A Letter from the Moderator

Published on Nov 20th, 2015 by wpd-office | 0

To all the Churches in Western Plains,

Greetings & Blessings from your 2016 District Conference Moderator!!

It is my hope and prayer to see all of your churches represented as we come together to continue the work of Christ next July in McPherson. As there is much anger, judgment and even hatred going on currently in the world, in the media and even within our own beloved denomination, as with many denominations, I ask that you keep close at heart the vision statement for the Church of the Brethren in Western Plains; “Rooted together in love to be Christs’ transforming hope and power.”

What a powerful and beautiful vision!! I would like you to imagine these roots, like thick, gnarled, tree roots buried deep within the rich, dark soil of the earth; intertwined and not easily uprooted. If the attempt is made to dig and uproot one plant or tree, all others will be affected. As Father Richard Rohr would say, it is a “quantum entanglement”! We are truly one. In 1854, Chief Seattle in his famous speech stated that, “We did not weave the web of life; we are merely strands within it. What we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

All of creation contains within it the fingerprint of our Creator, love pouring itself forth into the world. Our own scriptures point out the oneness of creation with the Creator, the manifestation of Christ consciousness (love) within all things created:

“Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. In him all things have been created, things in heaven and on earth. All things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together.” ~Col. 1:15-17

“There is one body and one spirit…one God, who is over all and through all and in all.” ~Ephesians 4:4-6

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made.” ~John 1:1-3

Through this Christ, all things on earth have been reconciled to this same love. The veil being torn apart is a reminder of the imagined separation that we created between ourselves and our loving, all-encompassing Creator. We, as the Church of the Brethren, have a very rich heritage of ‘being’ Christ in the world. Yet, to be Christ to others we must first be Christ to ourselves.  In all humility and honesty, we must all face our own shadow side and hold those things that we consider “bad” or “ugly” about ourselves in loving tenderness. These also are a part of who we are. By giving them space and voice to be seen and heard, we are de-escalating the hold we allow them to have in our lives. They can no longer create within us anxiety and fear for we know that they are just parts of us needing to be expressed, held and loved. This practice also helps us to recognize these things when we see them expressed in others and to know that they only need space to be seen and heard as well. Most of us have heard the expression that ‘hurting people hurt people’. This is so true! When we see groups of people rising up to cause terror, such as ISIS or Boko Haram then we, as the Church, need to recognize the great pain that is behind this anger and perceived hatred. We, as Christ, are called to see through their pain and go to the root source to help uncover and bring into light the societal and cultural changes that need to happen to bring about real, loving change. We are told in our sacred texts to “not conform to the pattern of this world”, (which is violence, retribution, judgment and hatred) “but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

As a Spiritual Director, I have been taught that all of my relationships mirror some part of me. This is a difficult understanding and takes much practice, patience and humility to learn. I want to challenge you to think of someone (or a group of people) you may disagree with or perhaps even vehemently oppose. What is it about them that truly ‘sets you off’ or ‘gets under your skin’? Name it. Where or when in your own life have you acted or behaved in a similar fashion? We all have a shadow side, that side of us that we consider bad, evil, dirty, ugly or sinful. Learning to hold these parts of ourselves in the light of Christ, allowing this loving presence to cradle them and give them space, to help dissolve our ideas and illusions’ concerning them is the only way to bring about healing for ourselves and for all our relationships, including our churches.

As you sit in your pews this next Sunday, I ask that you each look around and ‘see’ who might be missing from your church. What part of Christs’ “body” is not represented? Who in your family, in your community, just needs to be loved? We must not become like the Pharisees who Jesus calls out as “hypocrites”.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law–justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” ~Matthew 23:23

The “more important things” are named as justice, mercy and faith. We must remember, as the Church, that it is not our place to judge (for judgment is reserved for God alone) or to withhold a place in our congregation from anyone. We are asked to emulate Christ, to be love, to show mercy and to teach humility. All other things will fall into place if we can but focus on these truths. Work on yourself, creating the fruits of the Spirit within your own life and release control of all else.

There is a renewal of global ‘awareness’ rising up organically; the Spirit being birthed into the consciousness of many who are open to this change. A tearing down of old structures and institutions that brings a level of fear into the hearts of those who hold on too tightly to old ideals. (“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins, for the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” ~Mark 2:22) This loving, Christ consciousness is being manifested through the loving and courageous acts of individuals and communities who are willing to open their hearts and minds to its movement. Fundamental groups around the globe, such as ISIS, Boko Haram, the Ku Klux Klan and even Westboro Baptist Church will try even harder to preach fear, isolation, law, etc.…these are the desperate cries of death in its final throes for even death knows that Christs’ loving presence will overcome. We too, must believe in love and not be fearful as many are but to maintain our stance of non-violence, fairness, love and servanthood.   We, as the Church of the Brethren in Western Plains, have a rich history of “being” Christ to the world, may we continue to be so.

Blessings to each individual and congregation as you continue the work of Jesus; peacefully, simply and together, rooted in love.

Much Love,

Joanna Davidson Smith
2016 Moderator

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