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SOUNDINGS – What Then Shall We Do?

This past week I was pleased and privileged again to attend the Matthew 25 Gathering, where folks from the Anglican Church of North America gather to encourage each other in the ways that God has called us to work for the Kingdom, and work for justice with mercy.  From the beginning, we have been “Anglicans for Justice and Mercy, Contending for Shalom”.   The theme of this year’s conference is “Contemplative Activism”.   To quote Rev. David Hanke, another founder of M25 and this year’s M25 Director, “We are contemplative activists learning how to be contemplative activists.”  Amen.

I was so grateful to lead Morning Prayer on Wednesday, and offer this short reflection on John the Baptist’s charge from Luke 3, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance”, and the question of those cut to the quick, “What then shall we do?”.  I hope you’ll read all the way the end, ask that question with me, and join me and so many others on the journey to healing the divides that beset our country. 

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“What then shall we do?”, they asked, “What then shall we do?”

In Luke 3, those people who had heard the word of God from John asked “What then shall we do?” (v10), and they were challenged to do three things:  to recognize their sin, to repent, and to respond with tangible acts that would demonstrate that true recognition and true repentance.  It was a call to them personally, and it’s a call that comes to each one of us…to recognize our fault, to repent, and then respond…that is, from v8, to bear fruit in keeping with repentance.  This can surely be applied individually.

And it also can surely be applied nationally, even in our own country when it comes to what is often referred as “America’s Original Sin”, from the very beginning of our country in 1619, 400 years ago this year.   This is of course a reference to the racism that began with slavery and grew deep, deep roots.  The fruits of this sin are many and still felt by millions, black and white, and the roots have yet to be entirely uprooted.  You know this.  You’re good-hearted people, you’re God-oriented folk, you want to see Jesus heal.

What is a good-hearted, God-oriented man or woman to do?  What is the church to do?  Well, we Christians of all people are those who are quick to affirm the deep reality and persistence of sin, we of all people know it’s devastation and damage, and we of all people are familiar with what it means to repent.  Repentance is our word.  It means recognizing the gravity of the situation, choosing to turn around, and doing things that demonstrate that we have indeed got it, are grieved by it, and are repentant.

At Matthew 25 this year, we’re talking about race in America.   And I want to commend to you a resource, a tool, a journey even, that the Lord has birthed in the past couple of years that we are both sad and glad to offer.   It’s a lenten devotional for individuals and small groups and churches to use called “An American Lent”, and the point is to help folks like you and me really understand how deep the roots of racism go in our country and how it still is bearing a bitter fruit, a lot of it.  More than that though, it is meant to lead us into and give voice to the sorrow and grief for this unhealed wound in our country.  Even more than that it is meant to really enable God’s people with all humility to be agents of God’s healing and reconciliation in a divided country in a divided time.   

When folks ‘get woke’ and we’re really gripped by the historicity and tenacious grip of racism in our own communities, we might find ourselves asking that with those convicted folks in Luke 3, “What then shall we do?”    Doing “An American Lent” is one thing.  May God use it to really to raise up a generation of reconcilers. 

However God wants to do it, may he raise up a generation of reconcilers, and may each of us be amongst them.   

Christians of all people are best equipped to lead in this, amen?