Rich Paxson

Over the years, I have focused intellectually on church hierarchy, buildings, and internal organizational structure. And yet emotionally I’ve experienced an open, loving community through our local parish, which while not always unconditionally loving, keeps on trying.

Father Bob, one of our former rectors, was fond of referring to the church as a hospital for sinners. I remember him preaching that Romans 5:6 was his favorite Bible verse: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Now comes James adding depth to the context and meaning of God’s atoning project for healing humanity. James shows us that no particular building or place defines a church’s limits. Church is about God’s atoning project, which we experience as the forgiveness of letting go of the need to define ourselves over against one another.

Letting-go forgiveness unfolds over time. In the light of the Forgiving Victim, who alone can help us let go of our need to define ourselves over against one another, Church is present wherever and whenever we open ourselves to the presence and power of God’s constant love. Living into God’s loving atonement gives a real, practical meaning to the deacon’s dismissal at the close of each Eucharist: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” and of the people’s response: “Thanks be to God.”