There was a people who lived in darkness. A people who were gathered and then dispersed. Who followed unfaithfully and yet faithfully, willingly and unwillingly. A people who prospered yet were forsaken. A people dispersed and reunited. A people who were victorious and defeated. A people who ultimately lived under oppression from their rulers and who suffered economically, spiritually, and physically.
These people waited generations for a Savior. One who would “bring good news to the poor. Who would proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. One who would let the oppressed go free, and to declare to all that this is the year of the Lord’s favor.”
The people waited for one to come and make all things right. A warrior to defeat the enemy. ENTER JESUS. Not a warrior, but the Great Reconciler sent to reconcile all things. All things unto himself. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” Jesus proclaimed. “I have been anointed to make all things right. I am the Great Reconciler.”
And those sitting around him looked at him and were amazed. But wait they said. Isn’t this Joseph’s son? – we know him as a carpenter’s son! How can he claim to be someone else? Much less the “King” we’ve been waiting for?
A number of years ago, I heard these words: “What and who you see depends on where you sit.” These words were spoken by the first African American female pastor ordained into the UCC. Those were the introductory words to a two weeklong immersion experience in the inner city of Chicago where we faced discrimination and inequity in many forms – economic, race, education, housing, gender. I have let that experience and those words resonate in my heart and soul as I have encountered the world: What and who I see depends on where I sit. How am I interpreting this situation? How am I “seeing” the world and all its diversity? How am I welcoming this diversity that I am a part of?
If truth be told, many of us would acknowledge that life is easier if we stay in our own tribes. The problem is that we don’t “see” all tribes as equal. And what we see most is the very tribe we live and exist in. Perhaps because…“What you see depends on where you sit.” So, my friends, we need to get up and move. To discover our own biases and prejudices. Take off our own blinders and look outside of our tribe.
Now many of us would say, and it is true, that at Epiphany Lutheran Church ELCA (the church I serve), we took the step and moved out of our tribes and created a new tribe. And this is true. We are recognized as a Reconciling in Christ community in the ELCA.
So let me point out one perhaps small yet profound nuance. RECONCIING. In the English language, the “ING” indicates that it is happening. That it has happened, is happening, and will continue into the unforeseen future, until we change the tense. In other words, it is what we are about. It is, if you will, our DNA. Which means that we are called to be continually reconciling. Because reconciling is a fundamental value to who we are.
So, what does it mean to be “reconciling?” Webster would define it as “the restoration of friendly relations.” Be nice to others, be welcoming to all. We might immediately jump to check that off our list: well done us RIC people.
The truth of the matter is, what does “All are Welcome” really project? What does it imply in this place? According to trans and gay and lesbian pastors and lay folk of the ELCA, an LBGTQIA+ person would say that “All are Welcome” has a variety of different implications: All are welcome… who belong here… All are welcome… who look like us…. All are welcome… who want to be like us… So , hanging out a shingle that says, All are welcome, may not be entirely welcoming.
As a RECONCILING IN CHRIST COMMUNITY OF FAITH IN THE ELCA, we are called to a higher standard. In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes to the Corinthians who were learning to live into a new community :
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Reconciliation through Jesus means new life – a righteousness that is marked by the cross of Christ forever. As reconciled people through the death and resurrection of JC we are ambassadors for Christ. And as the body of Christ, we are reconciled to each other. We are one in Christ. Which means that when the body of Christ is hurting in any way, we are called to be advocates for each other, so that no one is left outside the tribe. Our welcoming mat, all we do and all we say, projects a rainbow, if you will, out into the world that casts a hue of love, respect, and inclusion. A hue of reconciliation.
And reconciliation begins, right here. Reconciling…… seeing, naming and claiming our own stuff that blocks us from entering into full relationship with each other. And as an always RECONCILING IN CHRIST community, we are called to set our hearts and eyes to God, asking for grace and forgiveness, leading us to be advocates in this world, and stand with the oppressed. As an always RECONCILING IN CHRIST community, we need to be always asking, “How will we advocate for our queer siblings and those who are the most vulnerable in this room?” How will we strive for Trans inclusion, especially the Black trans woman whose average life span is 35 years old.
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians (3: 27-29) reminds us that: in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
The Gospel, the good news that The Spirit of the Lord anointed Jesus to bring to the poor and marginalized – is exactly that – good news for everyone – equally. As racism, sexism, ageism, able-ism, heterosexism, homophobia, and all the other artificial distinctions that seek to raise one tribe into privilege and preference over another, together they conspire to diminish our world and church. So as advocates of the good news of JC the great reconciler, we are called to advocate for systemic change in policy and practice in both church and society, working to alleviate not only the painful symptoms of oppression but also to eliminate its root causes. This, my friends, is the way we do church. Jesus-style.
Through our baptism, we too have been anointed for this work. Read aloud Jesus’ words of conviction in Luke 4: 18-19, as if they are your own.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me ,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Let the people say….Amen!