- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2003

The following are excerpts from a pastoral address by Bishop Peter James Lee to the 208th annual council of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.
Christians who understand themselves as planters, sowers of seed for the future, begin with the grateful knowledge that God is the abundant sower whose activity assures that God's mission will flourish and that our activity will succeed if it is in line with God's purposes.
And our activity in sowing seeds for mission is to be consistent with the agenda of Jesus. In the inaugural sermon of his ministry in his home synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus quoted words from [Isaiah 61:1-11]: "… He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives [and] let the oppressed go free …"
That is the agenda of Jesus for the world that God has made. Our Prayer Book summarizes the mission of the church this way: "to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ" and says the church pursues its mission "as it promotes justice, peace, and love."
When we plant seeds for mission, then, we are not aiming simply to add members to the church. We are working to make disciples who will align themselves with the kingdom that God is bringing. That's why the church's interests in peace and justice extend beyond our members to the well-being of the world that God has made. We are concerned with the pandemic of HIV/AIDS in Africa because Jesus is committed to bringing good news to the poor. …
At a time of international crisis, when the drums of war threaten the still, small voices of peace, we Christians pray that God's kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. We align ourselves, at such a time, with efforts to bridge the chasms that divide humankind, and in planting our seeds for God's mission, we try to reach out to those who differ from us.
Christians have a bias for peace and peace-making. We continue to pray that the nations of the world may find a peaceful way to remove the threat of weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. We have many people in our diocese directly working for such an outcome, beginning with the secretary of state, Gen. Colin L. Powell, a faithful member of St. John's Church, McLean. We support them with our prayers.
And we have faithful members of our diocese whose work for peace is to assure the strength of our diplomacy through their active military service. … Please send me the names of those in your congregation on active military duty, and I will send them the Armed Forces Prayer Book and the Episcopal Service Cross as signs of our support for their sacrificial service.
We pray for peace. We uphold our leaders and our military in our prayers. And in a fallen world, we understand that one of the responsibilities of international leadership is to name the threats to peace and to participate in removing them, by diplomacy if possible, by measured, necessary force as a last resort.
Pray that we may participate in planting seeds that will grow into an international order that promotes justice, peace and love. Among the risks of taking leadership internationally is that we may fall into the false assumption that American interests are always the interests of others. The president got it right [in the State of the Union] address: "America is a strong nation and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest and sacrifice for the liberty of strangers. …"
So at a time of international uncertainty, people of faith return to our knees in prayer and set about on our work of aligning ourselves with the God who is spreading seeds of justice, peace and love.
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. James R. Love Sr. at Faith Tabernacle on Capitol Hill.

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