July 14, 2019
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I heard there was a soccer game a week ago. A few faithful folks, who are also devoted soccer fans, came to worship last Sunday and discretely slipped out a little early to catch the full game. Sounds like it was worth it.
Megan Rapinoe, one of the co-captains of the US Women’s National Soccer Team closed out their World Champion ticker-tape parade in New York last Wednesday with a charge to everyone. She said, “We have to be better. We have to love more, hate less. We gotta listen more and talk less. We gotta know that this is everybody’s responsibility. Every single person here, every single person who’s not here, every single person who doesn’t want to be here. Every single person who agrees and doesn’t agree. It’s our responsibility to make this world a better place.”
There is truth here–about everyone in the entire human race’s responsibility. We all need to steward the gifts and opportunities we are given for the good of our communities and our world.
To be better. To make the world a better place, is to live into freedom. That at least is what our reading today from Colossians points to—for Jesus has rescued humanity and brought about redemption—freedom. The grace and reconciliation accomplished in Jesus is a truth Colossians lifts up over and over again. And, this freedom, is something the followers of Christ live into on a daily basis and work to establish in their own communities.
The Gospel promises freedom, both cosmic and everyday. And freedom is about the world being made whole, the world being a better place. Sometimes though that can sound like a pipe dream.
It is easy to feel paralyzed and inept in the face of the powers and principalities. Those that separate families, create cultures that open children to abuse, and leave those in need without access to adequate hygiene. And the powers that forty-one million Americans live below the federal poverty line. And the power that the environment suffers continuing to heighten forced migration. All of that is happening and more. And, yet. Yet, love, hope, and joy remain too.
Colossians helps remind followers of Jesus of hope—both cosmic and everyday. The truth of God’s power and the goodness of the Gospel—that Jesus brings freedom and redemption. And the truth that as we respond, we have the power to cultivate this cosmic hope in our daily actions within our communities. We have the opportunity to work for hope.
Even in the midst of chaos and the oppression in our world, I step back and consider:
- The 56 youth and adults from Nassau who returned yesterday from serving and learning in Appalachia. They built relationships and made homes warmer, safer, drier. There is hope in the tangible—new staircases and siding, and in the less quantifiable—relationships with friends, loving adults, and strangers becoming neighbors.
- LALDEF (The Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund)’s new bond and deportation fund to help families retrain legal services was announced this week. The Mission & Outreach Committee at Nassau helped seed the new endeavor. There is hope in the tireless effort LALDEF makes to advocate for the civil rights of Latin Americans and promote cross-cultural understanding in Mercer County.
- Five Nassau members traveling to Malawi this summer with Villages in Partnership on Medical and Friendship trips. They will visit and befriend our mission partners in one of the most impoverished countries in the world. They will see hope in how Villages in Partnership approaches six critical needs for human development: food, water, education, medical care, infrastructure, and economic opportunity.
With those things in mind, I remember and have hope that the poverty and pain of the present are not the only reality and they do not have the final word.
When I consider the opportunities yet to come this summer to fill 200 backpacks for Westminster Presbyterian Church in Trenton; or to join Witherspoon Presbyterian Church in the summer read on Radical Reconciliation; or the dozens and dozens of you that will make meatloaves, bake cookies, and show up for Loaves and Fishes in August. It is there, in these ways sponsored by the congregation and the many, many ways I hear stories of how you serve in your specific neighborhoods and workplaces and school systems that I see the fruit you bear and there is hope.
Working for hope is a prayerful endeavor. Rooted in the love Christ, growing with the power of the Holy Spirit, fed by the nourishment of the community. It is sustained beyond any one individual. It is in relationship with one another that we can acknowledge our limitations. On the days we struggle to hope, we can lean on our siblings and friends. And when they need a shoulder, we can pick up their load and help them carry on.
Praying for one another and for those in need in our world is not passive, it encompasses energy, imagination, intelligence, and love. It motivates us to extend with our actions the hope we know in Christ.
Friday evening, several hundred gathered in Hinds Plaza for Princeton’s Lights for Liberty vigil. A national evening of prayerful resistance of detention camps at our southern border, the deathly conditions many of our neighbors face, and the continued separation of families. Rev. Alexis Fuller-Wright of Christ Congregation gave the benediction for the vigil. She included a declaration about the moral fabric of our shared lives. Even when it is ripped, she prayed:
We will keep showing up to stitch it back together.
And we will keep showing up for as long as it takes.
We will keep stitching together what has been torn apart,
Because we are weavers of hope
Weavers of mercy
And weavers of justice.
So we pray, we stitch, we pray, we weave, we pray, we bake, we build, we give, we serve, we work.
We work for hope because there is freedom in Jesus Christ, and that freedom is for us and for all of creation. Amen.
 Eastman, Susan Grove. Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3. “Exegetical Perspective” (Westminster John Knox Press, 2010) p.235-236.