This is the week when members of the media take a vacation, so the airwaves are full of canned retrospectives on the year. These looks back are helpful, however, to a faith community like ours. As a church that chooses to remain in a vibrant part of a large city, CCCUCC is affected, like it or not, by what happens locally, nationally and even internationally. If we desire to be a vital part of our community and to follow Jesus' teaching that we love our neighbors, how we respond to the news of our time matters. When events impact the lives of those in contact with our church, we can respond in one of three ways:
1. as many churches do, we can be silent, thereby demonstrating we are irrelevant to the lives of people around us;
2. as some churches do, we can offer arrogant judgment and scapegoating thereby demonstrating we are opposed to many around us;
3. or as very few churches do, we can offer words of hope and we can stand alongside those who suffer.
Just think about the news stories of 2012: a presidential election in which low-income people were often vilified; the shooting of Trayvon Martin when we as a nation were confronted with our prejudice towards African-American males; mass shootings at a movie theater in Colorado, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and an elementary school in Connecticut; the devastation of hurricane Sandy; the declarations by male politicians-including Missouri's own Todd Akin-that dismissed rape and violence against women; the on-going battle for the rights of same-sex couples-including the declaration by a local Johnson County, KS politician that one could not be a Christian and support LGBT rights; the continuing financial scandals in which those most responsible face little or no punishment-I think you get the idea.
A Church that wishes to follow in the way of Jesus can neither be silent nor stand with the few who benefit from the suffering of the many. So how do we as a community of faith enter 2013 and respond to 2012?
There are four responses that immediately come to my mind regarding how CCCUCC can respond to the issues facing our community, nation and world.
1. We can remain faithful to one another as a faith community. Each member and regular attendee can commit herself or himself to strengthening our church. As we gather together for worship and service, our faith community itself is a response to the needs of our day. We can demonstrate that people of faith who are gay and straight, male and female, rich and poor, black, brown and white, can find common cause and care for one another. A church can be a place where such cultural divisions are overcome.
2. We can offer a more loving form of Christianity. When it comes to doctrine or positions on social issues, if we are to err, then we err on the side of grace and love. Rather than offering a God who condemns or stands aloof from the suffering in our world, we can offer our belief in a God who chooses love over church doctrine and comfort over hurtful simplistic answers. Given that the dominant voices of Christianity are shrill and hateful, we can speak up with a voice of welcoming love.
3. We can engage with our city. We may not be able to directly care for the people of Newtown, CT, Aurora, CO or Oak Creek, WI, but we can offer ourselves to the people of Kansas City who are affected by gun violence. I am hopeful that the new initiative responding to community violence beginning in 2013 by MORE2, may be a way for us as a congregation to help change the violent dynamics of Kansas City.
4. We can dream new dreams. In 2012, I made a big change in my life and the life of my family; I came to CCCUCC. One of the things that attracted me to this church is that its very DNA contains a history of creative responses to the needs around it: ministry to people with HIV/AIDS, childcare and tutoring for low-income students, helping to provide shelter space for homeless people, etc. etc. etc. Each of these past actions began with someone risking themselves to dream and to step forward in leadership for a cause they were passionate about. It is time for the members of CCCUCC to open themselves again to new dreams.
I am eager to face 2013 with you, as we together find ways to respond to the needs of those just outside our church doors and across the globe.
Grace and Peace,