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April 2011 Issue

Responsively Yours: A Ministry of Reconciliation

School girls participate in a procession through the streets of Juba to encourage all to pray for a peaceful January referendum on Southern Sudan's secession from the north of the country.
School girls participate in a procession through the streets of Juba to encourage all to pray for a peaceful January referendum on Southern Sudan's secession from the north of the country. Paul Jeffrey

By Harriett Jane Olson

The Journey, United Methodist Women’s 2011 spiritual growth study, will provide us with a setting in which we can focus on what this implies and how we might appropriate some of the tools of reconciliation.

“Reconciliation is at the heart of life’s business.”
J. Paul SampleyNew Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Vol. XI

Reconciliation expresses an important concept in the Bible and in Christian teaching. Scripture tells us that God through Christ was reconciling the world to God — people, one by one and the whole of creation, the cosmos in the Greek. Christ’s work is part of God’s continuing re-creation of the world. We are invited to participate in God’s work by being reconciled to God and to others and by taking on the ministry of reconciliation.

The Journey, United Methodist Women’s 2011 spiritual growth study, will provide us with a setting in which we can focus on what this implies and how we might appropriate some of the tools of reconciliation. Part of this work is about our own reconciliation with God. We realize anew that God has always loved us. We yearn to know this at the deepest level, and we are reminded that we are 100 percent loved and forgiven, no less than the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume. Perhaps the question for us is will we respond to this overflowing love with a confidence in God’s abundance that leads us to take similarly outrageous actions.

Fear is a powerful motivator and an inhibitor of reconciliation. Some of us are afraid we will fail and our limitations will become obvious. Others focus on how systems, families or organizations may fail, and so they fear the failure of others.

The truth is that only God’s love is constant. We will try and at times fail. This is certain. Others will try and at times fail. That is also certain. We and “they” will do this for good reasons and for bad ones. We would be wrong however, to think that if we make only small efforts or set only small goals we will prevent failure. Let us instead heed United Methodist Women foremother Belle Harris Bennett’s charge to the missionaries and deaconesses and “attempt great things for God.”

What would it look like if we took on a worldview of reconciliation that was rooted in God’s abundance and reconciling work? Where might we as Christian women stand as fearlessly as our predecessors did for women’s ordination or the 40-hour workweek? What abuse might we protest as fiercely as our foremothers countered lynching, foot binding and the sort of fear that prompts systems and governments to de-humanize parts of the world’s population?

This issue of response invites United Methodist Women to think about personal and societal practices in need of reconciliation to God and the rest of the human family. What would a commitment to reconciliation bring to discussions about children, the environment or economic justice?

Putting reconciliation at the heart of our work would take a miracle! Thanks be to God that the miracle of God’s love in Christ is one thing we can rely on.

Harriett Jane Olson
Women’s Division, Deputy General Secretary
holson@unitedmethodistwomen.org

Last Updated: 03/21/2014
 
 

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