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Director’s Message

 

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The Lenten journey towards Palm/Passion Sunday and Easter always leads to fresh insights into matters of life and faith for me, while providing pathways into reconciliation and healing. For in these seasons, we experience again the uncertainty, difficulty and heartbreak of life. We live in a world shaped by COVID-19, an evil war in Ukraine, and injustice that invades and spreads across our neighborhoods and world.

We are living in a time when everything is changing. The ways we live and work are changing. The ways we gather with one another continue to change. So much of what is changing must be engaged by the church because the needs of people can no longer be ignored, and the world’s table can never again be set for just a few. Therefore, the church is changing in order to reclaim our mission of justice and hope. There is no better context than Lent and Easter in which to engage a changing world with the very purpose of the church.

In these seasons, my reflections and practices take me deeper into the life of Jesus, the very purpose of the church and our lives. Jesus once exclaimed that one thing is important. He was asked to pick the greatest of the commandments. In other words, what is the most important thing about life and faith? He responded that we are to love God with all we have, and there is another command just like it: We are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Matthew records the context of Jesus’ purpose with these words:

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:34–40, NRSV)

The purpose of the church is a way of life that is focused on loving God and neighbor. If we love God and neighbor, we are living deeply into our purpose. No matter where that purpose leads, we are compelled to follow Jesus along the journey of loving God and neighbor. Following Jesus will lead us into stimulating teaching, mighty works and life-changing healing. But following Jesus will also lead us into rejection, times of trial, suffering and even death — followed by resurrection and new life. For this is the pathway of change. We live into our purpose, no matter where it takes us. And when it seems as if all is lost, we know this journey is preparing us to celebrate and live into majestic, powerful news: Jesus is alive! Easter is here now, too! Stay on course. Love God and neighbor, and the world will continue to transform and change.

Grace,

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Ray G Jones III
Director,
Theology, Formation & Evangelism