I am re-posting this excellent article from my boss, The Rev. Todd Miller, Rector of Trinity Parish in Newton Centre. It is based on a sermon he preached shortly after the Presidential Election of 2016, after which so many were struck with fear over the possible uprising of old hatreds.
In the Episcopal Church’s Catechism, the stated mission of the Church “is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ (The Book of Common Prayer, p 855). In Eucharistic Prayer A – the form of the Eucharistic prayers used most often at Trinity – we give thanks to God that God “sent Jesus Christ… to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all” (BCP, p 362).
Our Christian faith is about “restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ;” we Christians, following the example of Jesus, are called to be agents of reconciliation. Our country, sharply divided over the recent election and in transition to a new administration, is counting on us Christians to live into our identity and to be agents of reconciliation.
Reconciliation is in our “DNA,” for our Christian faith is all about uniting what seems opposite: Christmas brings together heaven and earth; Jesus unites the human and divine; the sacraments use elements of this world to signify something of the next. We Christians know how to bring together seeming opposites; we have it within us to be agents of reconciliation.
At our Diocesan Convention in November, Bishop Gates spoke of two Greek words: paranoia and metanoia. The former means “beside or beyond one’s mind,” the latter “to change one’s mind or purpose.” Paranoia is about fear, but metanoia is about love. We Christians are called not to paranoia but to metanoia, for we are to love, and – as Scripture reminds us – “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). Imagine, if we could but love more deeply and widely, if we could love more fully like the one who first loved us, how we might dispel the paranoia that so often surrounds us!
One concrete way to be an agent of reconciliation – to do metanoia rather than paranoia – is to notice the good in our country. Look at how many good people there are, on either side of the political divide! It will require conversion – metanoia – to see past our fears, suspicions and stereotypes. But it can be done. With God’s help, perhaps we can even come to see more like God sees: that all are beloved, forgiven children of God; that all are worthy of respect, dignity and love.
Among those who did not vote for President-elect Trump, there has been much talk about the “end” of our country as we know it. We Christians have a very different vision of the “end.” The book of Revelation reminds us that this is God’s world and that God is in the process of winning this very world back to God’s self. At the end, says Revelation, God will come down from heaven and make his home here among mortals: “He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (Rev 21:3-4).
I hope and pray that, during this time of transition, we will not give in to paranoia but will instead pray for metanoia. I hope that we will not be afraid, that we will accord to others the respect and dignity and love due them as fellow children of God. I pray that we can see past stereotypes to see how much good is in this world. And I hope we can trust that God – who works in mysterious ways – loves this world and is even now laboring to “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”
See you Sunday,