Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sermon: Where was Jesus?

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (June 21, 2015). 
Readings: 1 Sam. 17:32-49; Ps. 9:9-20; 2 Cor. 6:1-13; Mk. 4:35-41.
The phrase: "covered in the spilled blood of their friends and family" is a quote from Doug Perdue & Jennifer Berry's article "In an hour, a church changes forever," Charleston Post & Courier, June 19, 2015.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

BLOGFORCE Challenge: A Question of Resurrection for Executive Council Candidates

The Acts 8 Moment is asking candidates for Executive Council to answer one seemingly simple question:
“How will you share your love of Jesus inside and outside the church, and how must the church change in order to be more effective at proclaiming resurrection?”
Here's my answer.

Media preview
Photo credit: The Rev. E. Suzanne Wille

At Saturday's Indianapolis Pride parade, two others and I were assigned to carry our diocese's banner, with some 100+ Episcopalians walking behind us. In large print the banner read: "God loves you. No exceptions."

The streets on the parade route are narrow enough to allow direct interaction with the crowd. It turns out that when you're the bearer of Good News, electricity can spark. The crowd greeted our procession with cheers and shouts of "Amen" and "we love you, too!" Don't take my word for it - Indy’s ABC station's report backs me up.

I suspect we got such a big reaction because our message was what we believe about God, not who we are. Or, in Paul's words, "we [did] not proclaim ourselves, we proclaim[ed] Christ Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:5).

Yesterday's experience exemplifies a principle about proclaiming resurrection. Lead with the message of the faith that has changed my life; follow with the institution that helps form it. I’ve had a lot of practice having this kind of conversation lately through co-hosting a podcast about faith with my friend Holli, that’s also affected the conversations I have in daily life.

That principle of proclaiming not ourselves but our Lord applies equally to the institutional church. Among the more popular items of Episcapparel are t-shirts featuring Robin Williams' (apocryphal?) top 10 reasons to be Episcopalian. Whatever its resonance when first published, we need to put its status as a lighthearted creed to bed. "You can believe in dinosaurs" and "You don't have to check your brain at the door," presuppose an audience that already assumes church is important, with the main question for a denomination to answer being "which one?"

Our activities now and going forward should assume a culture that knows little about Jesus and may be hostile to hearing what we have to say. Except that maybe I'm overplaying that hostility. Because if my experience of yesterday's parade tells me anything, it's that our world longs to hear for word of God's love. But we need to be proclaiming that message much, much more clearly.