Bishop Michael Bruce Curry of North Carolina opened Trinity Institute's national conference with a stirring call to reconciliation as the mission of the church.
Curry, the first African-American bishop to serve as the head of an Episcopal diocese in the south, approached the conference topic, "The Anatomy of Reconciliation--from violence to healing," from "a perspective of mission, from a perspective of the urgent necessity of the human species and of the creation of itself."
"I want to speak tonight on the subject, very simple, not complex: we have a mission," he told those gathered. "We have work to do, we have life to restore, we have death to destroy, we have a mission."
Curry used Isaiah 40:3-5 as the text for his sermon, the story of Nebuchadnezzar's army seizing Jerusalem and making slaves of its inhabitants.
"Thus began a midnight in their social and spiritual hour," he said.
Curry explained that the experience of exile caused later generations to reflect on their hard times and "interpret it through the lens of the exile experience."
"Exile is like being in the lion's den, and the lion's hungry," he said. "It's like being Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in a fiery furnace of a life."
Curry said that Babylon captivity was "a period of hardship, dislocation, suffering, and wrong."
But it revealed God's intention for all of his children, said Curry, because "God is in the business of reconfiguring the landscape of reality."
St. Paul grasped this concept, Curry said, and realized that the reconfiguration of the nature of life by God was what Jesus was talking about--that anyone in Christ is a new creation, and that "he [God] has given us the ministry of his reconciliation."
"This mission of reconciliation is about God's reconfiguration of the landscape of our realities," he said. "From the nightmare that it often is into, as [lay theologian] Verna Dozier would say, the dream that God has intended for the foundation of the world."
"The ministry of reconciliation is about participating in God's work of reconfiguration," he said. "The work of reconfiguration is calling the creation back to itself, to its origin, to its momma, to its roots, to God, to each other and when that happens, life can flourish."
"Reconciliation is about the very life of the world," said Curry. "As the world and the creation lives into the loving purposes of its creator [and] as we live in the communion and love in the relationship with God and with each other, we will discover that that is the context for life that not even death can destroy," he said.
He added that "this mission, this work is the difference between civilization or mutually assured self-destruction."
Admitting the journey "is not easy," Curry shared the story of an African-American man in Winston-Salem, who was released from prison, completely exonerated after serving 20 years for murder. Curry said the man has never expressed resentment because he said he "had a choice."
"My friend, the secret of surviving this place is to realize that we have a choice," he said.
Curry quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, "We shall either learn to live together as sisters and brothers or we will perish together as fools."
"This work of reconciliation, this mission that we have been given is for the very life of the world," he concluded.
[NOTE: To listen to Bishop Curry's sermon in its entirety, visit Trinity Institute's website at: