Monday, March 20, 2017

Politics, Religion and Reconciliation?

The Ministry of Reconciliation?

During our reunion with our three sons several weeks ago we took a break to go to the Raptor Center in Huntersville, North Carolina. Eagles, Hawks,vultures, and owls by rhe score rescued from harm, injury and disease were all part of Gods creatures there.They were, being nursed back to health by an amazing gathering of caregivers. One vision stays with me. There was a brilliant white expanse of outspread wings. Such was the dimension of those wings that we could not believe they belonged to a living thing. But as we approached the sight, the wings began to move and were withdrawn again in toward its body. Behold it was an enormous vulture! Obviously, it takes two wings for a bird to fly. And every feather. Not much of a brain, mind you, but those wings are essential and fundamental to flight.

I thought then of the ministry of reconciliation and let me tell you why.

The glorious American Bald Eagle has long been associated with this great nation. How it soars riding high aloft on mighty up drafts of air over our Grand Canyons. I repeat myself; it takes two wings for a bird to fly. It takes two wings and every feather to the furthest left and right of its extremes to gather in the the mighty uplifting wind currents. As the lovely hymn puts it "I will raise you up on Eagle's Wings". It takes both a left wing and a right wing. Both. 

In our political life the left wing and the right wings treat one another as if they don't need one another. We are much the poorer for seeing our political life as so mutually exclusive.

We have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. We are in Christ now. The old has passed away, behold the new has come. Everything is new, now that we are in Christ. All this is from God, Paul the Apostle tells us In today's Epistle. We have been reconciled to God through Jesus. And therefore, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.

So how is that working out for us? 
In our personal lives? 
In our interpersonal lives?
In our families?
In our schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods?
In our national political life?
In our churches?
In our international relationships?

How is it going; this ministry of reconciliation which we have been given?

In the twelve step program we are taught that the pathway to peace is in the giving up our opinions, our insistence on the "my way or the highway" approach to life.
Only those who love their enemies, and those with whom they most vehemently differ can be called "Ambassadors of Christ". If reconciliation with all is not uppermost in our hearts and minds, we are far from the Mind of Christ.
And most difficult of all, when was the last time you actually went to God or another human being to say; "I have sinned against heaven and earth and I am no longer worthy of being called your son?"

The Psalmist tells us today that while we hold our tongues our bones wither away but when we confess our sins to God, our guilt is then taken away. The Psalmist further says; "Do not be like a horse of a mule!" The Psalmist must have been reading our hearts and our newspapers.

There is a vast difference between conversation, and honest debate on the one hand  and insult and invective on the other. 

For us to hold discourse with one another we must cultivate our listening skills. I learned that skill during my weight loss efforts by the way. Listening is a four step process. Few of us go to the lengths that listening requires. Instead, we tend to react to anything we disagree with and immediately jump to our opinions, myself included. I confess to you and to God almighty. Folks this approach is not helping us at any level of human relationships. 

If we are to lay claim on the ministry of reconciliation which Christ himself has entrusted to us, we must first set aside our opinions, and listen to one another no matter how much we may differ, disagree or diametrically oppose.

What does it take to listen? The steps I learned are four in number
1. Listen actively and accurately. Repeat what you hear to be sure you hear exactly what the speaker says. 
2. Allow the speaker to say what the speaker is saying before you react
3. Probe what the speaker is saying. Ask questions of clarification and seek to understand the intention of the speaker. Is this what you mean? And so on. 
4. Support then what the speaker is saying. Find something of value to what the speaker is saying, something you can agree with. There must be something. 

Then and only then do we respond. Do not react. Respond. And ask the speaker then for the same courteousy; namely, to listen to you. Allow you to speak. Probe what you are saying. Find something to support in what you are trying to articulate.


We called it the LAPS Strategy. Imagine if we could practice such a skill in our families and marriages, in our schools, our workplaces, in our neighborhoods and communities. In our political lives, and among the nations of the earth. Imagine a world built with such mutual regard and respect.

If we are in Christ we are new Creations. Behold the old has passed away the new has come. All this is from God who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 

In the parable of The Prodigal Son, see how hard it is. The son who squandered his inheritance had to come to his senses. The father was only too happy to see his son again. Such is the love of a parent's patience, that when the child returns the heart leaps for joy. But then there is that old sibling rivalry that kicks in. That good for nothing son of yours. You never killed the fatted calf for me. 

How hard it is to come to our senses like the Prodigal Son.
Even more difficult is forgiveness of the older brother and sister.
Most difficult of all is American Party Politics.

However we are in Christ. We have been born anew to living hope. You do know that. All the old stuff has passed away. A whole new way of being has been planted in us by none other than the living and risen Christ.

Not long ago I read that a pair of Eagles have been spotted in the Neponsit River wetlands, the first time in many decades that these mighty symbols of our Nation's soaring and noble ideals have been seen. Imagine the Eagle soaring once again! Is it beyond the reach of humankind to achieve such noble ends? Surely for those of us who are in Christ, not only is such an end within our reach. It is of the essence of who we are as Ambassadors of Christ.

In the Name of God; the Most Holy, Undivided and Everlasting Trinity.

Fr Paul

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