January 8, 2021
Sisters and brothers in Christ,
Wednesday evening, the Rev. Noah Sutterisch and the Rev. Christopher Decatur were ordained to the sacred Priesthood at Trinity Cathedral. Against the backdrop of violent and unthinkable insurrection in our nation’s capital, it was a moving and healing event. This was not because it provided for us a distraction from the seditious breach of both the Capitol Building and the Constitution, but because it focused each of us on the brokenness and divisions of our nation and on our vocation as Christians: to bring God’s gifts of justice, mercy, truth, and peace to a country and world desperately in need of them, and like the Magi, to do so with honesty, fidelity, humility, and courage.
In the inspired and inspiring sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Patricia Lyons – delivered, significantly, from Washington, D.C. – we were reminded that each of us is formed after the model of Jesus to receive the divine gifts God desires for us and bring them to the world, each in our own particular and courageous ways.
What we witnessed on the Feast of the Epiphany in Washington illuminated hard truths about who we are as a country, and equally, our responsibility as Christians. The stark light of the assault on the Capitol, and its incitement by a variety of elected and appointed leaders, has led us to see with clarity the state of our disunion, the vulnerability of our democracy, and the critical role of responsible leadership. In light of the unconscionable violence and vandalism, we are led to see how fragile is respect for the dignity of every human being, to say nothing of the rule of law. In light of the fatalities of both protesters and police, we are led to see the extreme consequences and destructive power of words. In light of the absence of preparation by law enforcement for an armed, white mob of what police and government agencies have defined as domestic terrorists, particularly compared to the forces amassed previously for demonstrations about racial justice by predominantly black citizens, to say nothing of the comparative number of arrests, we are led to see the irrefutable reality of racism in our society and social structures.
Most importantly, in the light of Christ Jesus, we see our own responsibility not just to speak, but to act – to confess and repent and hold one another, every one of us, accountable to God’s expectations as described by the prophet Micah: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly. What happened on Wednesday in Washington was undeniably the act of specific individuals. At the same time, none of us is without some responsibility for the national divisions and divisiveness of this moment. At some level, every one of us is complicit – by our words, our actions, or the absence thereof. All of us, regardless of political perspective, must resist allowing the images of Wednesday’s events, of rioters and lawmakers alike, to provide new targets at which to throw our stones of contempt. Rather, those images must challenge us to redouble our efforts in bridging divides and establishing common ground, to be again a people of hope with a gift of compassionate democracy to model for the world.
The power of God to bring good out of this horrific time is without question or measure. As has been the case throughout human history, however, it will require our surrender to what God wants and our sacrifice of self-interest for the common good. Indeed, Jesus taught that common good is our highest self-interest. It is impossible for a society to incarnate such moral values without political implications, and our imperfect, human efforts to do so will need always to be sacrificial, with giving forever surpassing receiving in the divine economy. We cannot expect this of our leaders and legislators if we are not willing to practice it ourselves.
I join you in praying for our President, for our President-elect, for our country, and for one another.
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio