Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bishop Jim Gonia: Advocates as 'Stewards of the Divine Zoom Paradox' (Part 1)

(Bishop Jim Gonia of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) delivered the keynote address at the luncheon sponsored by the annual bishop's luncheon sponsored by Lutheran Advocacy Ministry -New Mexico in Santa Fe on February 10, 2015.  Here is an excerpt from his address, which is based on the scriptures for Sunday, February 8 Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39 and 1 Corinthians 9:16-23).

As people of  faith, that vision of what we wit\ness when we zoom out and what we witness when we zoom out is nothing less than a revelation of the Divine.  Our scriptures bear witness to that.

Last Sunday, in many of our churches, we heard a word from the Prophet Isaiah, in which God was described in cosmic terms as "One who sits above the circle of the Earth, whose inhabitants are like grasshoppers who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. This is a God who who stretches out the heavens like a curtain This is a God who is the Creator of the ends of the Earth, He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. the Creator of the ends of   who does not grow faint or weary, whose understanding is unsearchable."

On the very same Sunday, we heard from the Gospel of Mark,  of  a God who in the person of  Jesus Christ walked among the pain  and heartache of of human life, healing those who were sick, casting out demons that plagued human life, preaching good news to those who lived in a despair that was sometimes of their own making and often not. 

This is a paradox of the revelation to be sure: to recognize God's presence and work in the infinite and at the same time recognize God's presence and work in the intimate  It's not an either or. Either God's up there and out there or God is dear and near to us. No, it's a both and. This matters when we talk about the work we do as advocates. We believe that God is at work in the big picture, to bring to fullness God's intended reign of justice of mercy and peace and love. As I reminded our folks, this is an evolutionary work, not an instantaneous work.

Photo: Anne Morawski
At times it feels like that this work will never be realized. It's only when we zoom out and see the big picture of what has indeed changed over time; it's only when we survey the breadth of the landscape to recognize how those moments when it seems that things have been backwards have actually become foundational for the change for which we long; it's only in those moments that we begin to be filled with hope. And gratitude.

But if zooming out is all we do, we miss the point of the paradox. This steady and faithful and evolutionary work of God to bring forth justice and peace in this world is accomplished through us. And that's a fact we only see when we zoom in to recognize the people and the places where our hands and voices are called to be present and active in the most intimate of ways.

As Christians we call this zoom-in work of  God incarnational. And as our scriptures confess most often,  it is seen in the poor and marginalized and suffering of this world that God's incarnational presence and work takes root. To be stewards of the divine zoom paradox in the realm of advocacy is to recognize that our specific and particular role matters in this expansive work that God is all about in the world.

Next: Part II Legislators as Stewards of the Divine Zoom Paradox

(Note: The video was taken with a hand-held camera without a tripod. And the "stabilizing" mode in YouTube fixed the video slightly),

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