Moderator Mardi’s Blog: Accept the Miracle

Mark’s account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes was heard in many churches last Sunday morning. Along with Mark’s words, I’ve been re-reading Mary Oliver’s  poetry, inspired by Mark 6: 30-44.

“Accept the miracle” Oliver writes in her poem, Logos. “Accept, too, each spoken word, spoken with love.”

I’m savouring with gratitude the abundance I’ve witnessed throughout the church over the past few months and years, and throughout the many words spoken in love. Now I’m immersed in preparation for another time of abundance at the 41st General Council, where again, I trust that we will accept the miracle, and each spoken word, spoken with love.

You’ve offered many messages, phone calls and comments in response to my interview with CBC Radio’s ‘As It Happens’ in early June.

Thank you. Thank you for each spoken word, spoken with love. We have encouraged one another in our living faith: a faith that breathes in with prayer and breathes out with action. We cannot have one without the other if our faith is to continue to be lively, with fruits of abundance. I’m grateful that the National Post reflected well my comments along these lines, in Charles Lewis’ follow-up article.

Recent summertime gatherings have given me another powerful reminder of how we are people of prayer and spiritual discipline, not driven by fear of scarcity but rather by accepting the miracle and words spoken in love.

The Annual meeting of Hamilton Conference, the Grand Council of the All Native Circle Conference, the National Truth and Reconciliation event in Saskatoon, St. Andrew’s College centennial celebrations and the national UCW’s week of 50th anniversary celebration are examples. I expect to see the same faithfulness at next weekend’s gathering of Affirm United, to be held in Montreal.

And the nominees for the 41st moderator are a tremendous sign of God’s abundance! As I said to Hamilton Conference, each of these 15 leaders has allowed him or herself to tremble in the presence of God’s call and, with humility, say yes to God and Church. Their leadership will help the General Council do its work of discerning direction and clarity about who we are as The United Church of Canada for this time, and they will enrich the church with their ongoing leadership following General Council, regardless of who is elected. These individuals are accepting the miracle and helping to create abundance in community. They are an answer to prayer in a time when too often we hear a lament about scarcity of leadership.

Commissioners to the 41st General Council have received a number of messages and a recent pastoral letter from me, trusting that we will remember how we make decisions in our church.

Within our General Council there will undoubtedly be passionate perspectives. I celebrate this. Our decision-making will be based on an abundance of information received before and during the meeting and, most importantly, on our common discernment as we gather as the body of Christ.

I have invited Commissioners into a process of prayerful discernment with a commitment to speaking with love, by which we may come to Spirit-led decisions together. We will bring both our passions and our openness to the General Council; our readiness to listen to the Spirit in our midst and to be shaped by what we hear from one another and from God in Christ.

We rely on Spirit’s leading to make faithful decisions on every matter. We also rely on the careful preparation of each participant: reading, praying, and thinking matters through with others, preparing well for this and other decision-making.

On that long ago hillside day, the disciples began where we all tend to begin in anxious times. When Jesus asks them to give the people something to eat, they assume that they do not have enough; that they need to look elsewhere to buy what they need with money they don’t have.

Jesus exposes the illusion of scarcity and reveals the reality of abundance.

Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann writes about how this conflict between the narratives of abundance and of scarcity is the defining problem confronting us in our time.

I believe that Brueggemann is correct. Christ presents us with a choice. Will we accept the reality of God’s abundance? Will we accept the miracle? Will we accept each word spoken with love?

Will you lift your prayers that we might do all of these things at the 41st General Council and throughout the life of the church?