By Stan Friedman
ST. PAUL, MN (June 26, 2010) – If the Evangelical Covenant Church is to truly affirm its “commitment to the whole mission of the church,” individuals and groups within the denomination must engage in reconciliation among themselves, declared Mossai Sanguma, president of the Covenant Church of Congo (CEUM), in his sermon during tonight’s worship service as part of the 125th anniversary celebration.
Sanguma expanded on the third of six Covenant Affirmations – the theme for this year’s meeting – saying denomination members should seek to be “wholly reconciled people for the whole mission of the church.”
The Covenant has reason to celebrate because it is working in more countries and the number of people coming to Christ also is increasing, Sanguma said. If reconciliation does not happen among Christians, however, then all the work will fall apart, he added.
“When it comes to the issue of reconciliation, it is no longer a problem of belief – it is a matter of doing it,” he said. Covenanters, historically also known for being Mission Friends, need to pursue being “friends in mission.”
Preaching from Luke 4:1-26, the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, Sanguma noted that the disciples had wanted to travel around the region because they considered Samaritans beneath them. “How many times have you done so, or similar things, to avoid your contact with those you do not like?” he asked.
The desire to be only with others like us leads to absurdity, Sanguma said. “Before we ask for water, we want to know what group the giver belongs to.”
Reconciliation is imperative, Sanguma said. “When we are not getting together with people who are not like us, we are missing a lot of opportunities. If we avoid the people who are different – and even those we consider enemies – we deny them the opportunity to experience life in Christ.”
Many of the differences are unavoidable. “This racial identity has nothing to do with our own will,” Sanguma said. “It is God’s business, and he knows why he assigned each one of us into a very special ethnic identity.”
He cautioned that divisions of the past are too easily carried forward to succeeding generations, and attempts at reconciliation too often rebuffed by people who had become “slaves to vindication, anger, and continuous fear.”
Sanguma implored, “Forgive history so that we are able to forgive others.”
The CEUM president also exhorted the gathering to run – not walk – to do the exciting work of sharing the reconciling gospel.
Earlier in the service, Efrem Smith was installed as superintendent of the Pacific Southwest Conference. He previously served as senior pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis.