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Copyrighted by Troy Sybrant

A Pastoral Letter for Our Current Moment

LoopA Pastoral Letter for Our Current Moment

June 6, 2020

Dear friends of Compass Christian Church,

As Christians we recently celebrated Pentecost and as a denomination rejoiced that the #2 mission priority our denomination set in 2001 of establishing 1000 new congregations by 2020 had not only been met but exceeded! In 2001 we committed ourselves as a denomination to three other mission priorities: (#3) transformation of 1000 new congregations by 2020; (#4) leadership necessary to realize these new and renewed congregations; (#1) becoming a pro-reconciling/anti-racist church.

While we celebrate the establishment of 1034 new congregations this Pentecost, we mourn the murder of George Floyd just a few days earlier, pinned down with a knee to his throat gasping for air and calling for his deceased mother, and are enraged it took massive protests for the four police officers to be charged. We mourn that Ahmaud Arbery was chased, hunted down and murdered on February 23, and are enraged it took 74 days before his killers were arrested. Clearly there is significant work to be done not only in our country but also in our churches.

The moral crisis that has always been at the heart of America, visible at all times to the oppressed, is now on such grotesque display that even the privileged cannot look away or deny its veracity. As was the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham or the police using billy clubs and tear gas against demonstrators at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, may these current moments be tipping points for our nation to examine itself, listen to the oppressed, and right these long-standing injustices.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis preserve their neutrality. There comes a time when silence is betrayal. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” The urgency of the present moment demands we embrace, embody, and enact the church that we say we are.

So who do we say we are as a denomination? Our Identity is, “We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.” Our Vision is, “To be a faithful, growing church that demonstrates true community, deep Christian spirituality and a passion for justice.” Our Mission is “To be and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, witnessing, loving and serving from our doorsteps “to the ends of the earth.”

Wholeness…welcome all …demonstrate true community…justice…be and share the Good News of Jesus Christ, witnessing, loving, and serving.” These implicit commitments are made explicit in our mission priority of becoming a pro-reconciling/anti-racist church. These phrases define us a people among whom reconciliation, hospitality, love and justice, and embodying and enacting the Gospel are second nature. We’ve been formed within this particular such that these characteristics appear instinctive.

These life-giving narratives and habits shape our characters, but they’re not the only narratives and habits forming us.

There are death-dealing narratives and habits of systemic racism woven into the history, culture, and structures of our country. It has been displayed in the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others at the hands of police and civilians. Clearly our “justice” system is corrupted by racism, but that’s just one aspect of its reach. Its corrupting tentacles misshape our systems of housing, education, employment, health, longevity, wealth, voting access, and media portrayals. And not just for African- Americans, but First Nations peoples, Latinx, Asians, and others not considered “white.” Jim Wallis of Sojourners calls it “America’s Original Sin” and says, “The United States of America was established as a white society, founded upon the near genocide of another race and then the enslavement of another.” Because this original sin is woven in the history and culture of our country it’s also part of our churches, and why its eradication is a mission priority for our denomination and for our congregation.

Given these realities, who do we say we are as a congregation? We are a people of open hearts, open minds, and open table. Last year we made explicit what is implicit in this statement. What might this say to our current moment?

 

Since we are open-hearted we will:

  • Enter into the suffering of others.

  • Respond compassionately.

  • Listen eagerly.

  • Embody generosity, justice, and peace.

  • Communicate honestly.

  • Be freely affectionate.

Since we are open-minded we will:

  • Embrace humility and receptivity.

  • Acknowledge our own biases and strive for ever-greater objectivity.

  • Embody consideration, mercy, and reason as we seek wisdom.

  • Consider new ideas and educate ourselves about racism and other isms.

  • Seek a common understanding for unitive faith with a tolerance for diversity.

Since we are open-tabled we will:

  • Extend hospitality in new ways to those within and beyond the church.

  • Embody inclusion, welcome, and visible unity.

Beneath these congregational and denominational affirmations about identity, mission, and practices are some fundamental theological foundations.

 

We seek to become an anti-racist church because:

 

1. Racism is a sin against God our Creator. We’ve all been made in the image of God (Gen 1:26), all of us are made a little lower than the angels (Ps 8:5), and God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth (Acts 17:26).

