April Evangelism Newsletter
This month we continue exploring our Episcopal Evangelism challenge for 2022: Creating authentic communities of friends within our churches to live out our baptismal promises and the church’s mission—to restore and be restored in unity with God and each other, in Christ. Our guest Evangelism Catalyst this month is Elllis Montes, who is ushering us into Eastertide, by exploring what it means to love and serve one another.
“Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor”Romans 12:10
“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet”John 13:14
“Death is something empires worry about, not something gardeners worry about. It’s certainly not something resurrection people worry about.”Rachel Held Evans
Death is an important and oftentimes necessary part of gardening. Many of our favorite flowers—bluebonnets, pansies, sunflowers—are annuals, plants that only grow for one season, then die. However, their death does not simply mean an empty spot in the garden. First, as the plants grow, they consume the nutrients in the soil and move it around. Some plants can even break through clumps of clay to make them more hospitable for future plants. In addition to consuming the nutrients, the roots also become hosts for fungi and other microbes. When the plant dies, the remaining matter becomes food for the microbiome under the ground and at the surface, nourishing lasting communities of life. Many times, the plant will leave behind fruits and seeds. Some might become food for birds migrating during the winter, and others will become the next generation of beautiful flowers.
Throughout their lives, plants do not exercise absolute control over everything that goes on around them. Many do use their roots to spread around and anchor themselves for the coming stormy season or even to find more nutrients in spent soil or hidden sources of water in a dry environment, but they do not control which microbes they will host or which critters might come by to eat a leaf, find shelter, or even pollinate them. Instead, plants use their resources as best they can, and they unconditionally provide and support life all around them.
Lately, more and more politicians have come to power to exercise their authority over as much of their country or neighboring lands as possible. This usually comes at the expense of the people represented by these politicians, and the benefits, if any, often do not help those represented. Unfortunately, this use of power leads to conflicts, which either create or expose shortages of food, water, or energy, which ultimately harm the lives these politicians claim to be protecting or raising up.
During Jesus’ ministry, people were clamoring for a powerful political leader. They were occupied by an expanding Rome after having had some freedom under other alliances. They had traditional poems and histories describing the coming messiah, a person chosen by God to lead them out of captivity and into prosperity. They even relied on historical precedent in their expectations for a new messiah. In Isaiah, Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia, was called a messiah, celebrated for liberating the Jews. Thus, people expected Jesus to wield this kind of political power and use it against their enemies.
However, Jesus did not satisfy these expectations. Instead of exercising political power, he went from small town to small town, teaching and healing. Instead of taking up arms against the Romans or any other people who held him in contempt, he turned the other cheek. Instead of amassing wealth and followers, he got down and started washing his students’ feet.
While his ministry certainly challenged and corrected these expectations, Jesus also used his ministry to nourish and build up. Rather than take the position of an emperor and wield destructive power, Jesus instead began a ministry that tended to the needy, lifted up the oppressed, and welcomed newcomers into community. Jesus cared for his surroundings just as plants do.
We live in a time when politicians are exercising their authority, hoping to destroy communities, cultures, and people, but we are not called to emulate them. We are not called to amass great wealth and build massive structures that gaze down upon Jesus. Instead, we are called to serve one another, tending to one another, and learning about one another. Jesus calls us to look at our surroundings and see how we can tend to all who come by our communities. While this ministry will not end up with us leading masses of people, putting our mark upon a product that comes out of our communities, we will end up like our plants do. Our care for our community will foster its growth and support new generations of people. Our care for strangers finding their way into our communities will be carried to places we may never know. Our care for the lives of others will result in a continuous resurrection, a constant reminder of God’s healing love in this world.
Who do you sense Jesus calling you to serve?
Who needs tending to?