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"And now, let us partake in this Holy Communion on this World Communion Sunday. We recognize that Christ's death was for the redemption of all creation. Let us celebrate together with the whole world, as we are all the body of Christ, redeemed by Christ's brokenness, and made whole in God's mighty action!"

It was a simple invitation to the Eucharist. All was going apparently well, a stark contrast to what I had feared in light of the events two weeks earlier. An African Methodist Episcopal Church choir had been invited by one of my parishioners to worship with us on World Communion Sunday. I wholeheartedly encouraged the visit from the guests' choir, and related my enthusiasm to the rest of the congregation. However, after my announcement, one of the leaders of the Church came up to me afterwards and said with a smile: "You know, we never lynched a Preacher in this town before. Don't think you can't be the first one!"

The service for World Communion was packed; seventy-five people attended instead of the normal twenty-five. Apparently, news of the AME choir's arrival and the "hot-shot young Preacher" who invited them, had spread throughout the community. I had prepared a sermon on Romans 3:21-31, along with Galatians 3:28-29 for added emphasis, stressing the inclusiveness of all creation in God's actions through Christ. The choir then sang a beautiful and moving rendition of "Standing in the Light of God." The Eucharist was the culmination of the whole service, affirming the meaning of the Sunday celebration, participating in God's actions of grace, together as the body of Christ.

I never would have imagined that the Holy action of partaking in the Eucharist could be perverted into an opportunity for intimidation and overt racism. As I invited the congregation forward to share in the Eucharist, a large faction of the people led by the church leader who had threatened me arose from their pews and marched to the back of the church. Standing with arms crossed and looks of hatred and imminent doom, they silently and ominously threatened any who would share in the Lord's Supper with the Black choir members. A few people courageously came forward and stood beside the choir in the face of overt evil and indignation; together they participated in God's indestructible love that was manifested in the Eucharist.

The event above is an example of systemic injustice, raising serious questions about Ecclesiology, the meaning of Sacraments, the nature of sin and evil, Theological Anthropology, and by implication, the nature of God, God's grace, and God's revelation in Jesus as the Christ. Three questions will form the framework for this Credo. What does it mean to be created in the image of God? What does it mean to be that image in this time? What will it mean to be completed/fulfilled/perfected as God's image?

It is my assertion that as created in the image of God, I am called to participate in God's love and inclusiveness in God's in-breaking basilea(1) through relationships based on the dynamic perichoretic existence of God. Each person involved in the event above was influenced by and acted from his or her own perception of religious truth, some chose to participate, others chose to oppose. So then, how does one arrive at the "truth?"

It is my opinion that truth is subjective. What one person perceives as reality might not be the perceived reality of another person. One may evaluate truth in three ways: through ability, point of perception, or will. By ability, an individual's encounter with reality can be influenced and filtered through the mind's ability to perceive experiences; some chemicals have the power to alter perception, influencing, impairing or enhancing the mind.(2) By point of perception, the particular vantage point is also a determinant to perceive truth. These vantage points include anything from physical location, economic social background, life events, and similar factors that contribute to a person's points of view. By will, a person may "choose" to accept or deny a truth based on preconceived ideas (paradigms) or a willingness to experience and encounter a differing point of view.(3) So with religious truth, how can one truth be determined as valid over another, and what is religious truth? In my search for religious truth, I use the guidelines of Scripture, Reason, Experience, and Tradition. Here is how I see these at work.

As the vessel for the revealed Word of God, Scripture is the keystone for Christian faith and practice and is the guardian and transmitter of the Christian story from one generation to the next, a potent wellspring for instruction and model for and of the Christian life. Scripture is the divinely inspired manifestation of God's revelation (qeo<pneustoj- God breathed/God inspired)(4), to guide people into a right relationship with God and each other. Inspired means that Scripture is the record of people's encounter with God's self-revelation in the past. That Scripture is alive when its word is received and experienced through life in community demonstrates how Scripture is not a "dead" revelation; it is the "criterion" to evaluate other revelations of the Divine.(5) However central a place Scripture holds in the life of the basilea, it cannot stand alone; Scripture must be interpreted with the implements of reason, tradition, and experience, operating in conjunction to interpret Scripture to enhance and elucidate meaning.(6)

Reason is the capacity to comprehend, discern, and make meaning. Reason analyzes the current situation and makes meaning in a theological sense, approaching but not answering the question "why." Alone, reason yields nothing; knowledge is attained through experiences of events and information outside us, and through reasoning, meaning and understanding can be realized. Dr. Beverly Harrison asserts that knowledge is based upon "sensuality," meaning that people interact with the world and environment through senses and feelings, which are the root for an intellect and value system.(7) Therefore, reason interprets the information gained through the senses and develops meaning. As Scripture is the foundational theophany for Christianity, reason functions to understand and communicate the message found in Scripture. However, sin permeates every aspect of human existence, including reason. Therefore, reason may lead to false conclusions or false understanding of Scripture, perhaps to justify an evil act.(8) To avoid this, reason aided by experience understands and communicates the wisdom and guidance of Scripture.

Experience is encountered in two distinct ways: individually and communally. As an individual matter, experience functions as an internal response to an external event. To illustrate, a believer knows God loves them because through God's grace and the indwelling Holy Spirit, God's action of love is communicated to the individual. In other words, a believer becomes affected by God's love through God's grace communicated by the Holy Spirit indwelling in the believer. In the hymn "He Lives," the final phrase of the refrain states: "You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart."(9) Thus, experience serves as a foundation to understand God's love in the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

As a communal matter, experience is the combined history and understanding of a people, shared through communication, story telling, and collective remembering; communal experience is a "dialogue partner" in understanding. A society may be understood as a social group shaped by a collective conscience, formed by shared experiences and emotions which create a sense of belonging.(10) The collective conscience results from the interactions within social groups through individual participation in events that focus ideas and experiences held in common which influence human behavior by fostering a sense of social unity.

Tradition is the final contributing element in understanding truth through the two avenues of orthodoxy and orthopraxy by setting boundaries for what is appropriate and acceptable belief and practice for Christianity. Tradition provides guidance in passing on the body of knowledge and belief through the generations, while at the same time informing the practice and participation in those beliefs.(11) Thus, tradition serves as a model for living out an authentic Christian praxis with the rule of faith as outlined in Scripture and as a discipline shaped by the wisdom of previous generations.

With the epistemological understanding of how I arrive at religious truth, I turn to the ontological questions of the image of God. What does it mean to be created in the image of God? To understand what the image is, first let me discuss what is being reflected in the image, namely God. It is my belief that God is a Triune God, existing as a perichoretic union of mutuality. To define perichoretic: from a compound Greek word perichoros (peri<xwroj ), peri (peri<) meaning around, and choris (xwri<j) which can convey separateness. Therefore, perichoresis is together-yet-separate-ness, describing the being of God as Triune. Literally, perichoresis is a "neighboring," and in this way, a concept of together yet separate can be understood.

God is beyond all creation, not before or proceeding creation; God is "Being" itself, all that is has its form and being from God. In order to be, a being must assert itself over and against non-being, an act of the power of being which is an act of self-expression or self-exertion against non-being.(12) That God who is the ground of being asserted God's self against non-being and in so doing conquered non-being, God created as an act of being in which God created life.(13) In other words, God conquered nothingness and created Creation as an act of self-affirmation; God created life.

The creation itself reflected God as Creator, and creation became the instrument/medium through which God manifested God's self. This "manifestation" is the Wisdom of God (Prov 8:23-31), Jesus as the Christosophia of God.(14) God is the basis for community, as God participates in all that is.(15) That which unifies God to creation, and creation to God, is the Holy Spirit as the Love of God.(16) Therefore, God in the perichoretic existence of God's being created the kosmos as a divine act of self-expression through which God is completely God.

It cannot be said that there ever was a time in which God was not completely God, for God is beyond time and space; time itself is bound to creation. Therefore, God has been, is, and always will be God in fullness, active as completeness in union by relationship through mutuality.

I understand that Christian Tradition and Theology (represented here by Wolfhart Pannenberg) holds that God is the origin of creation, "a free act of God, it does not emanate by necessity from the divine essence or belong by necessity to the deity of God."(17) I would agree that creation is a free act of God, creating as a free expression. But at that point, I diverge from the rest of the quote. In my belief, God needed creation in order to be fully God. Creation does, in my belief, belong to the deity of God, as Christ is very much manifested within creation; Christ would not be Christ without standing within creation as a creature. Creation was therefore necessary because God would not be God unless Christ was fully Christ. To claim that Christ is adscititious to creation would be to diminish the wholeness of the Trinity and the importance of Christ as a mutual participant in the perichoretic relationship. The relevance of the implications for this will be discussed below with Atonement and Sacrifice.

The foundation for the Triune God is relationship. In a perichoretic view, the Trinity is not three beings having relationships; the Holy Trinity is the relationship itself, a relationship of love where all three persons interrelate with the other.(18) Love itself is the binding force within the relationship of the Trinity, culminating in the fullness of the Triune God with the three hypostasis of the Trinity mutually relating to each other as the primary and one ousia (being) of God.(19)

Out of a divine act of love, God created all things. I believe that God's immanent nature (God's interrelatedness) is demonstrated through God's actions toward creation which manifest God's nature.(20) The presence of God is "in, with, and beneath" the experience of creation.(21) All things gain shape and meaning through God, who is the proverbial canvas of the kosmos, all of creation is the artful paint. God is entwined in creation as an artist is present in her painting yet she is not the painting itself.

That God created all things means that creation is "the triumph of order over chaos," for the Breath of God swept over the waters of chaos to create a place of stability.(22) God created all things, and pronounced it all "good" (Gen. 1:31). The biblical narrative of Creation (Gen. 1:1-31) holds that nothing can stop the creative force of God's love, not even the waters or darkness of chaos. In God's act of love, God did not destroy the water or darkness; instead God brought them both into the fold of order, making them the sea and night, and likewise pronouncing both as "good."(23)

The created humans hold a special place within the scheme of God's Creation, for humanity has been created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-30). Humanity has been endowed with the image and likeness of God. This means that humanity has a special relationship with Creation, as stewards entrusted with the care of and for Creation, to be in fruitful relationship with God, Creation, and each other. The image of God does not mean that humanity has free reign over all things to use and abuse as if Creation was humanity's play room to be demolished with the destructive force of a three year old's temper tantrum. Creation does not "belong" to humanity, but humanity has been entrusted with the care of Creation. Therefore, humanity has a responsibility as stewards to care for Creation.(24)

