I long to see you…that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.Romans 1: 11-12
Dear Friends in Christ,
Part of my sabbath was spent reading scripture. No great surprise there. But my project was to read the letters of Paul as though they were written today. Sometimes they’re spooky that way.
Right out of the gate in chapter 1 of Romans Paul says that God is angry about wicked men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. Then he talks about people who “know better,” people who pass judgment on each other and a whole slew of those who live without morality. Paul sees a world in need, and we’re still in the first verses. But then there is that quote above, about longing for each other to build up faith. And that’s why I’m thankful to be back from sabbatical. Congregational Christianity is about mutual encouragement, so it’s good to be back.
Upon my return I am thankful that Yevgenia is returning too. I am thankful for the ways that Lynd and Wendy and Sarah and so many others have offered their gifts during January. Bill Cordts helped out, Tony Rudié was June Cooper’s NHCC contact, and June is so wonderful that we expect to see her back this month and next.
My sabbath reading—seeking what scripture says to today—is always part of my approach to Christian faith. It’s why I’ll return to the Anti-Racist Newton Housing project that started in December as an inter-faith conversation; Black History month is a good time for this. It’s why I’m thankful that the Afghan refugees for whom we’ve been fundraising are just about to get settled in Brookline (and from Sarah and Abraham on, welcoming the stranger has been a focus of faith). It’s part of why I’m glad to see our children donating chickens to Heifer because the feeding, housing, and creation-keeping missions around us are all faith in action. It’s why I look forward to hearing the organ again, when it’s finished for March worship.
As you know, sabbath means “cease” and it was hard for me to cease last month. I did visit colleagues, visit family, organize, read, research but also I did rest. Thank you for supporting me in getting some rest.
You know this, too: in our Bible there are two letters to the Corinthians but they are actually five letters edited together. And Corinth was a town like Newton with a parish like ours. And they were having hard times, season after season. So through twenty-nine chapters of complexity, fundraising, instructions for communion, family dynamics and more, Paul finally comes to one central assertion. That the most powerful empire in history attempted to silence and kill the message of love from God incarnate in Jesus, and it failed. Paul says, this is of first importance: Jesus was raised from death in accordance with the scriptures. The scriptures that tell of women and men, bondage and liberation, food and clothing, change and mystery, time and eternity. The most powerful empire—in one story the devil himself—did not stop God’s love from living anew.
That’s what Paul says to today, too. To our virus and viral deceptions. To those who threaten historically Black colleges on the month celebrating their history. To those of us who are worn out this month because of last month and the twenty-three before it. God is not stopped from raising Jesus, raising love, from anything at all.
That’s what I’m bringing back from sabbatical. The assurance that we can navigate these waters, face these times and rise up in yet unexpected ways. If we mutually encourage one another, which is what keeps me coming back, so I’ll see you online, on Zoom, in-person, and all around this winter, spring and beyond.
Peace to you,