On Sunday, we heard God's call to "mercy, not sacrifice" on the lips of Hosea and Jesus. As I mentioned in my sermon, this refrain shows up repeatedly throughout the scriptures. Again and again, God loves his people with a steadfast love that most often gets translated "mercy." Again and again, those same people fail to rejoice in, return to, and live by that mercy. And so again and again, the God of mercy calls his people to repentance. To turn from the hypocrisy, injustice, greed, and idolatry that has infected their religious sacrifices and to receive his abundant mercy anew. Our God desires mercy, not sacrifice.
As I look around at the church in America, I see a need for such humble repentance almost everywhere, highlighted in recent documentaries, podcasts, and denominational scandals. No institution, no church, no leader, no follower of Jesus is exempt from God's call to repentance, including our own church and each one of us.
You may have received an email last week from the Archbishop of our province, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), with an update on the situation in the Upper Midwest Diocese (UMD). I have watched the situation in the UMD closely over the past few years with deep concern, and I've written about it several times. I know that many of you are watching too, and have come to me and Katie to discuss and pray about your questions and concerns. In response to these latest developments, I would like to invite you to pray.
First and foremost, please pray for the survivors of abuse in the UMD. God's call to mercy, not sacrifice, is often in response to his people's failures to protect vulnerable people in their midst. We must not allow church conflicts to overshadow our responsibility to care for the most vulnerable. And so we remember and pray for the survivors, especially children. Pray for the long, slow process of healing. Pray that they would know God sees, hears, and cares for them. Pray for their protection. Pray for justice and resolution.
And then please pray for our province, our leaders, our diocese, our church. Pray that we would be a people of mercy, not sacrifice. Pray that the truth would come to light. Pray that God's light would cast out darkness. Pray that God would renew his church. Pray for our bishop.
Our summer curate, Russell, has a habit of weaving the Collect for Purity into his prayers, which I have really appreciated as we've prayed together this summer. If you are at a loss for how to pray for the church, I think that's a great starting point: "Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen." Amen, amen, amen.
And finally, do not be afraid. I often speak about our ministry using farming imagery: planting, tending, looking to the harvest. To continue that imagery, we might imagine these broader church conflicts as dark clouds gathering overhead. But we will keep our hands to the plow and our eyes to the soil as we seek to faithfully continue the work of sowing and tending in South Arlington. We will entrust our field to our Master Farmer, our Lord of the Harvest (to reference this Sunday's gospel text), who is not surprised or hindered by dark clouds.
It is such a gift to be your pastor. I spoke on Sunday of how moved I was by the way your Pentecost reflections were marked by a spirit of humility and repentance. I pray that we will grow deeper into this humility and repentance as a community, and that God will form us into people of mercy.
As always, please come talk to me if you have questions, concerns, or anything you'd like to discuss. I'm praying for all of us.
- I'm excited for the various summer book clubs this summer! Sign up for the adult book discussion on our small groups page. And start reading The Secret Garden for an all-ages discussion at the July 2 potluck.
- Our recitation of the Athanasian Creed a few weeks ago on Trinity Sunday certainly sparked discussion at my lunch table; did it at yours? Read Becky's brilliant piece about this creed.
- Save the date for our fall retreat, October 6-8, at Camp Highroad!