As God is truly God by perichoretic relationality, in a similar way, as created in the image of God, the fullness of humanity is realized when each person is in relationship with others (be it God, other humans, or creation). The inborn need for relationality is the direct result of being created in the image of the perichoretic Trinity.(25) Paul Tillich explicates that "man [sic] becomes man in personal encounters."(26) To explicate, it is only in relationships that are based on love and justice that true fullness and true relationships are encountered. As Tillich states, "injustice towards the other one is always injustice against oneself."(27)

The model for humanity as the image of God is fully exemplified in Jesus as the Christ. It is my belief that Jesus is the prime example of what humanity's telos or destiny is to be and how humanity is meant to lead a life devoted to the will of God.(28) In other words, Jesus embodies the destiny of humans.(29) In life, Jesus lead his whole existence for the fulfillment of God's plan for salvation (Mt. 1:21, 23), a life lived in praise of God. In death, by God's gracious act of resurrection, Jesus as the Christ overcame death, so that Christ is now unified in an authentic relationship with God for all time. So to is the destiny and calling of humanity: to lead a life devoted to God to "praise and honor God" (Ps. 19:1) for the continuance of God's plan of salvation, with the assurance that not even death will be able to separate us from God (cf. Rom. 8:38-39) through God's graciousness.

What then does it mean to be in the image of God in this time and place? The historical reality has unfortunately shown that creation itself has fallen away from its created purpose. The kosmos is in a state of rebellion and evil, contradicting God's plan for creation. Evil is defined as a "violation" of the divine intent, providing a counter structure for the kosmos.(30) The powers and principalities, vested by God with the authority to maintain God's creation, have become suffused with evil, and are now participating in their self-serving disobedience from God. Institutions and structures of societies that participate through sin in defiance of God's love (such as a Church that fosters racism) have become a tool of the fallen powers and principalities.(31)

Evil and sin are similar in nature but differ in actuality since both are "anti-creation" (against right relationship with God). Yet sin is contained in evil because anything that goes against God's goodness is evil. Evil can be identified in two areas: natural evil, such as natural disasters or diseases, and moral evil, which has an agency of humanity. Moral evil is sin, where humanity acts "inhumanely" towards others, or humanity acts against their own created being, surrendering their destiny to be in relationship with God.(32)

As sin is rebellion against God, and an abrogation of our created being, any action that separates us from being in a right relationship with God is sinful. Humanity participates in sin by two overarching ways: through individual and/or corporate sin. I find Tillich's threefold definition of sin helpful.(33) First, through unbelief, a person turns away from God by no longer placing God at the center of his or her being. This notion of sin is similar to not trusting God, replacing God with one's own self, and positing an individual's will before God's will. Second, through hubris an individual is self-elevated to the level of divine as if they were God. Hubris as sin is sin in its fullness, for a person becomes obsessed with his/her own self in an inordinate way so that he or she is oblivious to the others around him/her and to God. A person becomes insensitive to others, becoming a narcissistic self-encapsulated being, a complete turn inward, sinning by shutting others (including God) out. The third form of sin is through "concupiscence," by desiring to possess things by any means possible, even to the point of devaluing and using others to attain the goal of the desire. This is the hunger for acquisition and greed, an unquenchable fire of possession which leads only to possession by the desire itself.

All people employ corporate sin in any given society, transmitting it through social relations. By participating in society, each individual contributes to the sins of the community, either overtly or through a lack of knowledge.(34) Examples of corporate sin are many, such as banking with a company that invests in a mutual fund which invests in weapons manufacturers who destroy innocent people, or by purchasing clothes from a department store that obtains them from sweat shops, or by a church's continuation of racism and segregation even at the Eucharist. Corporate sin is so prevalent in culture and society, and is so ingrained in individuals and communities that in my belief even Jesus participated in corporate sin. In Matthew 15:21-28, a Canaanite woman came to Jesus and begged for mercy for her daughter. Jesus refused her for one reason alone: the woman was not an Israelite. The woman counters with a sharp saying: "even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." At this, Jesus had been called for his lack of action, and his participation in the covenantal nomistic practice of not interacting with another race; Jesus acted in racism.(35)

By my stating previously that God created all things, I do not mean that God created evil itself. But then, from where did evil and sin come? If evil is a counter order to God, and sin is humanity's participation in evil and turning away from God in rebellion, then how did humans who were created good become sinful? Is God at fault for evil's existence?

The cause for evil does not rest with God. Sin is rebellion against God, but God did not create the rebellion. That sin is present and that individuals can choose to rebel against God demonstrates that God created humanity with free will. Therefore, through free will, a person can choose to participate in relationship with God, or choose to replace God with his/her self as his/her center of being. If God did not create free will in God's creation, then relationship between God and creation (the true telos of creation) would not be authentic or possible; relationship is entered into by others through an act in freedom and love. Otherwise, a relationship becomes a narcissistic control of others.

In my belief, the myth of Adam and the first rebellion against God is the ontological point of sin. God's commandment to Adam forbidding him to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge was not so much a prohibition, meaning you shall never eat from the tree of knowledge. Rather, God's commandment to Adam was a prevention of harm. As Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons articulated in the second century, when humanity was first created, it was merely an infant not yet capable of receiving the fruit of the tree of knowledge, just as an infant is not yet ready to eat solid foods.(36) However, in an act of humanity's free will (and in my opinion curiosity), Adam as a representative for humanity took the fruit in opposition to God's caring directive. Thus, the weight of sin clearly falls upon humanity. That God created humanity with free will, curiosity, and the insatiable quest to know is evidence of the goodness of God's creative act in the image of God. Without these characteristics, humanity would indeed not be the imago dei.

Since God's plan for creation is the consummation all things (oikonomia - economy of salvation, cf. Eph. 1:10)(37), and as sin is the separation of humanity's relationship from God, then God has acted to bring about the possibility for being in right relationship. This joining of creation back to God is the salvific act of Atonement extended to all creation. Atonement is the description of the effect of reconciliation and reunion, a process that is both an act and a reaction. It is divine act to overcome the brokenness of the relationship and the human reaction to participate in the relationship now made right. My view of Atonement is influenced by Romans 3:21-26.

The act and effect of Atonement has as its source the covenant between God and God's people. From the post exilic document of the Pentateuch comes the story of how God liberated the outcasts (abiru - Hebrew) to form God' people and how God and that people entered a covenant together. Before the time of the Bible in the ancient Middle East (prior to 539 B.C.E.), covenants were treaties or pacts between two people or groups, either as equals (parity) or between overlord and vassals (suzerain).(38) The covenant between God and God's people was the foundation for all aspects of life, including religious, social, and political areas. This binding agreement between the people and God meant that as long as the people upheld their part of the covenant, the people would have God as their suzerain, and be in the "sovereign care of their covenant God."(39) The covenant meant life in relationship with God and with each other; to violate the covenant meant death (as a stipulation in the formation of the covenant, cf. Gen. 15:7-21).

Human sin is the breaking of the covenant with God. Therefore, as payment for the broken covenant, death must be paid as reparations. But therein lies the dilemma. As stated before, God created humanity in an act of love as the image of God, an image founded in relationship. God enacted the covenant to be in relationship with humanity (I will be your God, you will be my people). So, how can God be both faithful to the covenant and continue to be in relationship with humanity? The answer: Jesus as the Christ.

In God's great mercy, God became human to make reparations for humanity's act of breaking the covenant. As Irenaeus asserted, God became human so that humanity could be completed as the image of God in full relationality with God.(40) Jesus as the Christ was both completely human and completely God, the unique one in whom the possibility for reconciliation could occur between humanity and God.(41) For this reason most of all, it is necessary for Christ to be intertwined with creation for God's salvific work to be complete. As a human, Jesus as the Christ represented humanity before God. As divine, humanity can participate in the divine act of being reconciled to God through Christ.

Therefore, the effect of Atonement has both an objective and subjective dimension. Objectively, God's action of reconciliation is effective for all creation for all time, previous or subsequent. Subjectively, God's action requires human response, for through Christ's death humanity was graciously made righteous. Christ died to the power of sin; in participating in Christ's death (accomplished through baptism, to be discussed later) humanity is freed from the power of sin for new life in the Holy Spirit, able to be once again in full relationship with God (Rom. 6:7-11).

With this understanding, Romans 3:21-26 takes on a significant meaning, in God's righteousness (faithfulness to the covenant) God put forth Jesus as the sacrifice of atonement, effective through faith (human response to God's act), as God passed over the sins previously committed, and has justified those who have faith in Jesus.

Having the possibility of reconciliation now open to all creation, what will it mean to be completed in the image of God? The answer is found within the community and relationships formed around God's reconciliation, namely the in-breaking basilea of God, the basilea that has already begun with the advent of the Christ, but has not yet been completed.

In Christ, God established the Church as the central element for humanity to engage in a community where Christ's presence is manifest. The Church is the Body of Christ on earth, collectively comprised of individuals whose lives have been transformed by God's grace. The Church is intentional community; God intentionally calls groups of people together (cf. Mt 18:20), and people intentionally come together choosing to participate in God's activity. Therefore, to be a Christian means to be a participant in a community. The idea of a Christian individualist flies in the face of what a Christian is called to be: a fellow participant in community. Within the Church is found the formation, education, worship, care, and love conveyed in the relationships around which God nourishes and guides God's people.

Lately I have been very troubled and hurt by the church with the church's hierarchy and their dealings with my spouse. The church itself is also a fallen institution, established by God ideally for the continuation of God's plan and will for salvation. However, at times, the church and its people fail in their mission and calling to live out God's commandment to love. Despite all the pedagogical support from Scripture and tradition, despite all the foundations for moral guidance to live a life in a Christian ethic of love, the church and its people (including myself) have often a misguided piety that continues to misrepresent Christ in the world, and continues to not reciprocate the love God has graciously given to us.(42)

But it is also my fervent belief that God works despite our best intentions (ironic as that may sound). As St. Paul has stated, God's wisdom is greater than human foolishness; God chooses the most unlikely people to carry out and fulfill God's will (1 Cor. 1:27-31). Therefore, God's grace can even be encountered in the most unlikely churches, for the Holy Spirit dwells within the lives and communities God has formed.

As the Church is an intentional community, the means of membership and sustenance are contained within the Sacraments. Along with the Word of God, the Sacraments disclose God's grace. By participating in the sacraments, the Church participates in the theophanic encounter of God.

