Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shared Sacrifice

I’ve been reflecting recently on the word “viability.” I hear it used a lot these days in a wide variety of circles. I hear church administrators talking about the viability of small churches. I hear politicians talk about the viability of continuing to do business as usual where budgets are concerned. And I hear diplomats in the news talk about the viability of countries with significant social programs. All this talk made me wonder what is was all about...the word itself. After searching some online dictionaries here is what I found…

The ability to work as intended or to succeed.
The ability to continue to exist or develop as a living being…

Or how about this definition…

Capable of living, developing, or germinating under favorable conditions. Capable of living outside the uterus. Capable of success or continuing effectiveness; practicable...

Whether or not we agree on a definition, I think it goes without saying that we all want viability in our lives, in our communities, in our churches and in our schools. The second and harder aspect of viability is how to obtain and sustain it in our lives and in our institutions.

When I think about my own experiences with viability and vitality, they all seemed to share a few things in common.

Clarity of identity...Commitment to the common good…Shared sacrifice

People and institutions function at their bests when they are clear about whom they are and whom they are not. Shakespeare might have been clever when he said, “to thine own self be true,” but the wise person follows the ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself.”

Commitment to the common good is also found in the characteristics of things viable and vital. From the everyday citizen to the President, from the small church to the Fortune 500 company, if you are not committed to the welfare of all people there is no health within you…(hat tip to the connfession in the daily office of the 1928 Prayerbook).

And whether we want to talk about it or not, shared sacrifice is absolutely necessary if we are to live and work together as church and community. There has been so much talk about the mess we are in and so little or no shared sacrifice. It really is a shame we have come to this moment when state and national politicians keep cutting valuable programs, and at the same time walking away from discussion about raising taxes to help share the sacrifice. We can all take a lesson from the staff of one of our local school districts which recently agreed to take an across the board pay cut so no one would loose their jobs.

Although in recent times we have convinced ourselves otherwise, you cannot claim the name of Jesus Christ if you are unwilling to participate in shared sacrifice for the needs of others. The Rt. Rev'd. Frank Weston said it best in his closing address to the 1923 Anglo-Catholic Congress...

"You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slums. . . It is folly -- it is madness -- to suppose that you can worship Jesus in the Sacraments and Jesus on the throne of glory, when you are sweating him in the souls and bodies of his children."

Bishop Weston was as right then as his is today. This is not about economics or politics, this is about the Gospel and the church better start treating it as such.

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