At our Annual Meeting closing dinner, the Rev. Richard Ellerbrake (see interview) kicked off a year of celebration and reflection as CHHSM prepares for its 75th Annual Meeting in March 2013.
Our theme for this occasion will be “CHHSM 75: Promise of Our Passion-Driven Movement.” During the next few months, I will be unpacking the rich meaning of this theme. This month, I want to muse about how the paradox of Easter ties closely to the themes of promise and passion.
How can it be that death and defeat are actually life and victory? Is it true that the execution of a peasant criminal reveals the identity of God? An affirmative answer to these questions is nothing less than the incarnation of the constant promise of the God of the Old and New Testaments throughout all time.
I find the description of this promise in 2nd Peter 3:13 particularly compelling: “in keeping with God’s promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” From Genesis to Revelation we find the metaphor of a new creation that God not only envisions, but promises.
Granted, it is difficult for us to grasp the meaning of this promise and how it is actualized in our midst. The apocalyptic and eschatological imagery of Biblical literature is often inaccessible to our contemporary view of the world and human nature. Nevertheless, diakonic ministry has its source and meaning in this paradoxical promise. Our CHHSM forbears were German Evangelical pietists. Piety has become an off-putting term in contemporary usage. However, in its original meaning, it connoted a life committed to discerning the word of God as manifest in the signs of new creation (promise) before our eyes in the here and now and then naming and participating in that work.
Is that not precisely what we are all about as persons who are passionate about the work of healing and service, diakonia?
It is God’s enduring promise, a promise that proclaims a different, counter-cultural reality that ignites and sustains our passion. Our passion is not about ourselves or our institutions, it is about our calling to point to the new creation. During Eastertide we often speak of the Passion of Christ. This was a passion that began with false, worldly triumph, devolved into death and emerged as incarnation of promise.
We experience all of this every day in our work. We and our organizations are continuously subjected to the temporal teasing of material life. We experience and enter into suffering, and we witness to the power of God’s redemptive spirit working through our ministries. The Passion of Christ, our passion, seems a very strange brand of passion in the context of this world, but it is precisely the passion that is required to live with hope into the new creation.