The two sacraments of Eucharist and Baptism correspond to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the Christ. In Baptism, the believer is initiated into the death of Christ, being submerged under the waters of chaos only to emerge as a member of Christ's body, washed of all sin (cf. Rom. 6:3-4). The believer is marked with the indelible stamp of Christ, a mark given by God and entered into by the believer.(43) Through baptism, a believer becomes a citizen of the basilea and a member in the Body of Christ, able to partake in the other sacrament of Eucharist. I have used "believer" deliberately, for although baptism has been forced on people in the past (an example: on Jews in times of the Inquisition and Crusades), a baptism is enacted by person who responds to God's grace; baptism is meaningless for people who do not wish to participate in the Body of Christ.

Eucharist corresponds to the life and resurrection of Christ. In the act of the Eucharist, the bread as the symbolic body of Christ is broken while the congregants partake of this broken body, symbolizing their union together as Christ's body. With an ironic twist, the broken body of Christ is made whole in the wholeness of the congregation, a corporate participation in Christ's victory over sin and death in the resurrection. A religious symbol is defined as an object that points beyond itself by participating in the power of the divine.(44) The Eucharist is the divine eschatological feast, a foretaste of the heavenly banquet filled with the promise, expectation, and hope of God's fulfillment of complete recapitulation of all things back to God.

In the community I serve, racism as a faith is very active. The racist individuals have devotion and commitment, affirmation and justification, with a belief system that other races are inferior.(45) It is very telling that the point of interruption of the World Communion Worship Service by the racists did not occur until the act of sharing the Eucharist. The choir members were allowed to enter the church and even permitted to sing. The sermon was allowed to proceed, despite its focus on the inclusiveness and universal action of God's grace. At any time, the racists in the congregation could have attempted their intimidation and overt evil. In a sense, the racists attempted to protect their sacred ritual and belief that the Eucharist is for whites only. Their claim that God created inferior races of humans (non-whites) as a mistaken image of God, and by implication a flawed creation, is a belief however contrary to God's creative and inclusive love.(46)

The question arises: are sacraments necessary for salvation? Must one be baptized and partake of the Eucharist in order to be part of the basilea? Do those who are not baptized fall outside of God's grace?

To these questions, I assert that the sacraments are necessary for salvation but not in the strictest of senses. For example, I do not believe that unbaptized people fall outside of God's grace. I do believe, however, that if a person chooses to respond to God's prevenient grace, then by all means participating in the sacraments are necessary for full participation in the Body of Christ.

On the cover of this Credo is a picture of the original ending of Mark's Gospel as contained in Codex Vaticanus.(47) In this pericope, the women have come to anoint the dead body of Jesus, only to find a messenger from God proclaiming Jesus as risen and directing the women to go and tell Peter and the other disciples that Jesus is risen. This pericope ends abruptly with the women running away from the tomb, "for terror and amazement had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid."(48) It is the dichotomy between fear and faith that the author of Mark would have the disciples of Christ choose between; true discipleship choose faith. Similarly in the world today, we who are Christian are faced with the same question: will we choose to have faith, or will we be overwhelmed by fear? To help answer this timeless question, I believe through the Church with Christian Education, Preaching and Worship, and Pastoral Care that today's disciples become equipped for engaging in faith.

The life of the Church is maintained through education, for any group, society, or institution must be able to articulate and pass on its beliefs and value systems in order to survive. Christian Education is the formation of Christians within the Church and is active in all areas of the Church through worship, preaching, outreach, and community formation of the Church.(49) It is Christian Education that informs the people through the traditions of the Church and shapes the beliefs and practices to live out lives as disciples, guided by the scriptures and strengthened by community.

As I survey my own role in Ministry, I find that for the immediate road ahead I will be serving in Parish Ministry. However, I also am feeling and hearing a call to teach in an academic setting. I see commonalities in these two types of ministries. Important in my role as a Church leader is in being a Christian Educator for the inviting, forming, training, and equipping people to participate in the basilea (cf. Eph.4:12).(50) In the churches I serve now, these four elements are done in the Church through worship, preaching, and pastoral care moments. In the classroom (if I ever get to be a Professor), I see that these elements will still be at work, but with a different approach. I see a vital role in my ministry to articulate my understanding of Christianity and religious truth as it applies to today's world. Articulation of my understanding is done not only through my words and speech (such as in preaching or in academic teaching) but also through my embodiment of my faith, for my faith is much more than my belief; faith is active in living a life devoted to God.

In my ministry setting, I find that Christian Education and Preaching are deeply interwoven. My spouse has described my preaching style as didactic at best, and pedagogical at worst, saying that my sermons have a big emphasis on teaching the stories of Scripture through a lens of cultural and historical contexts and applying those stories to today. However, I have seen that some sermons would be better served in an academic setting. For me, the sermon is one of the most prominent avenues of approach I have to address the injustices of corporate sins from racism that plagues the communities in which I serve.

I understand that the sermon in worship is the tool which conveys the message of God's in-breaking basilea. Guided by the Holy Spirit (at least ideally), the sermon communicates God's grace as active and effective, unifying the participants (both the speaker and hearer) with the message of God's love and inclusiveness. I also believe sermons are most effective when the preacher listens to the voices of contexts. By contexts, I mean that the preacher needs to listen to the voices of his or her congregation and local community, the surrounding world and time, along with the historical and cultural contexts of the Scriptures, and the context of God's active love working within the preacher.(51) Therefore, as I engage in the sermon, I attempt to listen to these voices, to shape a "word on target" to address the needs of the particular communities of faith I encounter.(52)

Another area in the life of the basilea is worship. Worship is all we do and say directed to God and God's goodness; it is praise all through our lives in response to God's love. Worship can occur individually or corporately, as all aspects of life are called upon to praise God. The culmination of Worship is in the Sunday Service, because it is here that the people as a whole bring their lives together and to God. By participating in the liturgy, unison prayers, hymns, joys and concerns, and even mundane church announcements, the people bring their lives to God. Psalm 148 and 150 convey the notion that everyone and everything in creation is to praise God, in every moment of existence, in every way possible; life is lived as praise to God. For me, Matthew 22:37, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind," has been foundational. I believe that the study of the word of God is a connection to God. It is through this connection that I praise God, am formed and find transformation by God on an individual level. However, I do also find that worship must also occur communally to participate in relationality.

In my own spiritual journey, I find that I have a propensity to wander off in the more theoretical, immersing myself in the study of ideas and theories about theological issues. At the same time, I also know that as a Christian, I have a fundamental pull towards community, participating in the life of the body of Christ. This dialectic tension between contemplation and participation, individual study verses social engagement, has played out in my ministry as well. Knowing this about myself, I am constantly trying to seek ways of applying what I know and learn to the implications and applications within ministry, accountable in the body of Christ to participate in community.

In the context of bringing about closer and more holistic human relationships, I find that in attempting to embody God's love I engage others in their concrete situations of life, addressing the encounter as care. By care, I mean a genuine openness to the needs of others. Care for others is an action that both attends to the perceived needs in the other while at the same time fulfilling the need of the carer to be in relationship.(53) In other words, wholeness for humanity is becoming the creation that God intended for us to be, which is found in relationship. Caring is therefore the work toward wholeness in relationship by attending to those elements which hinder relationships.

The function of Pastoral Care is at the heart of the mission of Ministry. In the sound of a sigh, the saltiness and warmth of a tear, the echo of laughter as it fills the air with delight, or in the last flicker of light in the eyes as life slips its tendrils from its earthly home, these are the realms where Pastoral Care exists. Sensing and experiencing, interacting and embodying, we as Christians are called to participate in the care and nurture from God in all creation, acting in the needs and conditions of the created.

A definition for Pastoral Care that I have employed in my Ministry is "a partnership with the divine in bringing about wholeness."(54) I am challenged by this definition because I have a roll in bringing about wholeness as a function of God. I am encouraged because I have an assurance that I am in partnership with God, therefore I can't completely destroy wholeness if I fail in my own practice of Ministry. I also see that Pastoral Care is not just the domain of the Pastor in implementing and bringing about this wholeness. As a Pastoral leader I am called to help enable the people to further participate with a caring engagement in the community (both inside the church and beyond).

In my context of ministry, I have found that I have needed to act toward providing systemic pastoral care. Through the worship and ministry of the church, I have attempted to allow the message of God's inclusiveness to come through in actions (sacraments and liturgy) and words (sermon and Bible studies). The issues of racism that arose around the World Communion Sunday event have acted as a catalyst to engage in confronting the corporate sins of a systemic evil. An article on Pastoral Care in social conflicts said that these watershed events create "opportunities for communities to engage in theological reflection about what it means to be an inclusive and meaningful faith community in a complex world."(55) However pleasant those "opportunities for engagement" might sound, my experience has shown that this situation is gut-wrenchingly stressful. In a group of people unwilling to even recognize the humanness of another person, I find it difficult to articulate the "yes" of God to a people who are constantly trying to encapsulate God in a box marked "no."

When we as the image of God encounter evil and injustice, we have a responsibility to manifest God's love to overcome the brokenness of evil and sin, as painful or as difficult as that may be. But, what do we do when evil raises its ugly head against us? How can we stand in the face of evil with its breath so close it fogs up our glasses?

To these questions, the author of Mark's Gospel shouts out a question to us through his abrupt ending in ageless silence: will we be overcome by fear, where terror and amazement seize us and we say nothing to anyone, or will we have faith, empowered to go forth with God's presence and guidance to overcome the evil, and participate in the in-breaking basilea of love?
 
 

Endnotes

1. Basilea (Greek basilei<a) meaning the rule of God. Some have translated this word as "kingdom," but the Greek conveys the notion of a rule or dominion rather than a certain place or time. An example of this is Mt. 8.12 - "but the ones who should be God's people or the ones over whom God should be ruling will be thrown out into the darkness outside."
oi[ de> ui[oi> th?j basilei<aj e]kblhqh<sontai ei]j to> e]cw<teron:

Please note: all scripture references of the New Testament have been translated by me unless otherwise noted. Texts have been translated from Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger, eds., The Greek New Testament: Fourth Revised Edition (Stuttgart, Germany: Biblia-Druck, 1994).

2. Examples of mind altering chemicals are alcohol, caffeine, LSD, cocaine, carbon monoxide. Ability to perceive is also related to physical function. For some people, a mental disorder or disability may allow the person to see a reality that others can not. However, I must state that one person's disability may be another person's great attribute.

