During the past month, preaching themes have been centered in peacemaking - making peace in our relationships, in ourselves, and in the world. Bible studies on the stories of Joseph and his brothers kept us conscious of how complex the process of forgiveness can be - - how long it may take to come to fruition, how necessary forgiveness is for peace to prevail.
Although we did not sing it, the closing phrase from the Doris Akers hymn of the ‘60s kept flowing in my brain: “without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived when we shall leave this place.” I came away feeling personally renewed, energized for the challenges of living in this terribly stressed world.
Revival - it conjures images of a week-long event, loud, energetic exhortation, hands in the air praise, crowds of worshippers testifying and witnessing, lives changed in an instant, personal transformation. But that kind of revival doesn’t focus on the communal life of a congregation and its ministry in the world. The revitalization of a worshipping community doesn’t happen quite that spontaneously. It takes a conscious and focused effort, rigorous self examination, willingness to expend precious time and energy in behalf of the life of the community, openness to the movement of a Spirit greater than the human effort, submission to the lively guidance of that Spirit in the service of the building of beloved community.
In the life of this congregation, the coming weeks and months will attest to the effectiveness and power of a dynamic time of worship and a renewed commitment to live as beloved community.
The January 6th hearings have begun. We watched last night as every major channel except FoxNews put the opening statement of the committee before the American people. As I reflected on what is required for the revitalization and transformation of a small New England congregation, the profound level of self-examination, the nurturing of the ability to forgive, the willingness seek restorative justice, the herculean effort to route out racial bias, I wondered if uncovering the events of January 6 might have the power to begin the process of renewal in our national politics. (One can dream, can’t one?)
For our little congregation, so much begins with truth telling, with coming to the table with authenticity and a desire for a wholeness - communal and individual. So much depends on our willingness and ability to trust one another, on our willingness to commit to the hard work of living in covenant with each other.
We have lost that in our national politics.
From the covenant document our church is using: “Covenants can create a web of loving relationships, so that how we treat each other becomes an expression of our faith…We strive to be kind and compassionate and to honor the diversity within our congregation, recognizing that any lack of respect for one another can undermine our pursuit of beloved community. In the last few years, white supremacy, racial discrimination, systemic racism, and unconscious bias have been at the forefront of our attention. They can and do weaken our sense of community…this new covenant recognizes these differences and dynamics and expresses our intention to be accountable to each other in the work of creating and sustaining Beloved Community. We confess that we err and often fall short of our aspirations. But we believe we are held together by grace, and uphold the faith that together we can build and rebuild a beloved community today and for years to come.”
Creative and restorative visions often start out small - - maybe even as small as the one held by a little New England congregation, desiring to live together in a “yeastly way” - - trusting that its efforts will leaven a larger loaf in ways yet unseen.
Back to hoping and dreaming again…perhaps carrying a vision…a congress willing to hear and tell the truth; willing to respect one another; willing to keep in front of them the wholeness of a nation; willing to make the sacrifices of ego and power required to begin to build beloved community in a wounded and suffering country. To paraphrase the old song from" South Pacific: "We have to have a dream. If we don't have a dream, how are we going to have a dream come true???"