Invitation and Expectation: In the words of Murray Burns (played by Jason Robards pictured at left), protagonist of A Thousand Clowns:
Campers, I have nothing to say.
Perhaps we'll have something to say next week.
In place of anything we might say, here is our transcript of Bishop Mark Hanson's remarks at the end of the August 21 afternoon plenary session of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly:
I have been standing here thinking about my 23 years as a parish pastor and how differently I would go into a context if I was gathering with a family or a group of people that had just experienced loss or perhaps were wondering if they still belonged or in fact felt deeply that ones to whom they belong had been severed from them.
That would be a very different pastoral conversation.
And I would probably turn to words such as Romans 8:
Who is to condemn? It is christ jesus who died, yes, who was raised, who was at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us.Who will separate us from the love of Christ? I'm convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor rulers nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
But then I thought, "What if I were going into a family or a group, a community that had always wondered if they belonged and suddenly had now received a clear affirmation that they belonged.All of the wondering about the dividing walls, the feelings of separation seemed to have dropped away.
That would be a very different conversation.
I would probably read to them out of Ephesians:
But now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ, for he is our peace.
In his flesh, he has made both groups into one.
He has broken down the dividing wall that is the hostility between us.in him, the whole structures joined together and grows into a holy temple and lord in whom you also are builting to spiritually into a dwelling place of God.

But then I thought, what if those two groups were together?
But also in their midst were those who had not experienced loss or the feeling of the dividing wall of separation coming down, but were wondering and worried if all that had occurred might sever the unity that is ours in Christ and wondered if their actions might have contributed to reconciliation or separation?


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    If all those people were together in a room, I would read from Colossians:
    As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another.
    If anyone has a complaint against the other, forgive each other just as the lord has forgiven you so you must also forgive.
    Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony and let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body and be thankful.
    Let the word of christ dwell in you richly.
    Teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, with gratitude in your hearts, sing songs, hymns and spiritual songs to God.
    And whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

    That passage gives invitation and expectation that those deeply disappointed today will have in this church the expectation and the freedom to continue to admonish and to teach.
    And so, too, those that have experienced reconciliation today, you are called to humility. You are called to clothe yourselves with love.
    But we're all called to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, remembering again and again that we are called in the one body.
    I will invite you tomorrow afternoon into important, thoughtful, prayerful conversations about what all of this means for our life together.
    But what is absolutely important for me is that that's a conversation we have together.
    I ended my oral report with these words.
    "We meet one another finally, not in our agreements or our disagreements, but at the foot of the cross, where God is faithful, where Christ is present with us, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ."
    Let us pray.
    Oh, God, gracious and holy, mysterious and merciful, we meet this day at the foot of the cross and there we kneel in gratitude and awe that you have lovd us so much that you would give the life of your son so that we might have life in his name.
    Send your spirit this night, the spirit of the risen Christ that has been breathed into us.
    May it calm us.
    May your spirit unite us.
    May it continue to gather us.
    In jesus' name, amen.

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