3. Examples of the will in choosing a truth: there is a religious/political movement to deny the Holocaust ever happened. Alice and A. Roy Eckardt have stated that "denials [of the Holocaust] kill the sufferers a second time, by taking away the victims' first death. . . They avow that the event never occurred, yet the rationale of that event is the very thing that impels their efforts, the same rationale that impelled the first Nazis. As one of these reincarnations of the Nazis has said, 'All the stories about Auschwitz aren't true, but I wish they were.'"
Alice L. Eckardt and A. Roy Eckardt, Long Night's Journey into Day (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1982), 64, 200.

4. pa?sa grafh> qeo<pneustoj kai> w]fe<limoj pro>j didaskali<an, pro<j e]legmo<n, pro>j e]pano<rqwsin, pro>j paidei<an th>n e]n dikaiosu<n^, i!na a@prioj ^# o[ tou? Qeou? a]nqrwpoj, pro>j pa?n e@rgon a]gaqo>n e]chrtisme<noj.
All Scripture is God inspired/God Breathed and are beneficial for teaching, for reproof, for improvement, for training/instruction in righteousness, so that the people of God may be complete/capable/proficient for all good works/deeds. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

5. Paul Tillich, Biblical Religion and the Search for Ultimate Reality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955), 3, 4, 22.

6. W. Stephen Gunter, et al., Wesley and the Quadrilateral: Renewing the Conversation. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997), 42, 60.

7. Beverly Wildung Harrison, Making the Connections (Boston: Beacon Press, 1985), xviii - xx, 11, 13.  Additionally, Dr. Tex Sample has fervently claimed that all knowledge is socially constructed, which is a view I will discuss further in reference to relationality and the human condition.

8. Gunter, et al., Wesley and the Quadrilateral, 98.

9. Alfred H. Ackley, "He Lives" in The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989), 310.

10. The view of society as shaped by a collective conscience has been formulated from Emil Durkheim's work, in Randall Collins and Michael Makowsky, The Discovery of Society, Sixth Edition (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998), 102, 104-5.

11. e]gw> ga>r pare<labon a]po> tou? kuri<ou, o{ kai> pare<dwka u[mi?n, o!ti o[ ku<rioj I]hsou?j e]n t^? nukti> ^$ paredi<deto e@laben a@rton . . .
For I received from the Lord, that which I also hand down/pass on/transmit to you all, that the Lord Jesus on the night which he was betrayed he took bread . . . (1 Cor. 11:23)

12. Paul Tillich, Love, Power and Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954), 37-8.

13. Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be (New Have: Yale University Press, 1952), 178-181.

As Tillich points out, non-being is a part of being, for as being stands out of non-being. God did not abolish non-being, but incorporated non-being into being to infinitely overcome non-being.

14. The Christosophia - the Wisdom of God, the Word of God. As the Gospel of John begins: "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and God was the Word. This (word) was in the beginning with God. All things through him became, and apart from him not one thing became." (John 1:1-3). Therefore, it is not only Jesus as the Christ that manifests God in creation. I would assert that Wisdom itself as part of God is manifested within creation, cf. Proverbs 8:23-31. Similarly, St. Paul called Christ the Wisdom of God (truly therefore the Christosophia), cf. 1 Cor 1:24. The Wisdom and Word of God, as is the Christ, is the manifestation of God's continual presence in and with creation.

15. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology: Volume 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951), 245.

16. Love defined is that which unifies the separated. Paul Tillich, Love, Power and Justice. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954), 25.
That creation and God are separated will be discussed further in considering sin and atonement.

17. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology: Volume II, (Grand Rapids: Williams Eardmans, 1994), 1.

18. Mary Ann Fatula, The Triune God of Christian Faith (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1990), 22, 67.
Similarly, Leonardo Boff, Trinity and Society (Maryknoll NY: Orbis, 1988), 157.

19. Augustine of Hippo, "On the Trinity: Book 9," in William G. Rusch, The Trinitarian Controversy (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980), 179.
Similarly, Fatula, The Triune God of Christian Faith, 22.

20. Ted Peters, God as Trinity (Louiseville: Westminster/John Knox, 1995), 96-7.

21. Jurgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 34.

22. Janet Martin Soskice, "Creation and Relation," in Robin Gill, ed., Readings in Modern Theology: Britain & America (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 63.

23. R. J. Clifford, "Genesis" in Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990), 10,11.

24. Mark Allan Powell, God With Us: A Pastoral Theology of Matthew's Gospel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 90-1.

25. Dorothee Soelle, Thinking About God (Philadelphia: Trinity Press, 1990), 42.

26. Paul Tillich, Love, Power and Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960), 78.

27. Ibid.

28. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology: Volume II, (Grand Rapids: Williams Eardmans, 1994), 23-24.
Also with a similar notion: Graeme M. Griffin, Coming To Care (Melbourne: Ormond College, 1995), 22.

29. So also Romans 5:14-19, where Paul describes to the Romans how the effect of Jesus' death and resurrection overcomes the dominion of death for all who believe (also 1 Cor 15:22 - with Paul's reassurance to the Corinthians of the resurrection in Christ that is to come).

a@ra ou#n w[j di ] e[no>j paraptw<matoj ei]j pa<ntaj a]nqrw<pouj ei]j kata<krima, ou!twj kai> di ] e[no>j dikaiw<matoj ei]j pa<ntaj a]nqrw<pouj ei]j dikai<wsin zwh?j:
So then, as on account of one transgression condemnation comes to all people, in this way also on account of one righteous deed brings all people into a right relationship of life. (Romans 5:18).

