God always works through a remnant. There is a remnant to be found in the Presbyterian Church today. God has already called it into being, and it is working out new plans for Christ’s church — Presbyterian — in the future. Where might this remnant be found? In what kinds of activities might it be engaged and with what success? If lifted up, can the witness of the remnant inspire many of us to see things in a new light and to renew our commitment to God’s covenant in Jesus Christ?
Undoubtedly, the remnant will be found among the poor and the dispossessed, for that is always God’s favorite place to work — on the margins, in the interstices, largely hidden from view. Recall the mustard seed, the leaven, the earthly ministry of Jesus: small stuff, largely unnoticed, but absolutely revolutionary in its potential.
We need, then, to refocus our passionate commitment to the least of our brothers and sisters, but that commitment may look different in the first decade of the 21st century from what it did, say during the so-called “Second American Revolution,” with an agenda including such things as basic civil rights, equal justice for all, the right to vote. That revolution had an agenda that has been decisively embraced by all but the most retrograde groups in society. On the other hand, the reality of the American dream still excludes large numbers of folks, often concentrated in great urban centers and rural poverty areas, overlooked and forgotten.
How we can be there in their midst, with grace and dignity, to stand by, to affirm, to be present for, is a question that will have many answers in widely varying circumstances. But the point is that the words of the prophets still ring true, that the lifestyle and witness of our Lord remains our guide, and our calling is ever to be with and for the least of the brothers and sisters.
On the other hand, identification with the poor and dispossessed does not exclude an equally important witness to those with power and responsibility. They and the institutions which they serve have the resources to worsen or to improve the lives of common people immeasurably.
For so long we have neglected our witness to this critical segment of our constituency — specifically the people whom God has called to be Presbyterians, people who love the Lord, who love the church, who want to give and be of service in ways appropriate to their stations in life.
Such people are perhaps the most overlooked and underutilized asset in the denomination today. In our passion to achieve fair representation, we have largely excluded individuals who are in a position to make a highly significant witness to Jesus Christ where they serve. Every Christian has a witness to make, and each witness is as essential to the mission of the church as any other. But it seems to this observer at least, that in trying to bring new faces into the governing/leadership mix of our denomination, we systematically and unfairly turned others away — much to the detriment of the mission of the church, and surely not in accord with Christ’s wishes.
Where is the new church God is building from the remnant? It can be anywhere, and is everywhere, where people who call themselves Christian are intentionally and continually offering their bodies as a living sacrifice. They shall be known by their fruits.
We must always be careful of any effort to erect a “church within the church,” with the attendant divisive and negative consequences. Yet if the remnant is to be used of God, there must be notice taken, a certain self-consciousness of a unique mission, suffused with deep humility, as an antidote to otherwise inevitable self-righteousness.
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