In the past month since I’ve been back in the U.S. from England, I’ve travelled 384 miles to four churches around New York State. Each community is different, and what I take away from each of our experiences together helps me to grow in my own journey. I get to see God working through so many different people in so many different places. From the ethnically and economically diverse community in Syracuse, to the home-town churches of central and western NY, I have the privelege of seeing and experiencing our Methodist connection.
Now, for those of you who aren’t United Methodist (well, if you’re reading these posts you’re basically a Methodist because of how often I talk about us…), you may not know that our Church is in a decisive time. We have to decide whether will we embrace God’s inclusive love and once again be a Church of the “Social Gospel,” or not. Of course, there is much debate and perhaps I have over-simplified the current situation here. But injustice is injustice and we cannot ever allow politics, law, or even Church doctrine to complicate human rights—to over-complicate what I believe to be the essence of God: love.
In the Message paraphrase of the Bible, Galatians 5 says, “Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?” Now, my very sweet and compassionate atheist boyfriend said, “The Bible says that?! The Bible is the most law-dominating text I can think of…” And he’s right. We have so many laws in the Tanuk (Torah: books of law; Nevi’im: books of the prophets; Ketuvim: writings of the history), and even in the New Testament (some of Paul’s/pseudo-Paul’s misinterpreted letters for example). So how can the Bible say “escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?” How can Christians live under governments which exploit and yet we are called to escape these?
The best way I can reconcile this obvious contradiction is with the theme of renewal. Renewal means the resuming of an activity or state after an interruption. According to the Old Testament, humanity’s relationship with God was interrupted because of sin. God, however, didn’t give up on humanity and so God sent Jesus to renew us; to allow us to continue in this relationship.
But this isn’t the only renewal I believe Jesus brought/brings. Jesus didn’t just die, he rose again and appeared on this earth; he was mistaken as a gardener by Mary Magdalene (John 20). His reappearance signifies that this world: the ecosystem, the social structures, the religious and political structures, the family and neighbor structures—that all of these things would be renewed; that all of these things would cease to be interrupted by greed, self-interest, “first-world” economies which profit off the exploitation of other nations—that all of these things would be transformed through love.
As I’ve preached to the churches I’ve visited thus far:
1) Renewal is the resuming of an activity, which means that God has already been—and will continue to be—working through us for justice.
2) Renewal is a recommitment to the here and now; it’s a reaffirmation of God’s dedication to this world.
3) Renewal is active; it requires voices of truth to speak, and people of truth to act.
So for all of us, those reading this and the remaining four churches on my tour of renewal, may we use our voices and act out of love to transform this world into the kin-dom of God. May we all be people of renewal, enabling the process for all people to reach fruition into their full and authentic selves.