Monday, April 6, 2020

DEAR EVANGELICALS: "A Letter to My Sisters & Brothers"

Holy Week
April 6, 2020

Friends of Christ,

I write this morning with love in my heart, love for you and for the One whose way is Mercy.  I am a frail and broken man, in many ways, and only God's love can work such grace in me.  Only Jesus can raise my fragile bones to courage and witness.  In God alone is my hope.

This same Jesus invites in me, and in the church, the most expansive and courageous love: love for our adversaries and antagonists, love for nations near and nations far, love for our ancestors deep in the past, and love for unseen generations yet to come.  This love is itself the way of the cross: the disciples' path that leads to Jerusalem, and a servant's calling, and our own sacrifice in the name of compassion and justice.  In such loving is the mystery of Easter itself, the promise of resurrection and eternal life.  Praise God, and God's Beloved One, Jesus the Christ!

With all of you, I lift my heart in praise and gratitude for the extraordinary service of nurses and doctors, EMTs and ER attendants, infectious disease specialists and officials doing everything they can to provide guidance and hope.  These dear ones are of one mind in service: though Christian and Jew, though believer and skeptic, though Muslim and Hindu, though born of many lands and beliefs.  And it fills my spirit with joy to see the Holy One calling out the sweetest human gifts, the most eternal gifts, among such a diverse community of public servants.  Praise God, O Praise God, from whom all blessings flow, and flow, and flow!

I write, dear friends, to beg your courage in naming God's hope and dreaming God's dream.  This moment, our moment, requires our bold witness and faith.  Christ crucified and risen requires our constancy and hope.  When our leaders demean and diminish one another and tout their own greatness, they mock the humility of God's wisdom and mercy.  When these same leaders refuse to acknowledge their own humanness, their own frailty, and their own mistakes in leadership, they miss the promise of grace and the path to healing and wholeness.  When they speak of Easter as a money-making holiday, and America as a business venture, they pervert the cause of God's justice and love. 

In a special way, I speak to you, my Evangelical brothers, my Evangelical sisters.  In my heart, I am one of you: I only see by the light of God's grace; I only walk by the wisdom of Jesus' gospel; I only minister by the healing of the Spirit, and by no accomplishment of my own doing.  It breaks my heart when Christian friends go blindly for the kind of leadership that touts its own greatness.  It breaks my heart when Christian friends make allowances for leadership that mocks disability and encourages profanity and celebrates abuse and violence.  Is this the path to the cross?  Is this the way of salvation and shalom?  Is this the kind of leadership we lift high for our children, for our churches, for our culture?  

The Risen One blesses the meek, and the merciful.  The Risen One kneels to wash the feet of his friends and adversaries.  The Risen One humbles himself and invites a humble church to do the same.

"If there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete," this is Paul in his Letter to the Church at Philippi.  "Be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others."

As it was for the Philippians, so it is for us now: a moment of discernment, a moment for choosing.  Will we choose the tired language of selfishness, the old patterns of exploitation, the worn-out habits of greed and blame?  Or will we choose humility and love, in the manner of Jesus, on his journey to Jerusalem, doing "nothing from selfish ambition or conceit"?  The God of Moses and Miriam, the God of all the prophets, the God of Mary and Jesus awaits our response.  Leadership that mocks humility, perverts justice and promotes its own interests (at the expense of so much that is good and holy) is an affront to the gospel itself.

So, I beg you, sisters and brothers in Christ, to look again, to see with the eyes of faith and love.  The leadership we have enshrined is abusive and proud, not brave and bold.  It's born of insecurity and faithlessness, and it leads us now into a desert of narcissism and unrestrained greed.  This is not the path into blessing for the earth's many peoples and creatures.  This is not the path into wholeness, salvation, shalom and peace.  It is a practice of division and meanness, a tool of the very, very rich, at war with the rest of us.  If your preachers say otherwise, if your preachers insist on political leadership that demeans and hoards, they lead you astray.   Very, very far astray.  By their preaching, the gospel is perverted.

So "let the same mind be in you"--now, in 2020--"that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross."  This is our calling, friends, now and always.  In the name of this Jesus, whose love is overwhelming in mercy, whose justice is made sweet by grace, open your eyes and seek leadership that offers hope.  Let us empty ourselves of all pride, empty ourselves of all anger and hatred, empty ourselves of all pretense.  Let us speak boldly of justice and mercy.  Let us resist the rulers who insist on division and mockery.  And let us be obedient (attentive, faithful, alert and devoted) to the way of the cross.  For in Christ there is the promise of new life, the promise of healing peace, and the glorious promise of Easter's feast.

I know only grace, and my own imperfections and weakness.  By God's grace, I stand here and speak to you as a brother in Christ.  While I have many thoughts about elections, democracy and November's election, this letter is not about all that.  Not yet.  Instead, I call you to discipleship.  I call you to sisterhood, brotherhood and kinship with the Christ who comes to your home, to your shop, to your school--even now, even today--and says "Follow me."  The time is now.  To cast aside the gospel of bondage.  To cast aside the gospel of bravado.  To cast aside the gospel of groping and abuse.

Seek first the kingdom of God.  Seek first the kingdom of Love.  Seek first the kingdom made bright by the sacrifice of the King.  This is our home.  This is our faith.  And this, dear Christians, is our calling.

Yours on the Way together,

Pastor Dave Grishaw-Jones
Holy Week 2020