From the Pastor, January/February 2017


Our time is a time of epochal change, in which everything is in motion. Some of it is horrifying and heartbreaking. The ugliness of our country’s long-existing shadow side of racism and xenophobia is erupting for the whole world to see. Institutions are eroding, along with people’s trust in them. Capitalism’s excesses and inequalities are on full display. Socialism is no longer a word younger Americans fear. Nation states have given way to transnational corporations as rivals for the dominant power in the world. People are leaving religion for so-called spirituality (the NONE’s who check “none of the above” in survey’s of religious affiliation) and many are fed up with religion altogether (the DONE’s).

As we hover in this liminal space, this in between space, with all the turmoil, terror, and transformative possibility it entails, we face a choice at all times: to evolve and move, or to resist evolution and stand still. Or worse, to fight change with tooth, nail, and executive order. These two energies are playing themselves out in our country and world. After all, what stands still against elements of change more forcefully than social, legal and literal walls? But “Do not be fooled,” Pope Francis says, “all walls fall.”

For any movement to have actual movement it must be in service of a vision. There are lots of visions in the world, however, and the church’s vision categorically differs from, say, the Republican, Democratic Party or the Rotary Club. Vision, for Christians, at least, is tied to relationship with God. To see God, and to be seen by God, is to know God. Knowing God, though, is inherently tied to mutual relationships with each other and all of creation. Relationship with God is not only “vertical,” between myself and God; it is horizontal, flowing in relationship with people, living beings and the earth. When we move from thinking of God as a being to God as Being-itself, we find ourselves in relationship with a God of movement. This makes all the difference: if God is being itself, then all that participates in being participates in God. So, for example, when we turn away refugees, we are turning away the face of God.

I believe we are living in one of those critical times in which our moral responses to injustice matters greatly. Either we are outspoken in our resistance to racism and fear, or we are silent and complicit. My sermons may take on a more political bent these days, and our collective actions may do so as well. How can they not? To follow Jesus Christ is itself a political act.

So, First Congregational Church, in this time of tremendous injustice, uncertainty and change, in a time of crisis for the environment and all marginalized people, what will be our vision? Will we renew our commitment to a progressive Christian vision of knowing God, caring and taking action for the earth and the most vulnerable? Will we partner when possible with national and global movements of justice out of common cause? Will we root our action in practices of contemplation and silence? Will we continue to offer vibrant worship not only for the people here, in the pews, but to find meaningful ways to connect with the people who are not here? As Brian Mclaren says, will we give up the status quo of organized religion in favor of organizing religion for change? I think we’re up for it.


Rev. Mark
This newsletter article was adapted from Rev. Mark’s Sermon of January 29, 2017