I had lunch with a friend yesterday. After catching up and sharing the current details of life, we got on the subject of redemption – specifically, God’s redemption of all things. (Yup, that’s us…on a sidewalk café in Wrigleyville.)
This conversation was about a very specific relationship, and yet, I think could transcend to many broken relationships. God redeems and makes new. That is what God does. That is the business God is in. What about when one person in the relationship does not repent, does not own up to their mistakes and the hurt it caused. Can there be sacred redemption without human repentance? My theology says yes. God does not need us to make all things new. But my (and our) human healing needs a bit of repentance.
Jump ahead to later that day when I am reading Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the U.S. by Lenny Duncan. In this book Pastor Duncan has a powerful chapter called: Repentance, Reparations, Reconciliation. His book is a challenge to the churchbody in which he serves. (and I serve)
This is what I hear as I read: Stop with the hand-wringing about declining numbers and monetary giving. The answer to the future of the church is to welcome all people, specifically people of color and LGBTQIA folks. And not with greeters at the door and a gift of a mug with the church logo. The only welcome that will “save” the church as we know it is to dismantle it. Acknowledge the racism, sexism, toxic masculinity, and nationalism that permeates the organizational structure and replace it the three “R’s” above – in that order.
OK, I know that is a lot to take in if you have not read this book. (Church leaders - I urge you to read this book.) It helped me frame our individual relationships and the hurt and harm we inflict on one another. Yes, God makes things new. God also desires us to see the divine nature of each other and God hurts when we discard the sacred for our desire to be ….. (right, powerful, smart, in control, etc)
- Repentance: sincere regret or remorse
- Reparations: the making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money or otherwise helping those who have been wronged
- Reconciliation: the restoration of a relationship
Wow. That is hard. We are called to do hard work. All of us. Not just pastors and church staff. All of us. We are called to be a part of God’s healing in and of the world.
Finally, in church this morning the Bible lessons, hymns and prayers were all about healing. (Of course, they were.) When we sang the hymn, We Come to You for Healing, Lord, tears welled up in my eyes. Our personal relationships are broken. Our political system is broken. Our churches’ established practices are broken. That all feels heavy.
There is hope. That is why I come to church: to be reminded of that hope and to be with others who hope.
And I go to be reminded that God can and does make all things new.
We Come to You for Healing, Lord
We come to you for healing, Lord, of body, mind and soul,
and pray that by your Spirit’s touch, we may again be whole.
As once you walked through ancient streets and reached toward those in pain,
come, risen Christ, among us still with power to heal again.
When nights are long with wakefulness, through days when strength runs low,
grant us your gift of patience, Lord, your calming peace to know.
We come to you, O loving Lord, in our distress and pain,
in trust that through our nights and days your grace will heal, sustain.