From Doctrine and Covenants section 165, paragraphs 1A, [1C, 1D], and E, I read:
“Community of Christ, a divine vision is set before you. … Lovingly invite others to experience the good news of new life in community with Christ. Undertake compassionate and just actions to abolish poverty and end needless suffering. Pursue peace on and for the Earth. Let nothing separate you from this mission. It reveals divine intent for personal, societal, and environmental salvation; a fullness of gospel witness for creation’s restoration.”
Can you sense a future laboring to be born through those words? It’s an alternative to many assumed trends.
Earlier the Conference approved Words of Counsel that describe God’s vision for the church and it’s mission. Was our action routine? Or was it a prophetic community saying: “We see God’s vision for us, and we choose, in faith, to live with hope in that vision!”?
Seeing an alternative to presumed reality is spiritually transforming! Once we begin seeing it together we can start living it together. And once we start living it together, a new future has been born!
The purpose of vision is to rouse a new reality to life that challenges the accepted view of the way things are. “An alternative vision,” Walter Brueggeman wrote in his book, The Prophetic Imagination, and I quote “An alternative vision serves to energize persons and communities by its promise of another time, an alternative time and situation toward which the community of faith may move.”
In which direction are we moving in response to God’s vision for us? Clearly God sees a church that, quote, “Lovingly [invites] others to experience the good news of new life in community with Christ.”
Do you know there are more than a few “seekers” at this Conference exploring Community of Christ as a possible spiritual home? Some of them will be coming to your congregation. What will they find there? Will they find hospitality? People willing to listen and care? Will they find all the blessings of genuine community in Christ? Will the community we talk about be the community that they experience in your congregation?
Obviously God sees Community of Christ regularly celebrating baptisms and confirmations of new disciples eagerly involved in the church’s fellowship and mission. But do you see that occurring in your congregation?
The first step is to prayerfully picture it. Can you see it?
God also sees the church undertaking “compassionate and just actions to abolish poverty and end needless suffering.” The world is living in a nightmare of pain and despair. God is calling for a massive exodus of people from poverty and related suffering.
Who will be the prophets standing before crafty politicians and predatory hoarders of wealth saying with conviction, “You had better let God’s people go!” (applause) Can you see (applause) — Can you see Community of Christ as that voice in the world?
The poet writes: “Awaken your sleeping prophet, believe in your Moses, and go…” Also, according to the “divine vision…set before us,” God sees a courageous faith community spending itself to “Pursue peace on and for the Earth.”
Please note it is “Pursue peace ON and FOR the Earth.” Peace ON the Earth is about human conflict
resolution and post-conflict reconciliation. Peace FOR the Earth is about nursing the gaping wounds that we have inflicted on the Earth’s land, water, life, and precious atmosphere.
Evidently, God also sees a church that is generous like God is generous. Evidently God’s view of true capacity exceeds our calculations.
The generosity called for by God’s vision is about stewardship as discipleship and spiritual growth. Generosity is spiritually liberating for those caught in excessive consumerism and self-indulgence. Each disciple’s act of generosity is a prophetic act, because it’s an act of hope, and because it confronts a false vision of greed and material accumulation as the assumed way of the world. Generosity is spirituality in action, powered by grace, gratitude, and hope. Generosity is living the life of Jesus!
Also, since the time of Jesus and his first followers, God has called for the rise of communities of disciples that live in oneness and equality as a witness of the power of the gospel to reconcile and bring peace.
As we go forth from this Conference focused on the theme “One in Christ,” we must resist the efforts of those who continue to try to hijack the gospel and the church to promote their visions of intolerance, prejudice, and hate in the name of Jesus Christ. (applause)
All my life I have heard sermons, sung hymns, and listened to discussions about Zion. According to the vision before us, God sees a church that doesn’t just speak and sing of Zion. God sees one that “live[s], love[s], and share[s] as Zion: those who strive to be visibly one in Christ, among whom there are no poor or oppressed.”
