Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Northern Michigan: Standing at the Crossroad of History and Hope

During my recent visit to the Diocese of Northern Michigan, I had the pleasure of hearing an excellent sermon, offered by their Convention chaplain, Dr. Fredrica Harris Thompsett, Mary Wolfe Professor Emerita of Historical Theology at the Episcopal Divinity School. You may know Dr. Thompsett as the author of Living with History, volume 5 of the New Church's Teaching Series.

Dr. Thompsett's sermon was a much needed word of hope for the people of Northern Michigan; a hope rooted in the realities of history. To grasp the full message, I encourage you to consider the entire sermon, but here is part of it:

...It will not surprise anyone here that I am a “big fan” of and “in favor of” the authority of the baptized. When we are standing and rooted in the authority, the deep waters, of our baptism history and hope meet with boldness and audacity. Growing up here in Michigan, the “water wonderland,” taught me to stand literally and confidently by great, fresh, life-giving waters. My beloved biblical mentor, Verna Dozier, taught me to read Scripture with care and authority. She would not let me lose my daily consciousness of baptism. The solidarity of baptism is a theological grounding that admits no exclusions. The energizing, liberating power of Baptism abides, a resource to be cherished now and in days ahead. Over the past year, as I have dipped my hands in the fresh water of the baptismal font, you, the people of this Diocese, have often been in my heart. Do not be afraid to be different in your wide embrace of baptismal authority. Stand, as Jeremiah suggests, planted by the greening waters of new life.

History, like Scripture, is replete with those who have witnessed the cost of discipleship, the cost of holding fast to hard truths and high goals, of not being afraid to be dismissed, or wronged by others. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the revered German pastor imprisoned and killed in 1945 resisting Hitler’s Third Reich, in his last days described the church with hope as “Christ taking form in a body of believers.” Bonhoeffer’s insight signals a deep, hard won, and long-standing resource you already have that will continue to serve you well in days ahead. You have built healthy communities rich in trusted and mature relationships. Standing by your side, in your home parish and diocese, are steadfast companions, who invite you to walk together with newness of purpose. You know the dangers of walking alone. In my experience, you are the church of Christ taking form in the body of believers. This is a holy place to stand...
Yes, there is sometimes a cost to holding fast to hard truths and high goals. But, when we live in fear of that cost, we can never become what God has always intended us to be; Christ taking the form of the body of believers.

Let us not be afraid. Instead, let us press on, with boldness and audacity.


No comments:

Post a Comment