We recently learned the South African government posthumously awarded former Pilgrim missionaries Ray and Dora Phillips a prestigious award for their work beginning 100 years ago. They established numerous organizations promoting care and social justice including the Bantu Men’s Community Hall and the Jan Hofmeyr School of Social Work where they trained individuals from all backgrounds to promote social well-being. Despite world wars, economic depression and other challenges the Pilgrim congregation financially supported their work. This is a piece of our history to be very proud of. It also begs the question, what can we be known for in 100 years? The answer, of course, depends upon our commitment to Pilgrim’s ongoing ministry.
I once heard of a pastor who, during a stewardship worship service, walked down the church aisle as the offering plates were being passed. Members of the congregation were acutely uncomfortable as their pastor watched them put money into the plate. After the offering was taken the pastor held the plates and said, “You clearly were uncomfortable as I watched you put your offering into the plates. Why should this be different from any other Sunday when God sees exactly what you put in the offering plates?”
God knows exactly how we live our lives, and what we give. What and how we give to God through our congregation will determine what and how we can be in ministry. As we consider the present and future ministry of our congregation, an important question comes to mind: How do we show our faith in God’s work through Pilgrim? If God were to approach us individually and ask this question, how would we answer? The answers we each can honestly give determines what we can be known for 100 years from now.
We often think of the Easter story as something to experience individually. Once we embrace the story of Jesus’ resurrection, we can find hope for facing the challenges of our lives. We see faith as being very personal, and unique to our experiences, perceptions and theologies. Yet if we really look at the Easter story, there is a strong focus on the collective sharing of hope and new possibilities.
Wherever we come from in our faith journeys, when we embrace the Easter story at some level, we are called to live the hope of God’s resurrection work. God urges us to respond with a collective “Yes!” to Easter by working together to tap into God’s love, bringing wholeness and renewal into the world. Helping others say “Yes!” and join in the work of love.
This is what church is called to be – a collective “Yes!” to bringing Easter hope into the world. Not just me, nor just you, but us. Together with God’s Spirit shaping the world around us and beyond with God’s love in Jesus Christ. Together removing barriers created by expectations and reasoning to say “Yes!” and following Jesus into the new audacious work of God.
We may have a hard time grasping what we are called to do and we may stumble at times, but God’s work and love are persistent. The unexpected may throw us off at times, but together with faith we can do much more than alone. No matter what challenges we face as a people, as a congregation in a struggling world, may we come together from wherever we are on our journey of faith and understanding to say, “Yes!” to Easter hope and witness to the depth and power of our God’s love.