Can you see your congregation, as well as the worldwide church, living, loving, and sharing as Zion? What does that really mean where you live? I’ll give you a hint! The only way there will be “no poor or oppressed” is for the rest of us to change our ways! Zion is the divine vision that awakens our nobler natures and potential for sharing in community in the spirit of Christ’s love.
Zion is how Community of Christ practices hope in the world. Or, as said by Geoff Spencer in his
book, A Brightness of Hope, (and I quote) “The vision of Zion, among other things, represents our conviction that the present is less than God’s ultimate intention for human life, that present is to be transformed and changed… The symbol of Zion does not present us with a blueprint; rather it prompts us to welcome the oncoming future instead of fearing it or wishing to withdraw from it.”
(end of quote)
The first experience of Continuing Revelation I had as prophet-president of the church began with these words:
“‘Community of Christ,’ your name, given as a divine blessing, is your identity and calling. If you will discern and embrace its full meaning, you will not only discover your future, you will become a blessing to the whole creation. Do not be afraid to go where it beckons you to go.
Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God’s shalom, invites all people to come and receive divine peace in the midst of the difficult questions and struggles of life. Follow Christ in the way that leads to God’s peace and discover the blessings of all of the dimensions of salvation.”
—Doctrine and Covenants 163: 1–2
The first paragraph of Section 163 tells us our future will be discovered as we let our name, Community of Christ, lead us to that future. It’s like the lepers described in Luke, chapter 17. They became whole only as they “went” where Jesus told them. During their “going” they were blessed, not before. By going in faith and hope toward a promised future their lives were transformed.
Our name, Community of Christ, is calling us to keep going into a promised future. It is moving us toward a future God wants for us. That future involves being more and more like Jesus, who loved indiscriminately, gave freely, forgave, and advocated for peaceful reconciliation instead of vengeful retribution. Our name calls us. It urges us to be a faith community through which Christ’s healing and salvation flow freely into a suffering world.
The English word “salvation” comes from the Latin word “salvus”. It means “safe”, “healthy”, “sound”, “well”, and “whole”. In some scripture passages, it is closely related to various forms of peace or shalom. Salvation and peace go together in God’s universe. Salvation and peace go together in God’s economy of salvation.
Recently I was drawn to consider the sentence that concludes the second paragraph of Section 163:
“Follow Christ in the way that leads to God’s peace [or shalom] and discover the blessings of all of the dimensions of salvation.”
The phrase “all of the dimensions of salvation” has intrigued me since Section 163 was introduced. What does that phrase mean for Community of Christ identity, message, and mission going forward?
I was glad when the Holy Spirit prompted more to be said about that phrase. After stressing the importance of inviting others to Christ, and abolishing poverty and ending needless suffering, and pursuing peace on and for the Earth as major elements of Christ’s mission, the Holy Spirit confirmed it’s all about God’s big vision for salvation.
“Let nothing separate you from this mission. It reveals divine intent for personal, societal, and environmental salvation; a fullness of gospel witness for creation’s restoration.”
—Doctrine and Covenants 165
So during a time when some types of Christianity are preaching increasingly narrow views of salvation using words of condemnation and destruction, Community of Christ is called to proclaim a broader vision of salvation. God’s vision is holistic salvation for people, societies, and the Earth. Such salvation is not restricted to some ethereal future. It can begin now for persons, communities, and creation wherever and whenever God’s vision is pursued. It’s an astoundingly hopeful and holistic vision if we choose to see it and respond to it!
As we leave this World Conference we basically have two choices:
We can surrender to those, both in and outside the church, who would steal our hope to serve desperate purposes. We can allow toxic visions that spawn cynicism, greed, suspicion, and violence to claim us.
we can choose to live in the reconciling, healing, saving vision of God expressed in and through Christ-centered community. And we can enthusiastically invite others to live with us in that vision.
I pray as a result of all we have experienced this week that it is apparent Community of Christ is called to live in God’s vision of hope, salvation, and peace regardless of any challenges or temporary setbacks we may face.
This is a remarkably resilient church with a bright future if we allow God’s vision for us to define our direction and priorities.
Go with God’s blessing and Christ’s peace until we meet again!