This week, I’ve been pressed in my thoughts to consider the question of Christian solidarity - what it means to stand together as one Body of Christ, and what it means to, in Benedict XVI’s words, embody “the virtue enabling the human family to share fully the treasure of material and spiritual goods.”
Recent events have forced us to consider, and consider deeply, how the common good may be upheld, especially as various goods compete in our society, including everything from healthcare, the value of human life, and economic prosperity. We cannot look upon a fellow human being who suffers unjustly and say “that’s not my problem.” We especially cannot when that human being is a brother or sister in Christ, another human who shares with us in the glory of salvation within the family of the Church. Not only is racism a great evil, but every American should be horrified when a fellow American is deprived of his life without due process, deprived of a trail, and deprived of justice. We should be angry at what happened to George Floyd, and what has happened to so many of our brothers and sisters. We should be angry that, as of today, no officer has been charged or indicted. But, we should also be reminded that “man’s wrath does not work God’s righteousness.” Public shows of anger, or of our own virtue, have very little power compared to the power of intercession, fasting, and spiritual sacrifice for our fellow human beings.
What I want to offer you today, however, is not more virtue signaling, a public display of my own outrage, but a reflection upon the hope of redemption which is pointed to by the Church in her work of solidarity - this work of enabling all people to share God’s gifts and treasures both spiritual and material. Individualism runs counter to this idea. It looks at suffering, and even great evil, and says “that’s not me.” We become like the Pharisee who prays within himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men…” (Luke 18:11) Solidarity requires that we identify with victims and evildoers alike, that we cry out to God for justice, while simultaneously coming to terms with our own capacity for great evil, asking God to take our hearts of stone and make them flesh again. We love to condemn. We love to participate in a mob. But, as Rod Dreher has recently written: “A person who is in the grips of passion — even righteous passion — can do terrible things. A mob in the grips of passion is one of the most destructive forces on earth.”
This is where our identity as the Body of Christ is so very important. Paul writes to the Corinthians:
“…the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
(1 Corinthians 12:22–26 ESV)
We have done ourselves a great disservice by speaking of “the persecuted Church” or “the suffering Church,” as if we have no part in that suffering. We should instead say God’s Church suffers, and is persecuted, and faces injustice. God’s Church also includes those who do unspeakable evil. Solidarity means that we can pray and live as people, not detached from injustice, or evil, or murder, but one that in every way has been joined to the miscarriages of justice, the very evils, which nailed the Lord’s Body to the Cross. I want to suggest today that all of us commit to the difficult work of intercession for those who have suffered and who suffered greatly, in our society, whether because of injustice, or brutality, or disease, or economic struggles. I suggest that we pray and fast not only for the Church, but the whole human family, that the Lord’s Kingdom may come on earth as it is in Heaven. Let us also pray that the Lord would combat, by His great and immeasurable grace, the evils that plague our souls. Let us pray for the grace of sanctification, that we may give witness to the hope of the Gospel in this dark world.
In terms of solidarity, let us join with Bishop Reed and our diocese this Sunday in praying the Litany of Penitence (page 547 in the Book of Common Prayer). Most of the parishes of the diocese will be doing this on Sunday morning publicly. As we have not been intimately involved in the lawsuit which resulted in a favorable result from the Supreme Court of Texas, we will not be reading the Bishop’s Pastoral Letter or praying the litany together, but I do want to encourage you to pray for those who will be undertaking this act, praying that the Lord will refresh in all of us a passion for His Mission and a devotion to the proclamation of the transforming love of Jesus.
As we slowly transition from what many are calling “Coronatide” in the Church’s life, and into the long Waco summer, when students are out and about and many people leave on vacation, I’m encouraging you to undertake several practices, outlined below:
Be ready “in season and out of season” to proclaim the word and Gospel of Jesus to the lost. Summer is a great time for a renewal of our witness, especially as things slow down.
Be regular in the Daily Office.
When traveling, visit a local ACNA parish or consider a way that you can make a spiritual pilgrimage, such as visiting the place of your baptism, or a historic church, or retreat center. As churches open up, this is a great way to encourage others.
Take much-needed leisure time for spiritual reading: lives of the saints, classic devotionals, and works of theology.
Undertake study of the Catechism, by yourself, or with your children.
Call friends to check in with them.
Take on some meaningful manual labors in the cool of the morning, such as gardening, house projects, and volunteering.
May the peace of the Lord be with you.