Joy J. Moore: ‘We cannot be a healthy church on a sick planet’
November 14, 2020
Even though they were recorded months ago, the preaching that was part of the recent Festival of Homiletics touched on topics at the heart of recent days of protests, injustice and anguish.
That included the sermon “Breathless Anticipation” by the Rev. Dr. Joy J. Moore, associate professor of Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. For her text, Moore selected Romans 8:18–22, which includes these words from Paul: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the Creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the Creation itself will be set free from it bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole Creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.”
“What ails the church,” Moore said, “is the failure to recognize that sin is more than the violation; it is the effect of that violation. … The mission of God is the reconciliation and restoration of all humanity and Creation.”
While the festival focused on climate change, several participants broadened that theme to include other difficult struggles, including racial equity.
“All one has in desperation is hope,” Moore said. “To anticipate things won’t always be what they are now, that’s hope.” Unborn hope, as alluded to by James Weldon Johnson in the second verse of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” “is when you cannot see a way out, when you are stuck and there is no rescue to come,” Moore said. “When people are denied their humanity just because of who they are, it is aborted hope.”
But anticipation “is to believe again, to imagine something different,” she said. “Our efforts must demonstrate that Jesus’ death is evidence that God so loved the word, and Paul affirms that the created world can hardly wait for what’s coming next.”
We aren’t just recipients of God’s grace, she said — we are agents of God’s peace. But when Christians are on the sidelines of issues, including climate change, restoration work is stalled.
“Creation is being more or less held back right now,” she said. “God reins it in until the Creation and the creatures are ready. … God’s Creation-restoring justice and covenantal faithfulness is our hope.”
Paul’s letter to the church in Rome “is a reminder that what we see now is not what we get later,” she said. “Jesus’ death was real, but Jesus’ death is not final. We grieve the losses we experience, but we grieve through hope.”
The suffering we’re enduring at the present moment “is not worth comparing to the glory about to be revealed to us,” Moore said. Are we tired? “Breathe in the breath of God. Then you might know what the Creation is waiting for,” she suggested. “It’ll be obvious that nothing was able to keep us from the love of God. Breathe, for God’s glory is better than any circumstance that we’re in right now.”
Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: Climate Change
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Gracious God, give us humble hearts so that we can recognize the gifts of others and encourage the use of those gifts for the edification of your church. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the one who teaches us your ways. Amen.