We are living amid enormous change and transition. The twin pandemics of COVID-19 and structural racism have caused us to rethink the ways in which we gather, serve and live our lives. During massive disruption, we are being called to rethink the purpose of the church and the many ways we have not lived into God’s purpose for our life together. We will never go back to the way things were pre-pandemic. We will continue to reach people through virtual methods, and we will never again blindly enable the police to kill Black men and women.
As we reclaim the gospel purpose of the church, we will live more intentionally into Jesus’ first sermon (Luke 4:18–19), “to preach good news to the poor, announce pardon to those in prison and recovery of sight to those who are blind, to set the burdened and battered free, and to announce, “This is God’s year to act!” To live fully into our purpose, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, which will transform the church from an alignment with the powers and principalities of the empire to aligning more completely with God’s reign.
The prophet Ezekiel presents a fitting image for the modern church’s transition and transformation. In many ways the church has lost its way, and we are similar to the people of Israel in Exile. We are lost, discouraged, without purpose and without relevance. In other words, we are dead. We have no power. We are not making a difference in our neighborhoods. We have lost influence and are very similar to the valley of dry bones described by the prophet in Ezekiel 37:1–14. But the good news is that God is at work. God is restoring the church. God will not only put tissue, tendons and skin on the bones, but will breathe life into the dead bones. Once again, we are reminded that we live only by God’s breath.
In other words, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will regain our purpose. We will do justice. We will offer hope. We will invite people into a community in which all are cared for, loved and find their purpose. We will be part of what God is doing to restore beauty in our lives, neighborhoods and world.
All of this is possible for those who hope in the Lord. Another prophet dealing with God’s people in the Exile puts it this way, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
In this time of disruption and transition, let us not lose hope, give up or find our identity from any other source but God. The Holy Spirit will breathe life in us, and we will be the people of God the world needs to see, experience and hear.
The Easter Good News will sustain us and give us courage. Nothing inside us nor around us can defeat this way of life in Jesus. The world is being set right by the power of God’s love. We are invited to join this gospel cause each day. Love truly does win. There is no better news than God’s loving purpose for Creation.
Ray Jones, III
Theology, Formation & Evangelism director