2021 Online Annual Conference: Agenda, Book of Recommendations, Special Offering

A kingdom that cannot be shaken

5/2/2021

FROM THE BISHOP
R. LAWSON BRYAN 

Reflecting on the past global pandemic year, psychologist James F. Schroeder begins one of his blog posts with these words:  

Temperate, sunny days usually teach us little, except that we want more of them. But the harshness of an undesired season has a particular way of engendering lessons, which although begrudged and disdained, can stick with us for a long time – if we are open to them.

We certainly have experienced the harshness of several undesired seasons, each overlapping the other: COVID-19, multiple, high-visibility incidents of violence toward people of color, and political polarization around the nation. Local churches, the very groups that bring people together, have seen their own best efforts constricted due to the efforts to control the spread of the virus. 

Now, thankfully, we are seeing infection rates lower than they have been in a year. Testing is readily available. Vaccines are out and the vaccination rate is steadily growing. Mask mandates and other health precautions are being revised to reflect the positive direction in which things are going. Our local churches are resuming in-person services and other activities. But they are doing this with full awareness that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. They are encouraging their members to come if they are comfortable. They are recognizing that those with special conditions need to make choices based on their individual needs. In other words, our local churches are demonstrating good judgment by offering options to their members and guests, while moving forward intentionally.

This seems like a good time to accept Dr. Schroeder’s invitation to identify the lessons learned over the past year. To me, one very important lesson is found in Hebrews 12:26-29. This passage recalls how the earth shook when God appeared on Mt. Sinai and how God also said, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven” (Haggai 2:6). The shaking of earth and heaven results in “…the removal of what is shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain.” It is when things are all out of kilter and life is shaken up that we find out if there is anything in our lives that is so solid it cannot be shaken.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe, for indeed our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29

Through Jesus Christ, we are being given a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Our world is being shaken by a global health crisis, a reckoning with racism, and a toxic political climate that brings out the worst in us rather than inviting the best. But what if that is not the final word? What if there is a kingdom that cannot be shaken? What if you and I are ambassadors of that unshakeable kingdom (2 Cor. 5:20)? What if your local church were to be a manifestation of the kingdom that cannot be shaken? What if such unshakeable people are the only ones who can actually overcome crises, dismantle racism, and change the political climate?

That would be God’s gift to the anxious, troubled, fearful, angry, over-reactive world in which we find ourselves. 

Is this the big lesson of our time? Are we open to it?

Alive Together as ambassadors of the kingdom that cannot be shaken,
R. Lawson Bryan

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