Since my sabbatical came to an end yesterday (I promise I’ll stop talking about it soon), and with one last evening in the sports doldrums upon us (The US Open begins today), I decided to do some reading for work and cracked open my new copy of Susan Brown Snook’s God Gave the Growth, a guide to church planting in The Episcopal Church. I’m only a few chapters in, but, as expected, I’m finding Susan’s book to be insightful and well worth a read. Of particular note is her willingness to strike a balance between the call to social justice and evangelism, “The church must make new disciples if we plan to do social justice work, help the poor, or transform unjust structures of society. This is long-term work, and it will requite generations of disciples to do it” (13).
With that still rattling around in my mind, I opened up Morning Prayer on the Forward Movement website and read with great joy the collect for the feast of Aiden of Lindesfarne.
O Loving God, you called your servant Aidan from the peace of a cloister to reestablish the Christian mission in northern England, and endowed him with gentleness, simplicity, and strength: Grant that we, following his example, may use what you have given us for the relief of human need, and may persevere in commending the saving Gospel of our Redeemer Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
As a monastic, a missionary, and an evangelist, Aiden spent his life rebuilding the church in Northumbria through a combination of preaching the Good News and showing what it meant by feeding the hungry, caring for the widows, and loving his neighbor. In so doing, Aiden lived a life worthy of the Epistle of James, from which we hear these words this week, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”
Faith without works is dead, James tells us. In the same way, social justice without the Gospel is hollow and the Gospel without love is false. As disciples of Jesus we are called to follow all of his teachings: caring for the least and seeking out the lost, but in the hyper-political world in which we live, many have forgotten to live in this tension. Perhaps we need an Aiden of Lindesfarne Moment; a reminder of the fullness of God’s call to Go! Go, and make disciples. Go, and feed the hungry. Go, and share the Good News in word and deed.