Earlier this month a colleague, an associate at the Council of European Churches (CEC), whose offices are down the hall from WCRC’s, extended to me an invitation to preach the sermon at one of the weekly chapel services at the Ecumenical Centre. This past month CEC has been responsible for planning and organizing these services.
I accepted the invitation without hesitation. In fact, for a long time I have been eager to preach at this historic place, to stand in the same pulpit as those global church leaders and theologians whose insightful and even courageous statements at critical moments in history inspired me when I was a seminary student.
There is a general sense that we are at another critical moment in history. During the past few years, a complex state of affairs has emerged in our global economy that has thus far resisted attempts at credible solutions. Political leaders remain polarized and their congresses and parliaments in gridlock, incapable of passing constructive legislation to move their constituencies in the direction of economic stability. Social and moral problems remain intractable, entrenching people in their positions for and against. As a result, many who at one time invested their trust in leaders and systems that, while acknowledged to be flawed, nevertheless seemed reliable enough, have become disillusioned. Some are determined to go it on their own, thereby further fragmenting the body politic. Undeniably, this climate of distrust and fear has adversely affected the families of churches in the ecumenical movement. Despite the message of hope they bear, churches and ecumenical organizations (also at the Ecumenical Centre!) show signs of weariness and apprehension in face of problems that seem to surpass human capabilities.
The sermon that I preached assumes this to be reality for so many at this moment in history. It is partly why I chose as my theme the presence and action of the Holy Spirit. In Scripture, one can find God’s Spirit working out God’s creative purposes in history in the most unlikely places– in places where there is chaos instead of order, drought instead of rain, misery and weeping instead of joy and laughter, death instead of life. This is the work of the God whom the Apostle Paul proclaimed–”the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were” (Rom 4.17). Does this mean that the faithful have at their disposal a deus ex machina which they can summon at will to bail them out of a jam whenever their own techniques have failed them? Obviously not. But they have a source of hope outside of themselves. And it is this that ought to keep them moving forward. This is what I wanted to convey in the sermon.