Welcoming Christ in our midst
Christine Coy Fohr | bible Explorations
‘Our commission and call to reconciliation | Read: 2 Corinthians 5:17–20
When I was a Young Adult Volunteer, I served a congregation in Northern Ireland and participated in a ministry of reconciliation. On one cold December evening, congregants gathered in the warmth of the church building before setting out on their annual caroling pilgrimage. In a spirit of good cheer, we crossed the barbed-wire “peace walls” that separated the church from its neighbors and walked the streets, singing carols of hope, good news, and Christ coming to reconcile the world. As we walked and caroled, we were joined by children from the neighborhood who followed us at close distance, kicking their soccer balls, sharing snide remarks, and generally having a laugh at these strange church folks and their caroling. When our walk ended, warm tea and mince pies awaited us in the church building. Without missing a beat, our neighborhood companions decided to join us, eager to enjoy warm food and play football indoors. That Advent evening, those children began their pilgrimage into Garnerville Presbyterian Church. They brought with them a message about hospitality—a message that opened our eyes to the presence of Christ all around us, encouraging us not only to share the good news but to welcome it with fresh ears and open hearts.
Pray: Draw us together
God of grace, in Christ you have grafted us into your new creation. You have drawn us together and commissioned us to share your ministry of reconciliation with all the world. Empower us as your ambassadors, that in our mission we might join with our brothers and sisters the world over, celebrating the good news made real in our midst. Amen.
Study: Our call to reconciliation
In Advent and Christmas, we celebrate the good news of reconciliation—that though we live in a broken, fearful world, God graciously became incarnate, accompanying us, forgiving us, and inviting us to live as transformed people. In 2 Corinthians, Paul celebrates with wonder the reality of this grace—that though we know ourselves to be sinful, God nonetheless continues to have hope for us, reconciling us not only to God but to one another. What’s more, God entrusts us with this ministry, commissioning us as “ambassadors who represent Christ” (5:20 Common English Bible). Reconciliation is both our saving grace and our calling—our transformation and our commission.
In mission, we are sent to share this good news in word and deed. But we are also sent to receive the good news that our brothers and sisters have to tell—to hear the work of God in their midst. We meet our brothers and sisters—all of us commissioned ambassadors—and we celebrate God’s love that binds us together. In mission, we gather around kitchen tables and Communion tables, around water wells and baptismal fonts, to share and receive the good news of God in Christ. There we hear once again that the world that appears so divided is indeed one.
Remember: Our unity in Christ
Though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other. (Rom. 12:5 CEB)
Live: As ambassadors and recipients of Christ in the world.
Walking the streets of the Garnerville housing projects, those of us from the church were seeking to serve as Christ’s ambassadors to the neighborhood—to share the good news of God’s incarnate love being born into this broken world. What we had not anticipated was the message our neighbors could reveal to us, teaching us of true hospitality, relationship, and reconciliation that crosses barriers of class and ideology.
In mission, we enter the world as Christ’s ambassadors and meet him in ways we may never have anticipated. We find him in South Sudan, in worship services brimming with hope. We meet Christ in Colombia, in communities where suffering meets solidarity. We meet him in our hometowns, in our families, in our places of work. And we meet Christ among children in Belfast—kicking soccer balls, having some fun, and transforming our understanding of hospitality. As Mother Teresa once said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another.” This season, let us remember.
Christine Coy Fohr is a teaching elder in the PC(USA) and Presbyterian World Mission’s consultant for mission leaders.