30. Stephen Charles Mott, Biblical Ethics and Social Change (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 16.

31. Mott states that "in a society which tells blacks in countless ways that they are not accepted in equality or association with whites, [the churches of God] must take the initiative if they are to be any different from other white institutions in this respect" of continuing the discrimination and segregation that goes against God. Ibid., 13.

32. Patricia L. Wismer, "Evil," in Donald W. Musser & Joseph L. Price, eds., A New Handbook of Christian Theology (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992), 173.

33. All three forms of sin have been influenced by Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology: Volume 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 44-55.

34. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology: Volume II, (Grand Rapids: Williams Eardmans, 1994), 255-6.

35. On covenantal nomism: explicating the phrase from E. P. Sanders by James D. G. Dunn, "The Theology of Galatians, The Issue of Covenantal Nomism" in Jouette M. Bassler, ed. Pauline Theology, Volume I: Thessalonians, Philippians, Galatians, Philemon (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994), 126-8.

36. Irenaeus, "On Human Progress: Adversus Haereses, IV" in Alister E. McGrath, ed. The Christian Theology Reader (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1995), 212.

37. ei]j oi]konomi<an tou? plhrw<matoj tw?n kairw?n, a]nakefalaiw<sasqai ta> pa<nta e]n t&? Xrist&?, ta> e]pi> toi?j ou]ranoi?j kai> ta> e]pi> th?j gh?j e]n au]t&?.
for a plan (of salvation) for the fullness/completion of time, to unite all things in Christ, the things in heavens and the things on the earth. (Ephesians 1:10)

38. Anthony R. Ceresko, Introduction to the Old Testament (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1992), 80-1.

39. Ibid., 84.

40. Irenaeus, "Against Heresies, Book 5, Ch 36" in Peter C. Hodgson & Robert H. King Readings in Christian Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985), 325.

41. On Christ as completely human and completely divine from the Council of Chalcedon (451 C.E.) in Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: Vol. 1 (New York: HarperCollins, 1984), 256-7.

42. Similarly, Robin Gill addresses the difficulties the Church has had in fulfilling its mission to live out God's love in her article "Churches As Moral Communities," in Robin Gill, ed. Readings in Modern Theology: Britain & America (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 357.

43. Paraphrased from Laurence H. Stookey, Baptism: Christ's Act in the Church (Nashville: Abingdon, 1982), 34.

44. Paul Tillich, "God as Being," in Mark Kline Taylor, ed., Paul Tillich: Theologian of the Boundaries (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), 166.

45. George D. Kelsey, Racism and the Christian Understanding of Man (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1965), 23, 24, 28.

46. Ibid., 25, 27.

47. This image is from a photo plate in 1868 from the Codex Vaticanus. I found this image in a Greek New Testament from 1881, which was produced in light of all the then recent archeological finds of the day (such as Tischendorf's find of Codex Sinaiticus and his subsequent rescuing parchments from a trash can at the Monastery at Mt. Sinai, as the story goes).

Brooke Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1882).

This original ending of Mark's Gospel is from the early 3rd century, was copied/printed in Egypt, perhaps Alexandria, and taken to the Vatican shortly after the establishment of the Vatican Library by Pope Nicholas V in 1448 - perhaps by Cardinal Bessarion, who labored for the reunion of the Greek and Latin churches. This piece of Mark XVI. 3-8 was originally catalogued in the Vatican Library in 1475.

48. kai> e]celqou?sai e@fugon a]po> tou? mnhmei<ou, ei#xen ga>r au]ta>j tro<moj kai> e@kstasij: kai> ou]deni> ou]de>n ei#pan: e]fobou?nto ga<r. Mark 16:8

49. Maria Harris, Fashion Me A People (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1989), 63.

50. pro>j to>n katartismo>n tw?n a[gi<wn ei]j e@rgon diakoni<aj, ei]j oi]kodomh>n tou? sw<matoj tou? Xristou?,
for the purpose of equipping the saints/holy ones for works of service, for building up/edification of the body of Christ, (Ephesians 4:12)

51. David J. Schlafer, Surviving the Sermon: A Guide to Preaching for Those Who Have to Listen (Cambridge: Cowley Publications, 1992), 39.

52. The phrase "word on target" is commonly used by Dr. Warren Carter, St. Paul School of Theology, Kansas City, Missouri, to describe how Paul addressed and shaped his letters in a coherent message to the unique contexts of each particular ministry setting.

53. As Graeme M. Griffin states that "caring is aimed at improving the human-ness both of those who are cared for and those who are caring," in Graeme M. Griffin, Coming To Care: An Introduction to Pastoral Care for Ordained Ministers and Lay People (Melbourne: Uniting Theological Seminary, 1995), 3.

54. Pamela D. Couture and Rodney J. Hunter, eds., Pastoral Care and Social Conflict (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 19.

55. Joretta L. Marshall, "Pastoral Care with Congregations in Social Stress," in Pamela D. Couture and Rodney J. Hunter, eds., Pastoral Care and Social Conflict (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 174.