Restoration and remodeling

Psalm 63:1-8(9-11), 98 (Morning)

Psalm 103 (Evening)

Amos 9:11-15

2 Thessalonians. 2:1-3,13-17

John 5:30-47

We’ve spent a fair while in the Daily Office on the book of Amos in this cycle; it’s an important book for any of us who crave social justice. Amos is a book that, if we listen carefully, we get an important message–that there’s more to following God’s call than merely “being religious.” It’s a book that reminds us that God’s intent is for transformed people to be more than observant and more than personally moral–that we are called to be collectively moral people as a society. It’s a book that sometimes grates on the sensibilities of those who feel personally pious and want to blame evil on others, or on a dark power that can sway us. Amos is a little bit like Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

As we reach the end of this book, today’s reading reminds us of another difficult truth–that God expects us to rebuild what belongs to us rather than destroy and start over. Some of the things we are called to rebuild (like the Earth)…well there is no tearing it down and starting over. I don’t see any handy planets in the area we can all pack up and move to and recolonize. These rebuilt places are to be a home for all–not just the chosen or special.

It’s another theme that I encountered in my own life in The Great House Remodeling. I discovered that there was way more work than I thought there’d be, it was way more costly than I thought it was, and that my friends did not always agree it was worth it. I don’t think it was a random coincidence that this experience was followed by my mission trip to Lui, South Sudan. In Lui, I discovered the other side that counterbalanced the heaviness and burdensomeness I encountered in The Great House Remodeling–that among the deepest depths of poverty, disease, and aftermath of fifty years of war, there was hope, and singing, and joy coexisting with PTSD and fear…and that hope was winning.

All of us have tasks staring us in the face, calling us to rebuild rather than destroy, to live with what we have rather than demolish and create from new. Perhaps it is in repairing the torn remnant of our family life, or restructuring our workplaces to create more fairness and equality. Maybe it’s something as simple as having a greater vigilance about recycling, or using less of a carbon footprint, even when sometimes it feels like our own efforts only create more room for others to be more wasteful.

In terms of how this relates with our own tensions within the Episcopal Church, perhaps it means that we need to remain in the tensions of our history as “church as edifice” vs. “re-imagining a church where the edifices are fewer and further between.” In a world where Christianity no longer dominates in an increasingly secular and pleural America, what does the rebuilt church look like? I don’t think any of us can answer that unless we are willing to start to re-frame our ministries through the lens of their intersections with our communities. This is not new; it was created out of General Convention 2003. Some dioceses are already attempting the process on a congregation-to-diocese level; the one I am most familiar with is the process in the Diocese of Indianapolis, where congregations are asked to complete an annual self-study and provide a short narrative for the next year’s diocesan convention.

What do we discover is in need of rebuilding when we examine our common life and ministry, and where to we feel called to pitch in to do the hard work of restoration?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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