Our Resurrection Mandate
In today’s Gospel of John Jesus says: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” That is the resurrection energy in a nutshell: As me, so you. Jesus is the prototype, the mandate, for our lives.
I want to talk with you about what this resurrection mandate might look like in our lives at St. Paul’s in this coming year. But in order to talk about the specifics of what we plan to do, I want to first outline how our work fits into a larger resurrection mandate that we have already said YES to through our baptism, and by our belonging to the Episcopal Church. That provides the context and spiritual foundation for the work we will be doing.
Our mandate starts with Jesus’ own mandate: He starts his inaugural sermon by saying: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: to preach good news to the poor, release to the captives, (in)sight to the blind – to proclaim the year of God’s favor (Luke 4:18). The kingdom (“kin-dom”) of God was the primary identifier that Jesus used to describe a world where there are no insiders or outsiders, only one family, always and everywhere, whether people know it or not. So living in THAT world and making it real is our core mandate as we follow Jesus in his way of Love. Everything must follow from that.
Refining Jesus’ mandate, we come to Paul, Jesus’ primary interpreter, who says that our mandate is to be reconciled to God, and then to become reconcilers, to carry on that ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). We are the vanguard of that evolving humanity that recognizes no insider or outsider but only beloved community. That reality is true for everyone and everything, but not everyone knows that yet. This new way is understood, lived out, and intensified HERE, in this community, for all to see.
The Episcopal Church further refines this kin-dom mandate. It’s spelled out in our catechism (Book of Common Prayer page 855) – it’s a great one to memorize: The Mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. “Restore” is an action word that points to a whole cluster of action words that we recited last week as we renewed our baptismal covenant. Here are the verbs that we used last week to commit ourselves to our misson/mandate: We will “continue, resist, repent, return, proclaim, seek, serve, strive, respect, cherish.” (Book of Common Prayer p.304)
These are powerful words to help move our intention toward action. The Episcopal Church has spent the last couple of decades shaping our collective effort to live these baptismal promises in several areas: Creation Care; Ending Poverty; Migration, Refugees, and Immigration; Human Rights and Peacebuilding; Racial Reconciliation (https://www.episcopalchurch.org/ministries/office-government-relations/)
We, the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, have been active in all of these areas, but we have been especially clear in giving ourselves a mandate in the area of racial reconciliation. (I say “WE have given ourselves a mandate” because the Episcopal Church is not a top-down organization, we are very democratically representative. Bishops don’t create policy, our delegates to convention do.) At our 2020 convention, WE overwhelming endorsed a resolution to commit ourselves to some very specific work:
Resolved, that the 236th Convention declare that social and racial justice are core values rooted in the Gospel and central to furthering God’s mission in and through the Episcopal Church in Connecticut (ECCT), and that God calls us to acknowledge, confront, and dismantle racism, white supremacy, and anti-Black bias in our nation and in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. (the full text and rationale of Resolution 7 can be found HERE)
At the end of our Lenten book study of Howard Thurman’s important core text Jesus and the Disinherited, I convened a group of parish leaders together to talk about how we take our next steps together in this area of racial healing and reconciliation. We agreed that the work begins with our own learning, that it must be broad-based, and that the time to start is now.
Out of our meetings have come three initiatives, which I invite us all to engage fully as we invest ourselves in this important topic in a faith-based way:
FIRST we will learn more of our general history as American immigrants.
The Episcopal Church has created an extraordinary in-depth film- and readings-based discussion curriculum called Sacred Ground. It has been very effective in starting this conversation, and we will use this path to increase our learning here at St. Paul’s. Our hope is that nearly all of the parishioners of St. Paul’s will participate in this life-changing course. More detail about this program will be published as we create the program, and if you are interested to help or participate, please let me know.
SECOND, we will learn more of our specific St. Paul’s and Norwalk history.
The Connecticut Convention in 2020 gave us an explicit mandate within Resolution 7:
Resolved, that this Convention direct each Parish to take steps to discover and document historic complicity in racism in their parish and communities.
As a parish founded in 1737 we can be sure that there are untold chapters of our history that we can discover and learn from, so we will take up this project of research and story-telling around our history, and our community of Norwalk’s history, all the way back to our founding. Again, if this piques your interest, please let me know!
THIRD: on Juneteenth National Independence Day — now a federal holiday that celebrates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans —we will dedicate a special Sunday evening service to celebrate the healing of the wounds of history, to learn more about how we can learn more, and to affirm how emancipation is an ongoing process for us all.
Our progressive parish is always progressing, and these three projects point toward a lot of deep conversation that will change us all – the root word for conversation and conversion is the same word.
I don’t think any of this work can be done well if we do it because someone told us to do so. External mandates, when they’re effective, work because they connect with an inner mandate, a stirring of the heart that says YES, this work is important, even though it may feel less-easy at the start. But if we do this work with heart, it will raise us up, beyond our differences, into Gospel truth, into our true vocation as reconciliers of all things.
This bold way of behaving like Jesus will repel some, but it will be attractive to many others, which is how the Gospel has always spread in every age — less by what we say and more by what we behave.
As me… so you, Jesus said. There are 10,000 ways to live out that mandate; these are three of the ways we will tack into resurrection and gospel living in the coming year. So I invite you to join the conversation, and take up the work, and together, we will practice resurrection!
from a sermon preached by The Rev. Daniel Simons at St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
on the Second Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2022; Lectionary (Year C) Acts 5:27-32; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31