A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery
Trusting God, Trusting One Another
August 13, 2015
Tammy and I had never been to Prince Edward Island. We’d grown up hearing much about it, so we made it our first place of sojourn on this summer’s sabbatical journey. After crossing the 8-mile long Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick, we decided to fill up with gas before locating our cottage. I knew I was in a different world when I found nowhere to insert my credit card at the Shell station pump. I went inside to leave my card at the counter while I pumped gas, but the proprietor waved me off – “Just fill it up, then park behind the station to make room for others. Come in after that and we’ll settle up.” I did as he directed, and by the time I got back to him someone else was at the pump. He asked me, “How much was it?” I told him, he wrote it up, and we were done.
Our cottage had a nice fire pit, and the next day we saw a roadside sign advertising firewood for sale. Nice sacks of firewood, complete with plenty of kindling, were lined up by the mailbox of a farmhouse. Beside the sacks was a small tin box with a hole in it – five dollars, it said. We inserted the cash, and drove off to enjoy a nice roaring fire that evening.
Trust. It was all around us. Surely they get ripped off on occasion. But they have decided that living by trust is worth the risk. And they choose to trust not only their own circle, but all who pass through – even strangers from 1400 miles away! I spoke with someone there about this, and they said it’s a way of life on the island. They have discovered that trust’s rewards far outweigh its risks.
One of the things that was clarified for me on sabbatical was the seamlessness of our relationship with God and our relationships with our sisters and brothers. We know well John’s saying, “Those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen cannot love God whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20) The same can be said for trust – those who behave distrustfully toward their brothers and sisters cannot at the same time trust God rightly. The world of our relationships is the laboratory in which our participation in God’s triune fellowship is embodied, tested, and displayed. Christians demonstrate their love for and trust in God by loving and trusting each other.
Or not. All too often the church is more like the “real world” where it’s everyone for herself or himself, where people are divided deeply over nearly everything. Sometimes the church is especially riddled with enmity between those who differ. Brothers and sisters, this is not the world as God made it or intends it. The church is called to be a sign of something better, of a world in which the wholeness of God’s reign is visibly manifest. Jesus came to live and die and rise again precisely so we could be saved from the hatred, fear, mendacity, and distrust that run rampant in the world.
So I have a modest proposal to make: What if we in Pittsburgh Presbytery chose to assume the best of each other, rather than the worst? And not merely with colleagues who think, act, or look just like us. Imagine the witness to the reconciling power of Jesus Christ if we exhibited publicly a mutual trust of each other’s hopes and motivations across the lines over which the surrounding world is bitterly, even viciously divided!
I dearly wish everyone could enjoy the experience with which I and my associates are blessed as we visit our congregations across the theological, political, and social spectrum. None of them is perfect, yet we discover in each of them the fire of the Spirit, the light of Christ, and the love of God. Jesus is proclaimed as Lord, Scripture is read with desire to hear God’s truth, and members are challenged to deepen their commitments as disciples of Jesus. Seeing these attributes consistently from congregation to congregation nourishes my trust in the integrity of our commitments to Christ, even though we articulate and live them in a variety of ways. Can we dare to trust one another as a tangible expression of our trust in the Lord on whose grace and mercy we all equally depend?
The good people of Prince Edward Island have discovered something of the power of sowing trust. We reap what we sow. (Galatians 6:7) When we take the risk of sowing trust, we reap a harvest of peace. (James 3:18) We may find that sometimes our trust will be broken, but any losses through betrayal will be far outweighed by the benefits of living by trust.
Your partner in trust,
The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister
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