by James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
The Christian church is now some 1,980 years on this side of the first Easter which remembered and celebrated the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. We and generations of Christians before us have labored for centuries to carry the Easter message of the transforming love of Jesus Christ to the world. You and I are part of the first generation of North Americans to live in a society that is becoming increasingly ambivalent to the presence of Christianity. Some are even hostile toward the church. The early church shared the gospel of Jesus in a religiously plural, but hostile world. The 21st century has brought Christianity full circle.
Early Christians came together to celebrate their life together with God through prayer, table fellowship, and teaching about the Way. They also went out from the great Temple into the streets to be witnesses to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Their message asked persons to embrace the Way of life and the rule of God in their hearts. They established small groups that met in homes for nurture and fellowship. It was through these small groups that a larger sense of community developed. Finally, they experienced persecution and arrest from both religious and secular authorities because the Way they chose affected the economic practices of society and challenged established religious traditions.
Based on these essential concerns of the early church and what is becoming obvious to us now of the emerging world, we can conclude a few ideas about the church in the 21st century:
- Our primary mission will be to establish Christian communities in the midst of a hostile and violent world.
- The mission of these communities will be to proclaim the rule of God to all people.
- Our mission’s dominant theme will be the Way of life prefigured in the life and ministry of Jesus.
- The life of prayer will be necessary to keep our Christian communities focused on our mission as witnesses to the Way.
- All church and community leadership will be based on faithful service to the Way of Christ.
- And finally, I believe that all Christian communities in the 21st century will need to be able to stand on our own… to self-sustain.
Our excellent leadership of Trinity Church believes that, based on the life of the early church, the only way to survive and move forward in our time is for our congregation to turn outward to the world. All our ministries and missions need to shout to the entire world that Jesus is the Way while affirming the sacred worth of others without regard to their religious beliefs, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or nationality. Our mission involves embracing our passion for social justice and the demand Christ makes on us to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, assist those alien to our land, forgive sins, and love the enemy. And this is tough stuff to do. We all know it. Yet, it is what we’re called to do and be.
To embrace the possibilities and opportunities of life and move forward as followers of the Way of Christ, all our missions and ministries must be willing to exist for the sole purpose of bringing the hope and joy of this new life to others who are not yet experiencing it. You and I need to invest God’s gifts of time, talents, treasures, and our very lives to turn society upside down so that, from time to time, those who are usually last can be first at the table of the world’s bounty. You and I need to discover, as we move forward into God’s future, the courage needed for embracing and offering this new life in Jesus as the Way. We are fellow pilgrims along the Way that leads us more fully and deeply into the wonder of God’s love, presence in the world, and mission. This is the most healthy and hopeful way to live as Easter people to the world.