing Thanksgiving in a year filled with lamentable circumstances, we practice celebration. Celebration is not a distraction from the realities of the world we dwell in. Celebration is rooted in deep joy that can be discovered if paid attention to. Celebration was something built into the liturgical lives of the people of Israel and the early church. Celebration and joy are spiritual disciplines practiced even when times are difficult, perhaps most especially when times are difficult.
Closer to home you have greater power and influence. Get to know your neighbors and local elected officials. Work with both to brighten the corner, block, street on which you live. Invest in efforts that improve your neighborhood and community for all. Pay less attention to Washington, cable news and social media. Support local journalism.
Our soldiers who suffer from maladies due to the horrors they experienced in combat are among “the least of these.” They return home to families who love them, yet have no idea of how to help them. They return to a society that recognizes their service, honors them, and salutes their bravery, yet are unaware of the psychological, emotional, and spiritual trauma they endure.
With the country in the midst of a pandemic and election stress on the rise, congregations need to step into the gap to meet the needs not just of churchgoers, but people in their communities.
Your glory does not come from the ballot box but from God. Your honor does not come from voting but from God. That said, your glory and honor, and that of your neighbor, can be protected or jeopardize by the choices made when ballots are cast.
Nuestros Estados Unidos, se encuentran a un mes de unas elecciones que se perfilan a tener consecuencias trascendentales. Pensar que el resultado de las elecciones del 3 de noviembre puede determinarse solo por un poco más de la mitad de la población con capacidad para votar amenaza nuestro concepto de la democracia. Cuando solo un poco más de la mitad de la población elegible vota, no escuchamos la voz del pueblo, a penas escuchamos un susurro.
The year 2020 has certainly tested our anxiety, our testimony, and our resistance. Bringing out the best in us for a better year ahead in 2021 might spring not only from loving our neighbors as we would love ourselves, but also from the self-study of what it would take to honor the Sabbath as we have been commanded to do—not from Pharaoh, but from God.
His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope —The Journey of a Civil Rights Icon (Book Review)
President Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In remarks presenting the medal, Obama spoke of Lewis’s contributions for years to come. He stated, “And generations from now, when parents teach their children what is meant by courage, the story of John Lewis will come to mind — an American who knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time; whose life is a lesson in the fierce urgency of now.”
Marcus’ “Meditations” is a book of reflections he wrote for himself as he sought to face the challenges of ruling the Roman empire. He lived through the time of two plagues and faced down the possibility of civil war, not to mention navigating the difficulties of court politics. Marcus sought to look at himself and his behavior and what were the best decisions he could make as a leader. He did his best to focus on his own response rather than blaming others.
The Bible’s teachings about the gospel, which has historically meant the good news of God personally working for the common good of all creation to make salvation (both spiritual and physical restoration) available to all, has been replaced by a gospel of cultural and economic power and freedom that finds its center in the United States. This nationalistic theology naturally leads to questions about who will be allowed to experience the benefits of such a salvation.
As an instrument of God’s peace, mercy, and love, I choose to join and equip others to break racial barriers, be a bridge builder in the face of injustices, and stand against the destructive systemic nature of racism.
In less than a century, we have gone from the Model T to artificial intelligence. While our lives have been altered, much has remained the same. While technology soars, resources for low-income communities continue to dwindle, and injustice against minorities remains constant.
A close friend of mine died from colon cancer at the beginning of September. COVID-19 kept us from meeting in person. It kept some family from gathering in person. It kept friends from giving each other hugs. However, it didn’t stop us from assembling together and seeing each other’s faces. It didn’t stop us from praying. It didn’t stop us from sharing memories and photos and honoring our friend’s life. It didn’t stop us from caring for the family grieving.
How can we constructively engage in politics? We must stop making the false assumption that politics and our faith aren’t intimately connected. As a part of our faithfulness and spirituality, Christians are biblically compelled to care for our neighbors, respond to the needs of the poor, and be positive contributors to society.
The presence of the Beloved is constant, infinite and everywhere. We cannot not be in the presence of God. As we grow in our capacity for prayerful listening, we can notice and join the movements of the Spirit that bring healing, liberation and life.
As allegations of hysterectomies performed on detained immigrant women without informed consent are under investigation, I cannot comprehend that in 2020 this practice would happen in the United States. What justification could there be to subject women to the atrocity of forced sterilization?
We must spend the next few weeks both with bowed heads in prayer and with our eyes and ears alert to what is happening in our communities. Change begins at the local level and continues upward. Until this year I was fairly cynical that my vote could really make a difference, but this year I will vote not only like my life depends on it, but like the lives of the vulnerable and the marginalized around me depend on it too.
To be a Christian citizen is to work together for the common good. If some people are not included in your conception of human flourishing, it is time to reexamine your vision.
Celebrating may seem an odd practice in times where there is much to lament and navigate. I am hopeful congregants will consider offering a word of thanks to their pastors this month. Gratitude and acknowledgment for ministry may be infrequently expressed, but certainly, for your pastor, it will be gratefully received—especially right now.
Our United States stands now one month away from an election of what feels like momentous consequence. To think that the November 3 outcome may be cast by little more than half of our voting population threatens our concept of democracy. When marginally more than half of the age-eligible population votes, we don’t hear the voice of the people, we hear barely more than a whisper.
What does third-way wisdom look like in a congregational setting, especially in 2020 when a global pandemic rages and racial tensions flare in the midst of an election year? What can church leaders do to lift disparate people above the cacophony of partisan dog whistles and political posturing?
The current pandemic has altered what we do and how we do it; the practice of communion—during the liturgy and in our daily table fellowship—is no exception. Despite our altered circumstances and the deaths of so many, the spiritual food with which we draw and serve continues to multiply. No pandemic is going to alter that.
This year on World Communion Sunday, I suggest that what unifies Christians is the yearning for communion and the connection that it represents. Strangely, there is perhaps nothing more ecumenical than that unfulfilled desire in the midst of a pandemic, one of many missed points of connection.
“The challenge is to make and keep our communities places where we can tolerate, even celebrate, our differences, while pulling together for the common good,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in 1997. “‘Of many, one’ is the main challenge, I believe, and my hope for our country and world.”
Religion and politics can be hot topics of dissension. And yet, as people of faith, it is important to us to consider the inner nature of the women and men we choose as leaders. And so, while we should not hold candidates to a litmus test of faith that is identical to ours, we are indebted to the Apostle Paul for giving us nine words to consider as we evaluate the inner light, character, and spiritual health of those who would lead.