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Synod School closing worship explores the church’s role as co-creator


As participants head home, they’re called to keep participating in God’s story

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Vijay Sutrave via Unsplash

STORM LAKE, Iowa — Concluding her week-long journey through biblical accounts starting with the letter “c” — Creation, crisis, covenant and Christ came before — the Rev. DeEtte Decker, the preacher during Synod School last week and the communications director for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, concluded worship on Friday with more alliteration: the church as co-creator.

Her scriptural text was Rev. 21:1-4.

Decker touched on three models of eschatology, defined as the final destiny of the soul and humankind:

  • The futurized model, where “all Creation remains in crisis until Christ returns. We’re all pretty much just hanging out until Jesus comes back,” Decker said. Under this model, Jesus’ return is expected soon.
  • The realized model, in which eschatological passages don’t refer to the future, but instead to the ministry of Jesus and “the kin-dom is already completed in the ministry of Jesus,” Decker said. This model “lacks the apocalyptic upheaval Jesus’ followers had been expecting. What Jesus said and did are of greater significance than any messianic apocalyptic expectations.”
  • Inaugurated eschatology, the belief that the end times were inaugurated by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. “There is an ‘already’ and a ‘not yet,’” in this model, she said.

“As a family of faith, we have to decide which one we want the church to be, and what we want our family story to be,” Decker said. “It comes down to how we love and serve others.”

“Do we hesitate to link our love for others to God’s love for us?” she asked those attending closing worship during the 69th Synod School, held annually at Buena Vista University. “For me, it goes back to what Jesus said: Go and make disciples. Love and serve them. Accept and affirm them and tell them the good news. Share our family story.”

God calls the church to cooperate “by entering into the story and helping people figure out where they are in the story,” she said. “I have seen this inaugurated model lived out this week. I have witnessed inclusivity in all forms. I heard many people sharing how they have come to love God by working for justice and by helping others find their way back to Christ and the church.”

The Rev. DeEtte Decker

In a couple of hours, Decker noted, “We will return to the real world — still beautiful and glorious, and yet not Synod School, the community we all hold so dear. As we leave, we have a choice. Will we continue to participate in God’s story? Will we continue to share and live into our family story? Or will we offer our own? Will we work toward peace, justice and joy, and share the good news of Christ, or will we try to create and connect on our own?”

“May we choose the love of God and the hope of Christ cooperating together to bring heaven to Earth.”

To close the service, the Synod School band reprised the Sister Sledge song “We are Family.” Not only did many worshipers get up and sing, they danced as well.

The 70th Synod School will be held at Buena Vista University July 21-26, 2024. The convocation speaker will be Dr. Corey Schlosser-Hall, Deputy Executive for Vision & Innovation at the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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