Rev. Scott Summerville
II Corinthians 5:17-19
Therefore, if any one is in Christ, she is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself… and entrusting us with the message of reconciliation.” Those are words written by the apostle Paul somewhere around the year 50 when the Christian church was just getting started.
With those words Paul proclaimed that the love of God and the reconciling ministry of Christ were universal and global , that the vivion of the Gospel encompasses all the earth. On world communion Sunday, this is our message: God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself and entrusting us — entrusting us — with the message of reconciliation.
One of the perks of my job is that I get to go to other people’s wedding parties. In the last three weeks I have been invited to two wedding banquets. It’s nice that there are so many people in this congregation who are in love and getting married — more parties for me! At a wedding party you see the proud parents, the sentimental elders pondering their own youth; the mix of friends and family and generations. Customs vary from place to place, but there is something universal about a wedding. With minor variations that party could have taken place almost anywhere on earth. There are basic universal human things; love and desire and mating and family and generations passing on love and hope to the next generations.
Human beings have so much in common; we share the same basic needs. We have so much in common, but the human community is so divided and torn by conflict and inequality. Christians are invited by God to participate in a global ministry of reconciliation. There has never been a time when this has been more urgent than it is today.
I was moved by something that our mission chairperson, John Mallory, said last week as she described her own passion for the witness of the church in the world. She said that when people ask her whether she is a Christian, she says, “I am a human being, a woman, I am a mother, and in all these ways I identify myself with billions of other people,” and then she says, “I am a Christian.” She said it much more eloquently than that, but that was the essence of it.
When we make contacts with other human beings across any boundaries, we are participating in the ministry of reconciliation. When two people with different political views take time to express their views to one another openly and sincerely attempt to listen to the other person, they are participating in the ministry of reconciliation. When individual human beings and nations resolve conflicts through dialogue rather than through violence they are participating in the ministry of reconciliation.
Whenever we are able to deal with differences with maturity and thoughtfulness, we are participating in the ministry of reconciliation, and it is holy, sacred work.
We are all deeply concerned about the economic upheaval of the present moment. None of us knows exactly what effect the current economic crisis will have on our jobs, our savings, our mortgages, our retirement, our children, our grandchildren, and we do not know how it will affect our church.
One thing that absolutely clear is that whatever’s going on is bigger than you and bigger than me. It is bigger than any one nation; it is truly global. The human species is now aware that we are part of the earth’s ecology, and we now know that only as a global species with a global consciousness can human beings survive on this planet.
In our time the human race ventured into space and looked back to see for the first time the earth as a single entity, a blue-green sandy brown sphere, wrapped in a swirl of cloud.
But long before out time, long before the emergence of the global economy, long before we saw the earth from space, there was revealed to the human mind the deep spiritual truth that there is one world and one humanity.
The Hebrew poet said, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world of those who dwell therein.” Jesus told the parable of the merciful Samaritan and asked the question, “who is my neighbor?” And by that question he shattered the notion that being a Jew, a Samaritan, a Greek or Egyptian meant more than being a human being. He pointed the way to a global understanding of humanity as the Hebrew prophets did before him.
And when Paul declared, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation,” it can be said that humanity had attained a truly global consciousness.
On this World Communion Sunday, in this time of such enormous confusion, when even the greatest minds and wisest experts are confounded, when we are feeling a sense of strain economically and ecologically that is truly global, each of us is called by God to proclaim God’s reconciling love and to reflect that reconciling love in our life.
The scary word floating around this scary world at this very moment is the word, “melt down.” It is a word that suggests things coming unglued, things unraveling, institutions failing, and all of us getting flooded or swept away in a storm. In a world where things fall apart, Christians are challenged to be those who bring people together.
Today we take communion in a spirit of friendship and solidarity with one another. It is a time to recommit ourselves to serving Christ together in the spirit of friendship and shalom. Today we take communion in a spirit of friendship and solidarity with the world, with women and men and children of every country and religion and background. We do not all have the same religious ideas and sacraments, but we are one humanity, and we are one in God.
Today we take communion in a spirit of friendship and solidarity with Christians across the world, and they will remember us and pray for us. Many millions of these sisters and brothers are facing struggles for survival that are beyond anything we can imagine. When the prosperous nations are hurting, it is even more difficult for the voices of the poor to be heard. There can be no reconciliation of earth as long as half of the human race is impoverished. The challenge of global poverty, and the willingness to look at the systems of injustice that underlie that poverty, this is a crucial part of the ministry of reconciliation in the 21st century.
As we come to the communion rail today and share in the feast of Christ, I repeat a word that I spoke last Sunday in this age of great instability and uncertainty and anxiety: To the worried and the weary I say, ” Hang in there.”
To those who are called to lead, I say, “Stand up and lead with courage and hope.” And to all I say, “Take the sacrament and go forth as one who is called in Christ to the ministry of reconciliation.
Grace and peace to you.