The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) grew out of the American frontier in an era in which the suspicion of institutions was growing. In that respect, it is not unlike our current era. As people of faith our founders were suspicious of creeds that served as tests of faith. This rejection of tests of faith is a critical ingredient of our identity as a unique part of the body of believers and followers of Jesus. It is typical for Disciples to joyously share pews with others who have come to different conclusions about some specifics of the faith. We are stronger because of this divergence of opinions. We are a people living into a recognition that we need all parts of the Body of Christ.
As a lifelong Disciple, I approach even the Preamble to the Design of the Christian Church with suspicion that it may be a little too creedal. Yet, it is an accurate statement of what Disciples believe in common. As I reflect on the different parts of the Preamble and how they inform my ministry, please know that these are my thoughts and not necessarily representative of all Disciples of Christ.
The Preamble begins with a confession. This is significant not only in content but in form. We have all failed to live fully into the people God dreams we can be. I confess to God and to humanity that I have failed to live into that dream. I am too self-focused, too frightened, and too controlling to trust the Divine as fully as I am called. It is only through grace (undeserved forgiveness) that I am the recipient of God’s extravagant, unconditional love.
It is through Jesus that I, along with other Disciples, find the living God. For me, the image of a living God is the One who is active in the world, nudging us and luring us on the path toward the Kingdom. As our United Church of Christ sisters and brothers remind us God is Still Speaking. The living God feels our joys, our sorrows, and our frustrations deeply.
It is the living God who cajoles me, pushes me, and lures me toward ordained ministry. It is the living God who demands of me that I share the joy, the contentment, and the restlessness for justice in witness and service to humanity. As the form of my ministry evolves, the profound pain, the deep woundedness of my fellow human beings demands that I express the living God’s extravagant love. This begins with confessing sins. I am called to confess personal sins, sins of my ancestors, sins of the Church, and sins of my generation.
Confession of sins is but the first step. The Creator’s covenant of love binds my ministry to others. I am not only bound to my fellow Disciples, or even just to fellow Christians, God’s covenant of love binds me to all of God’s Creation. I am bound to all of humanity, to the whole people of God. My call to ministry is bound to all who seek the Divine, by whatever name they call the Divine. My ministry is to those whose lives have been particularly severed by sin. (Sin is that which separates us from God and from one another.) The sin that separates them from the Divine and from others may be their own sin. The sin that severs may be my sin, it may be someone else’s sin, or it may be the systemic sin in which we all are entangled.
For Disciples, it is through baptism into Christ that we find newness, a life of re-presenting the Kingdom. It is as a follower of Jesus that my ministry finds Divine guidance and offers a glimpse of God’s emerging realm. Yet, I acknowledge that human flaws require the saving acts of Christ. I am not alone. I am joined together with other Disciples, with other Christians in the universal church, and with others following different paths provided by the Divine One. Within the communion of the Holy Spirit I am joined by the whole people of God to bring healing, to bring a glimpse of God’s realm.
As I seek to yield myself to God, I perceive a special calling to those who have been wounded by the Church and to those who have never known or felt the abundant love of the One. As a follower of Jesus, my ministry, when true to the Holy Spirit’s prodding and coaxing is a witness and service to the whole people of God. As a follower of Jesus my ministry, when true to God’s abundant, unconditional love provides a glimpse of God’s healing of a fragmented world and what God dreams we will become.
Blessing, glory, and honor
be to God forever. Amen.