Peace Corner

Published on Sep 8th, 2022 by wpd-office | 0
This ‘Way,’ the mission of what it means to be a group of people following Jesus, our mission, is what the church must consider as we reimagine what it means to be church in our world today.

In Luke 4, Jesus proclaims that the words from Isaiah 61 have been fulfilled in a synagogue in Nazareth. In this familiar passage, Jesus says the Spirit of the Lord has anointed him to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the captives, recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Looking further in Isaiah 6:4, it says They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repair the cities and raise up the former devastations. Instead of shame and disgrace, you will rejoice in your inheritance, everlasting joy will be yours. For I, the Lord love justice…in my faithfulness, I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. All who see them will know they are a people the Lord has blessed.

Who is this ‘they’ the Lord is referring to? Who is it that will restore devastation and cities? It is US! We have been rewarded with the everlasting covenant, through Christ. Yet, is ‘all who see us knowing we are these people blessed by the Lord’ by the work we are doing? A better question is perhaps, “have we lost our sense of real mission as the church?”

In a discussion with Randy Yoder this week, he mentioned his upcoming class, Part 2 of Pathways of Effective Leadership, which will focus on understandings and practices for transformational leadership that contribute to healthy and vital congregations. He told me to read The Forgotten Way by Alan Hirsh, and I found that I have this book, which was part of a class at Bethany by Tara Hornbaker. I love this book, and highlighted so much in it, years ago!  A key point is part of what Randy mentioned to me in our conversation that ever since the explosion of the church in the time of Constantine, it has lost, or forgotten, their way – their mission. During a sermon series I did on Acts, it was brought up many times that early Christians were often titled people of ‘The Way,’ or ‘Followers of The Way’ (Acts 9:2, 19:9 & amp; 23, 22:4, 24:5,14 & amp;22).

This ‘Way,’ the mission of what it means to be a group of people following Jesus, our mission, is what the church must consider as we reimagine what it means to be church in our world today.

Vivek Solanky, a Bethany student, brought up the Lukan passage in his recent Ventures class on Human Trafficking a few weeks ago. He said, “God is not sitting idly watching injustice, He has a plan and have included all of us in his plan of freedom and redemption.” We are the ‘they’ from Isaiah 61! It is our responsibility as followers of ‘The Way,’ as “God’s ambassadors to bring love and hope to the broken world,” per Solanky. I couldn’t agree more, and thus my call as a peace and justice coordinator for our district, and my call to ministry as well, I believe. Vivek added that we cannot love God without also loving our neighbor per Jesus. Of course, his course was filled with information about organizations that help with human trafficking, and ways we can help in this horrendous crime that denigrates the image of God in so many people. A portion I really enjoyed in his discussion was about how we must face and challenge the stigmatization involved in those have their lives disrupted in unbelievable ways as a result of this evil. Many have lost trust in humanity and some may not feel worthy of grace. Therefore, it is vital that we challenge some beliefs about them choosing this way or that they deserve what happened to them due to choices they have made. They must sense God’s grace, I say, through our presence. They must feel love and acceptance, rather than judgment in order to have true healing. We are a part of God’s plan of redemption!

I can also relate this to another online gathering I attended the same day I viewed the
Ventures class – the Pachamama Alliance Global Gathering. Part of my call to ministry was connecting my faith with my creation care advocacy, through the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium by the Pachamama Alliance. I worked with a presenter and helped add biblical passages and a faith perspective to this as we gave one of these presentations at a Historic Peace Church Gatherings in the Atlantic Southeast District. They now have a gamechanger intensive 6-week course providing ways to become activists in creation care, as well as a new initiative allowing indigenous wisdom and assistance come to the people of the Amazon Rainforest, in their efforts to help protect it. It gave me a renewed sense of hope and the Holy Spirit’s regenerative power was present in this global gathering of many who care about this vital cause.

Then later this same evening, I learned at a board meeting that the Nebraska Interfaith Power and Light has received a second grant this year to assist in their work to educate and connect faith and creation care. I was so filled with hope after this wonderful day! This hope endures deep within me even with all that points to the degradation of our neighbors dignity and well-being that relates to climate change, as well as the evil of human trafficking. But the hope that this issue is being discussed in our district, that some are feeling compelled to get involved – this gives me an enduring hope within.

I looked up some stats from Polaris and Shared Hope International that Vivek mentioned in the ventures course, as well as what is being done locally. I found that a safe house was created in Omaha in 2016 and the first one was opened up here in Lincoln last year. I also found a ministry which began in 2012 right here in Lincoln called I’ve Got a Name (End Sex Trafficking Where We Live). On their website they say 900 women and girls are sold for sex every month in Nebraska. This ministry began as an event for two years prior, that helped raise awareness and funds that helped rescue over 2,400 women and girls in Southeast Asia. They have a place on their website ( where you can request a speaker to raise awareness also. They have a street outreach that allows former rescued women to assist others who are being or are in need of rescue. They even have a men’s movement, which aims to get to some roots of the problem dealing with sexualization in media and dangers of pornography. This gives me HOPE!

What can you find out in your area and in what ways can you dream about getting involved, as an individual and maybe in your congregation, in assisting them in this life saving ministry of grace and reconciliation? I know this was long and has two seemingly unrelated topics within, but since God showed me both this week as I was planning on writing this article, I thought I would share both as well.

I think it’s important to look at different forms of brokenness at times, and asking those in our midst if they feel a pressing call from the Lord regarding either. Some may have a passion for one, and someone else the other. God puts it on our hearts, through the Holy Spirit, to what is important work to do – to what passions arise in us as we learn and we reflect. So, it might be one of these forms of evil – human trafficking or degradation of the earth, that is burning in your soul, or it may be another cause that God is placing on your heart. Pray about it, feel the Spirit’s guidance on what you can do to assist and get involved. Then educate and inspire others in the work to be done – for we are people of ‘The Way,’ followers of Jesus, and we have the responsibility and the opportunity to be a part of God’s redemptive work in this broken, hurting world. He will show you what to do next, if you trust and obey.

In peace, Susan Smith

Susan Smith is our District Peace & Justice Coordinator

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