Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hope and Courage for Dialogue

Even before I joined the United Church of Christ a few years ago, I admired Rev. Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson. When I heard her speech (or, better said, sermon) at the World Council of Churches Assembly last year, I was simply overwhelmed and immediately proud to be associated with both the World Council, of which she is a President, and the UCC, in which she is ordained.

This morning, as I read my daily scriptural passage emailed to me by Sojourner’s, I caught her name on a link. She gave a sermon a few nights ago on Romans 5. Whatever your political or religious leanings, I think you will find this sermon enlightening:

One issue which continues to trouble me is a pervasive lack of commitment among religious persons, politicians, and global leaders to simply sit down and dialogue. Rev. Jackson’s sermon is about hope, particularly hope in the face of suffering and struggle. I don’t believe that violence can lead to peace. I don’t believe that freedom and democracy can ensue from military force. I know that many people disagree with, and that is OK. Actually, that is what freedom and democracy is about, isn’t it?

But what I do not understand is a lack of commitment to dialogue. If we are truly committed to our own beliefs… if we truly believe in them and honestly feel that those are the right, ethical, moral, and just positions to hold, then doesn’t it also stand to reason that those positions that we hold so dear would always reveal themselves as truth in an open and honest dialogue?
Toward the end of her sermon, Rev. Jackson said, “Hope, for Christians, can never just be a word – it must become an action… a public commitment to follow Jesus in the non-violent struggle for justice and peace.” For me, this action and public commitment must begin (without end) with open dialogue and discussion. This requires courage, indeed, to subject our ideas and beliefs to criticism and argument, but this courage finds its endless source rooted in hope. In the words of St. Paul:

“We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5, NRSV)

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