strengthen us in prayer
that we may lift up the brokenness of this world
for your healing,
and share in the saving love
of Jesus Christ. Amen.
It has been more than a year since I stood on the floor of Foothills Presbytery to preach and be examined for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). The sermon I preached that day spoke to feelings of sorrow and anguish at the news around us – shootings in Ferguson, Missouri, and Charleston – and overflowed in words of repentance and a call to actions of love and reconciliation in our community of faith.
Now, a year later, the shootings continue, the protests continue, the conflict between races and religions and ethnicities continues. And I ask, how long?
This summer at its General Assembly, the PC (USA) adopted the Belhar Confession as its twelfth confessional document. It did so acknowledging the continuing need for faithful action as the church of Jesus Christ, for reconciliation, and for justice. The Belhar Confession affirms that “God has entrusted the church with the message of reconciliation.” Along with the Confession of 1967, Belhar is meant “for just such a time as this” – for a time when people of faith of different colors recoil in horror at the treatment of black men and police officers, of innocent people and faithful servants.
The Confession of 1967, crafted during the tumultuous days of the 1960s when protests erupted over racial discrimination and the war in Vietnam, called the church to action: “God’s reconciling work in Jesus Christ and the mission of reconciliation to which he has called his church are the heart of the gospel in any age. Our generation stands in peculiar need of reconciliation in Christ” (9.06). Fifty years later, we still are plagued with racism, global war and violence, poverty, and gender injustice.
When we regard the world around us, we are called to repentance – repentance for not being more faithful to the call of the Confession of 1967, to the new words of the Belhar Confession, and to the suffering of our brothers and sisters. As the church of Jesus Christ, we are called to be a living demonstration of what God intends for all humanity. We pray each week, “Our Father … thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” How are we working to bring God’s kingdom into fruition in our world?
Dear friends, the world needs the love of God more than perhaps any other time in its history, and the church needs the work of faithful Christians. I encourage you to engage in prayerful reflection and study in the coming days and weeks. Read the Confession of 1967 and the Belhar Confession. Both are available online (pcusa.org/c67 and pcusa.org/belharconfession), or you can see me to get a printed copy. Together, let us explore how we might be the hands and feet of Christ in this world.
“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ep. 4:1-6).