Saturday, February 07, 2009

On the way to God

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori answers the question "Why should I be an Episcopalian?"

Here she answers the question "Is the only way to God through Jesus?"

The answer she gives in the second video is very much like the answer I have given to the very same question asked of me in both public settings like this and one on one. Jefferts Schori says that to limit a persons salvation to a particular faith statement is to limit the possibility of grace.

The way I would say it is to say God's sovereignty is such that God can do whatever God pleases whenever and however God pleases, and the way God works is far above my--and our--understanding. Christians understand that we are separated from God by sin, that God made us in God's image and blessed us, but that we have gone far away from what God made us to be. I would say that through Jesus' incarnation, his death on the cross and resurrection, we have been rescued from our captivity and the way to God has been opened. The incarnation, passion and resurrection also shows us Christians that God is not only concerned with our souls or spirits, but is concerned with all of us and all of creation and that in Christ God is renewing and restoring all things. Pentecost shows us that God has given us a role in the renewal and restoration of God's people. Our Prayer Book says in the Catechism that "the mission of the church is retore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." (p. 855)

So, as Bishop Jefferts Schori has said, God has made promises and they are being kept. God has restored and is restoring humanity and creation to our place of blessedness. God has given us a role and a task in caring for God's people and creation.

There are two things I would add to her answer: if a person asked me to tell them Good News of God in Jesus Christ, I would do it and I would invite them to make room in their lives and heart, to explore and experience the love of God in Christ Jesus. Second, I would echo what the Bishop said, it is essential that we Christians demonstrate the love of God in how we live and how we are with people. In the Diocese of Bethlehem we say "Share God's love: tell what you have seen and heard."

President Obama's story is a good example of someone telling what he has seen and heard. His is a story that I have found echoed in parishioners, co-workers, friends and acquaintances over and over again. He said at the National Prayer Breakfast last week:

I was not raised in a particularly religious household. I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist, grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion, even as she was the kindest, most spiritual person I’ve ever known. She was the one who taught me as a child to love, and to understand, and to do unto others as I would want done.

I didn’t become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or a sudden revelation, but because I spent month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck – no matter what they looked like, or where they came from, or who they prayed to. It was on those streets, in those neighborhoods, that I first heard God’s spirit beckon me. It was there that I felt called to a higher purpose – His purpose.

Christians often put conditions on God's activity. It is natural and everyone does it. After all, God is a tad bigger and a tad more complex than we are. The problem comes when we use God--our limited image of God-- to reinforce our fears or when we assume that God can only work in everybody else exactly the way God works with us. 

People are seeking love, hope, meaning, direction, connection and purpose. Another way of saying that is that people seek salvation. Our call and our challenge is to both offer Good News--to be, in our words and actions, ambassadors for Christ--while at the same time allowing God's Spirit to work without constraint or condition.

Or as Father Matthew says:


Ann said...

This is a keeper --

John B. Chilton said...