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United with Christ — and thus with God

Everyday God-talk explores God’s work of healing in a broken world

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Jeff Eddings serves communion during a 2019 New Worshiping Communities coaches gathering. (Photo by Shawn Kang)

LOUISVILLE — In the latest episode of Everyday God-talk, the host, the Rev. Dr. Barry Ensign-George, uses one of the key books of the Reformed tradition to explore how God’s work of healing in a broken world takes hold in our life.

The coordinator for the Office of Theology and Worship in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) says this healing, which unites us with Jesus Christ, invites faithful Presbyterians to be agents of God’s healing in the world.

Episode three of the first official season of Everyday God-talk is centered on the third of four titles in John Calvin’s landmark 1536 book “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” on “God who Sustains, Heals and Provides.”

“Calvin turns mystical here,” Ensign-George said. “Like earlier mystics who looked for way to be united with Christ — and thus with God.”

Directed and produced by So Jung Kim, associate for Theology, this first season of Everyday God-talk is focused on environmental justice and the climate crisis.  Each episode features three rooms providing theological reflection (room 1), opportunities to join in God’s work of caring for Creation (room 2), and spiritual guidance for opening one’s heart to God’s healing in the world (room 3).

As Ensign-George reflected theologically on “Our Soul of God who Sustains, Heals and Provides,” he noted that Calvin emphasized the Holy Spirit in healing and transforming us into people who join in God’s work.

“Professor Dr. Christopher Elwood [Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary] points out that for Calvin, faith is about things we believe, like God is at work in the world to bring healing and wholeness, and how that belief shapes us,” he said.

The Rev. Dr. Barry Ensign-George

For Ensign-George, this changes how we see humanity in the world. We are not surprised when we encounter human brokenness in ourselves or in others. Rather, we see brokenness as what God is using to make us whole, drawing us to join that work.

In “Our Body for God who Sustains, Heals and Provides,” the Rev. Rebecca Barnes, coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, discussed attending a Presbytery of Yukon meeting in 2019 in Palmer, Alaska, on climate change. Barnes was struck by how Native and Indigenous communities in Alaska and around the world are feeling some of the first and more dire impacts of climate change.

The Rev. Rebecca Barnes

Barnes says one of the ways to help heal “this beautiful, beloved planet” is by “accepting the wisdom and leadership of people who are most vulnerable and impacted by climate change.”

She introduces God-talkers to Vi Waghiyi, who is environmental director  and justice program director at Alaska Community Action on Toxics, a Presbyterian Hunger Program grantee partner. Waghiyi is working on a community-based project on St. Lawrence Island, which is home to Yupik Eskimos.

“Alaska is warming three times faster than the U.S. as a whole,” Waghiyi said. “The effects of climate change and the warming of the planet in the Arctic are devastating.”

According to Waghiyi, there are food security issues for her people, who have relied on walruses and seals for generations. These mammals are dependent on sea ice. She said with the glaciers and permafrost melting, elders and children are becoming increasingly hungry because their freezers are empty.

And the Artic has also become like a “hemispheric sink” for persistent organic pollutants that have been sequestered in the ice. As the ice melts, these pollutants are released more quickly.

Vi Waghiyi

“The Artic Ocean has the most microplastic of all oceans on the planet,” she said. “We’re also seeing erosions on our shores. Some of my communities are falling into the ocean. They need immediate assistance. We need allies and supporters for the work we’re doing in Alaska.”

In “Our Heart of God who Sustains, Heals and Provides,”  the Rev. Jeff Eddings, associate for coaching and spiritual formation for 1001 New Worshiping Communities, takes viewers deeper into the The Jesus Prayer, which originated with the early church desert mothers.

The prayer — “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” — is widely taught and discussed throughout the Eastern Orthodox Church, Eddings said. The prayer identifies who Jesus is and who we are before God.

“The first part is that the divine is set within Jesus,” he said. “The second and third parts deal with us seeking God’s mercy, grace and love in our lives — and that we have not lived up the fullness of love God offered to us.”

But according to Eddings, the original prayer was even briefer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” This has him rethinking the prayer’s theology.

“What if we started from a different place?” he said. “What if we think of ourselves first as the beloved. Honestly, that is how God see us. It’s right in the Creation story. God see everything in Creation as good.”

“Doesn’t it change how the prayer feels when we approach God?” he asked. “To realize we are God’s beloved, rather than beating ourselves up about how we’re not good enough, or that we continually fail as sinners?”

Eddings invited those watching to join him in repeating this prayer, again and again: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, your beloved.”

Watch the latest Everyday God-talk videos here.  In October, EGT will reflect on “God who Cares” through the provision of baptism and communion, as well as the community of followers of Jesus Christ, the church, to help us become agents of God’s healing.

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