Monday, June 1, 2009

Reconciliation and the Cloud of Witnesses

The memorable statements from today are many:

“Those who come to serve the poor only stay when they realize that they are poor themselves.”

“The Holy Spirit is God’s imagination let loose in the world.”

“We’ve over-evangelized the world too lightly.”

But just as important as the ideas conveyed is the acknowledgment that none of these quotes is original to this week or these speakers. There are more than 100 participants and 15 teachers at the Summer Institute, but the community represented here is much larger, much older, and even more diverse.

Reconciliation is being illumined here in two ways. Both ways push us toward greater particularity. Chris Rice summed up the first in the morning’s opening address: “We do not have a generic God; we do not know a generic peace.” The reconciliation offered in the gospel comes through an encounter with the living God. It extends from Jesus Christ, making peace through the blood of his cross. The peace offered is for all, but it is hardly abstract.

Neither is reconciliation concrete only on God’s end of the work. It is as close as a neighbor, a spouse, a parent. It is as deeply needed as the wounds carried within each person. Neely Towe, a Congregational pastor, shared her story this morning about looking for a church in her early years of ministry: “I was yearning for a church like I saw embodied in my Dad’s AA,” she said. Her statement resonates across the board. Reconciliation finds its life in the concreteness of personal relationships, and in vulnerability and honesty.

It’s clear that the ambassadors of reconciliation today stand on the shoulders of many, many others. Some of those people are mentors, pastors, teachers, and leaders who have inspired the generation represented here. They are the ones whose ideas—like the ones above—continue to energize our thinking.

But reconcilers also carry within themselves the pain of division and deep brokenness. They may not always name names, but behind the lessons and principles of reconciliation are stories of real relationships. Those people, like our mentors, are haunting our conversations and enlivening the urgency.


"God calls us to be pain-bearers, but not to go it alone."

-- John Perkins, during his seminar on "Building Beloved Communities of Justice and Peace at the Grassroots," 6/1/09


"Reconciliation is never bigger than the person near to you who is difficult to love."

--Chris Rice, during his address "Reconciling All Things:
God's Vision of Beloved Community," 6/1/09