Dr. Joy Moore delivers the third Lenten sermon at All-Seminary Chapel
“Is your life a testimony to what God is doing in the world,
or who you want to be?” Dr. Joy Moore, associate director of African American
Church Studies, asked at All-Seminary Chapel on March 6.
In her messaged titled “Making a Name for Ourselves”—the
third Lenten sermon on the theme of reconciliation—Moore urged the Fuller community to be Christians who embody the work of Christ in everything they say
and do. She noted that the Apostle Paul’s letters to the Corinthians were
similar to public blog posts or social media updates that everyone can see.
Paul, having spent months with the Corinthians, left only to
find that the people began to listen to other leaders, who seemed to want to
make a name for themselves, Moore said. Paul needed to be reconciled to this
community, but rather than visit them in his anger, he wrote letters.
Moore noted that in 1 and 2 Corinthians we learn that Paul’s
constant goal is to call the community to understand that they are a unified
“This was never to be a private message to individual
scholars or spiritual persons,” Moore explained. “It’s a public blog to the
people of God. It’s a call to shape the identity of a community called
‘Christian’ within a pluralistic, post-theistic world. Paul invites them,
invites us, to see the world in dramatically different ways—ways shaped by an
encounter with the risen Christ.”
Moore told the audience that if they are to heed Paul’s
message and to be this kind of God-reflecting community, then they must take “responsibility
to witness to the world a glimpse of what God intends to do with all the
Moore went on to explain a time when she was pastor of a
small country church that was divided by an intense, years-long rivalry between
two families. Through work and prayer, Moore was able to see the beginnings of
reconciliation within that church. The two families began to work and serve
together. But, she said regretfully, the church members are divided again. Not
because of faith, but because of politics. She sees this, she explained,
whenever she goes on Facebook and sees the congregation members’ activity.
“It’s division because of the public possibility of
communicating online. People I once loved and prayed with now spew out such
division on a Facebook page that I wonder if they remember anything that I said
about reaching out to people who don’t vote like you, look like you, walk like
you, talk like you, live like you,” Moore said.
She reflected openly that perhaps this is her time to reach
back out to that church community, like the Apostle Paul did to the
Corinthians, and ask her former friends to make amends.
“Reconciliation that Paul was asking for is the kind of
reconciliation that is not just celebrating what happened 10 years ago or 15
years ago in that congregation, but being able and being willing to write a
missive today that says it’s time for us to no longer judge each other by our
differences, but to find a way to be reconciled,” Moore said.
And so came her challenge: that as Fuller’s students, staff,
and faculty communicate with their churches, cousins, and congregations,
whether in conversation or on social media, to remember that others are
eavesdropping and observing.
“Practices that we do are to be a result of living as if
Christ is here and as if the Holy Spirit transforms us,” Moore said. “So the
question for us today is not how big is the chasm that divides us, the question
is not what identity will you be claimed by, the question is can we dwell
together in unity?”
She suggested that perhaps our conversations need to stop
sounding like civic debates, and to be more like mirrors of hope that say that
God is still creating people, forming communities, and reconciling people to
himself and to each other.
“The internet users that read the blogs of seminarians and
professors don’t need to be entertained by shrill debates between evangelicals
and progressives,” she said. “The world doesn’t need another strategy stamped
with spirituality, nor some political plan programmed and purchasable online.
They should expect an alternative perspective on Christians.”
But being an image bearer of God goes beyond the World Wide
Web, Moore added. She noted that Paul didn’t just use letters and lessons to
help the Corinthians understand. He used his life and work as a witness.
“In the midst of despair, in the midst of brokenness, we are
to be a glimpse of the goodness. Anyone can say something nice about you
because they’ve encountered you. I ask, can they say something true about God?”
She concluded by saying that reconciliation today means
living the Good News of Christ.
“Don’t tell the world to read our book, invite them to watch
our lives,” she said. “Be a reader’s digest version of God’s story of peace. Be
the Cliff Notes, a video clip, edited by the Holy Spirit, written by the hand
of God, and autographed by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are God’s tweets to
the world as though God were making an appeal through us. Paul implored the
Corinthians and I implore you in the name of Christ, be reconciled to God.”