Pastor’s Thoughts for July 2020

Dear Church Family,

I’d like to invite you to open your Bibles to the Book of Acts in the New Testament for a little Bible study. Turn to Acts 6:1-7. (I’ll wait.) This is a story about conflict among Christians in the early church. It is about the challenges we face in living into our foundational identity as Christians, and doing that publicly in a way that the world gets a glimpse of God’s re-creating and world-changing power and love. When the world sees each of us as individual Christians, and collectively, as the church, they are to see God’s intention for the world.

Rev. Nancy Mikoski

Rev. Nancy Miskoski, Pastor

This was put to the test early in the days following Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was exploding human-created divisions based upon language, culture, heritage, gender, economic status, and religion, and ushering in a community in Christ that was both diverse and unified. In Acts 6 we hear about two groups of widows, Hellenists, and Hebrews, both in need of support and protection in that time. Hellenist Christians, those who grew up speaking Greek, spoke up because their widows were not being treated fairly in the distribution of food that the church was supplying those in need. They called for equity because the Hellenist Christian widows were not being given what the Hebrew Christian widows were receiving. (Hebrew Christians were people who spoke Hebrew and Aramaic.) There were systemic disparities in the treatment of widows in the early church. 

What is amazing and encouraging is that the voices advocating for justice and equity for those most vulnerable and in need were heard! Not only were they heard, the action was taken to rectify the situation! The twelve disciples and the larger group of Christians in the church saw the situation as problematic and not fitting for the Body of Christ, and then they did something about it! They selected seven faithful and upstanding Christians, full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit, to address the concerns and restore justice and equity for all of the widows. 

We are living in such a time today. Voices are being lifted up in our country and around the world, with the words, “Black Lives Matter,” drawing attention to systems and practices that are not just or equitable. The call is to reform our world; our laws, our attitudes, and our practices, so that justice is more than an abstract idea. People, some Christian and some not are taking to the streets, to the internet, to corporate headquarters, and to polling stations to call for an end to racist policies and practices. We Christians should be among those seeking reform because foundational to our identity and calling as Jesus Followers is for us to be a sign of God’s Kingdom in the here and now. We pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The New Testament is full of examples, of case studies, of churches in different cities learning how to live in ways that were totally counter-cultural because they reflected God’s kingdom in their inclusiveness and unity. Christianity united diverse people in a way that even the Roman Empire could not. Scholar and Pastor N.T. Wright describes Jesus’ family, the church, as it is found in the New Testament as a single, united family called to be:

*worship based

*spiritually renewed

*multi-ethnic

*gender blind in leadership

*polychrome

*mutually supportive

*outward facing

*culturally creative

*socially responsible 

*and a fictive kinship group.  (N.T. Wright “Undermining Racism” 2020)

This is our calling! To be true to who we are, we, like those early Christians in Acts 6, must listen to cries for justice and equity, realize where we have fallen short, and then change our ways. This is true inside the church, but it is also true in how we live in the world. Being a Christian isn’t just about getting a ticket to heaven. God, in Jesus Christ, has ushered in the Kingdom of God, here and now. Decisions about how we live together, how we organize our public life, how we care for the most vulnerable in our community, must not simply reflect our political affiliations. For Christians, these decisions must be a reflection of God’s kingdom and the values of Jesus Christ. 

This is why recognizing, addressing, and rectifying racism and other types of systemic injustice matters for Christians. This is more than a personal hobby or interest. Just as early Christians cried out, in essence, “Hellenist Widows Matter,” so we join our voices asserting that “Black Lives Matter.” It’s a start, shining light on injustice, but actions must follow. I hope and pray that we, too, will be wise, faithful, and Spirit-led, like the early church, and take decisive action against racism to better reflect God’s kingdom. 

In Christ,

Nancy