 

2. Racism is a sin against the Gospel. Jesus’ inaugural sermon set his mission priorities including “good news to the poor, release to captives, a sight to the blind, the oppressed go free, and the year of the Lord’s favor.” If our gospel isn’t good news to those oppressed by racism, it’s contrary to the Gospel, and those who proclaim it are accursed (Gal 1:8).

 

3. Racism is a sin against our baptismal identity. When we’re baptized we’re no longer “Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, barbarian or Scythian, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus, for Christ is all and in all!” (Gal 3:28, Col 3:11).

 

4. Racism is a sin against communion’s hospitality. We welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us (Rom 15:7); the one cup and bread shared to make us one body (1 Cor 10:16-17).

 

5. Racism is a sin against Jesus’ prayer for the Church. Before Jesus’ death, his parting prayer for us is that we be one so that the world may believe (Jn 17:20-21).

 

6, Racism is a sin against the Holy Spirit. Those led by the Spirit of God are children of God, and that Spirit bears witness that we are God’s heirs and Christ’s joint-heirs (Rom 8:14-17).

 

7. Racism is a sin against the Kingdom’s membership/heaven’s citizenry. We will be embodied beings in the New Jerusalem, with every tribe, language, people, and nation (Rev 5:9, 7:9).

 

8. Racism is a sin against our fundamental calling as Christians. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:4-6).

 

We seek to become a pro-reconciling church because:

  1. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. Jesus’ renewal of us commits us to being reconciled with one another (2 Cor 5:16-20).

  2. Our Christian identity transcends cultural boundaries. Because we are new creations in Christ, our old selves have died and our new selves reflect our Creator (Col 3:5-10).

  3. Favoritism is forbidden among the faithful. When preferential treatment is given to some and not others, those distinctions lead to judgment with evil thoughts (Jas 2:1-4).

  4. Love for one another demonstrates our obedience to Christ. Jesus’ disciples are to be known by everyone for their demonstrable love before the world.

  5. Diversity and unity are gifts in the Body of Christ. Our differences are needed to enable us to function for the good of the whole (1 Cor 12:12-27).

  6. Christ’s cross has made one new humanity, eradicating any divisions between people. To live in opposition to that reality is to reject Christ’s work of salvation.

  7. Reconciliation and forgiveness are how we enact our faith. Seeking reconciliation and extending forgiveness ought not to be an extraordinary occurrence, but part of our everyday expression of life together (Matt 5:24, 6:15).

  8. Justice, peace, mercy, and right relationships are God’s desire for all creation. We are to embody an alternative community, a current example of God’s future Reign (Mt 5:3-10).

By living into these commitments we embody and enact God’s grace through Jesus Christ. The “living into” will take time and a significant commitment from all of us. It will be a countercultural experience in a society that promotes “fun, fast, and easy.” It will be painful at times to make ourselves vulnerable to explore our implicit biases and privileges. It will be uncomfortable at times having difficult conversations about awareness and discriminatory actions that are not open-hearted or open-minded. Reconciliation means walking a path toward change. Moving from silence to solidarity will require our lives to express what our lips profess. I’m grateful to be on that journey toward reconciliation with you.

Pastor Troy Sybrant

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“Burned Out or Turned Out?” I Kings 19:1-16 1/31/16

 SCRIPTURE: 

I Kings 19:1-16

 1Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. 4But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 5Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” 6He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” 8He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

9At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

11He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.

“Burned Out or Turned Out?”

@Copyrighted by Rev. Troy Sybrant Sermon: “Burned Out or Turned Out?” I Kings 19:1-16 Sunday January 31, 2016

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“The Original Desperate Housewife” Genesis 16:1-2, 4, 6-11, 13 1/24/16

SCRIPTURE:

Genesis 16:1-2, 4, 6-11, 13

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.

And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. 

6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her. The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has listened to your affliction.

13 So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”

“The Original Desperate Housewife”

@Copyrighted by Rev. Troy Sybrant Sermon: “The Original Desperate Housewife” Genesis 16:1-2, 4, 6-11, 13 Sunday January 24, 2016

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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“Gifts For Jesus”; Matthew 2:1-12 Epiphany

SCRIPTURE  

 Matthew 2:1-12

 1In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” 7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.

11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

“Gifts For Jesus”

@Copyrighted by Rev. Troy Sybrant Sermon: “Gifts For Jesus” Matthew 2:1-12

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