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Choosing to Run Towards the World

September 21, 2012

In my last posting, I reflected on John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Here, I’d like to reflect on the verse that comes right after it, John 3:17: “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

What I particularly take from this passage is that God’s desire is not to condemn, but to save. And if God is like this, then so must we be. St. Paul’s must never be a place of condemnation, but of encouragement, of welcome, a place to come to receive GOOD news to share with the world, as one starving person shares with another where they have found abundant food for all to share, as one who has been rescued tells how they were delivered.

To do this, we shall need to move past our comfort zones, allowing our insulated bubble to be pierced, as we make actual contact with a hurting world; learning to really care; getting to really know our neighbours.

Judy Paulsen, the Incumbent of Christ Church Anglican Church in Oshawa, in Karen Stiller’s Going Missional, says these words:

We’ve started to ask different questions. Instead of asking how we can attract people here, and how can we tend to the body of the congregation better, we’ve started to ask questions like “What kind of community would we need to be so that God’s love for the world can be known?” which is a very different kind of question. What are the relationships God wants us to develop in our community and the world so God’s justice and peace can flourish? And how can we share the story of Jesus with people who haven’t heard?

When you have an actual relationship with people, then they can tell you what they really need. [We believe we’re called to ask] the missional question “What is God already up to in our neighbourhood, our city, and our world? And where would God like us to join in?”

To live out God’s love for all means making the conscious decision to run towards the needs in our world, not away from them.

On the first Sunday after the 9/11 attacks, Carter Conlon, the pastor of Time Square Church, said the following words in his sermon:

My mind is forever branded with the stories I heard of police officers from the City of New York. As people were fleeing from the crumbling building, there were police officers and firemen and others who were running toward the building saying, “run for your life,” at their own peril.

Conlon reflected on the storm of hatred and violence – which is still so rampant in our world; on the storm of injustice, loneliness, and brokenness in all its forms. Then he said:

I want to be among those who are not running away from the conflict but into the conflict and say, “Run for your life.”

What will happen to us if we live like this – if we really run towards the world and give ourselves to it sacrificially in love? Well, I don’t know exactly. For our Saviour, it meant a Cross … And he calls us as his disciples to take up our cross and follow him. But what I do know is this: it is the way of true life, for us and for all the world. Those who lose their lives for Jesus’ sake find it, and the lives of others to share with them.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Thanks be to God. Amen.

(This is adapted from the conclusion of the sermon at our September 16 Services.)

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As was the case in my last posting, there is embedded below a song sung by the Notre Dame Folk Choir. This one is the beautiful song, “Bread for the World,” by Bernadette Farrell. The powerful lyrics are as follows:

Refrain:
Bread for the world: a world of hunger.
Wine for all peoples: people who thirst.
May we who eat be bread for others.
May we who drink pour out our love.

1. Lord Jesus Christ, you are the bread of life,
broken to reach and heal the wounds of human pain.
Where we divide your people, you are waiting there
on bended knee to wash our feet with endless care.

2. Lord Jesus Christ, you are the wine of peace,
poured into hearts once broken and where dryness sleeps.
Where we are tired and weary, you are waiting there
to be the way which beckons us beyond despair.

3. Lord Jesus Christ, you call us to your feast,
at which the rich and pow’rful have become the least.
Where we survive on others in our human greed,
you walk among us begging for your ev’ry need.

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