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A Letter from the Associate Minister for Discipleship to Pittsburgh Presbytery

A Different World
May 15, 2014

As we approach Memorial Day, May 26, it is appropriate to reflect on the lives and sacrifices of men and women who have served our country.  The First World War was called “the war to end all wars.”  That is because the scale and intensity of the conflict were so unprecedented that no one believed that the world could endure another such conflict.

Seventy million soldiers took part in the fighting with 40 million casualties. New technologies such as machine guns, better artillery, poison gas, aerial warfare, and submarines increased the scale of the carnage. The title, “war to end all wars,” captured the profound hope that no nation would ever again wage such violence and create so much misery.

Between the two great wars of the Twentieth Century, a Christian writer, Emma Bailey Speer, wrote in an introduction to a book of devotional readings by a well-known Anglican preacher, Maude Royden, these words: “There is one question that every sane person is asking today, ‘What can I do to make this a better and very different world?’”

That question was posed over eighty years ago. The world has since seen the horror of not one but many armed conflicts and acts of terror. The recent kidnapping of the students in Nigeria has stunned the world. We know that a nuclear war could destroy the earth’s livability for a very long time. So we, too, should be asking every day, “What can I do to make this a better and very different world?”

We, of all people, should be working to make the world better and different. Jesus Christ was sent into this world not to condemn it but to save it. In fact, Jesus came explicitly to raise up followers whose sole mission was to change lives and so change the world.

We may look across 2,000 years of history and fear that we have failed.  But imagine what that history might have been like if Christ had not come. Only God truly knows how wide and deep and far the Gospel has already traveled and so transformed humanity.

I am not someone who believes that fortune cookies contain timeless wisdom. But I recently opened a fortune that I really like. As Easter people, these words are for us: A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.

As we continue into the season of Eastertide, we celebrate the victory of life over death and hope over despair. But in order to continue to create a different world and reflect the kingdom of heaven, we cannot be indifferent or apathetic or inactive people. There is still much to do, no matter our time in life.

Come, labor on! Who dares stand idle, on the harvest plain while all around him waves the golden grain? And to each servant does the Master say, “Go work today.”  
Come, labor on! Away with gloomy doubts and faithless fear! No arm so weak but may do service here. By feeblest agents may our God fulfill His righteous will.
(Excerpted from the hymn, Come Labor On, Belwin-Mills Publishing Corp.)

Indifferent people cannot build a different world.


The Rev. Dr. Beverly W. James, Associate Minister for Discipleship to Pittsburgh Presbytery

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