41st Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress
July 1-5 – Phoenix, AZ
Theme: “Chosen and appointed by God to go and bear fruit”
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we begin this new year and our preparations for the upcoming 41st Clergy-Laity Congress of our Holy Archdiocese, I offer an initial reflection on our theme for this blessed gathering: “Chosen and appointed by God to go and bear fruit.” This theme is based on the words of our Lord to His disciples in John 15:16, as He taught them the meaning of the relationships they shared and assured them of the great work that God would accomplish through their faithful service. Jesus said, You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit (John 15:16). In this first of a series of articles on our Congress theme, we contemplate the meaning of this biblical passage and the insight it offers for our lives and service as Orthodox Christians and for the vital offering of love and ministry of our Church in America.
These words of our Lord begin with the affirmation of how God shows us His love. We are chosen by Him because in love He has created us, forgiven us, and redeemed us. We are chosen for a special and eternal relationship with Him in which our fellowship is restored, our life transformed and renewed, and we are given the power to live in holiness.
We have been chosen and appointed by God to offer a witness of Him through our worship and service, through our lives and before all people so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in us, and us in Him as St. Paul said (I Thessalonians 1:11-12). In addition, as God has chosen and appointed us, He gives us all that we need to do this great work. He equips us with the grace, the power, the ability, the wisdom, and the resources to develop effective means for reaching others with the Gospel of healing truth and peace.
Our appointment by God also includes His divine command to go and bear fruit. In another instance Christ directed His disciples and us to Go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). So we have a mission to go to all, especially to go to the lost and preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:6-7); we have a mission to go and gather the people to God’s Home so that His house may be filled (Luke 14:23). As His people, whom He has chosen and appointed, we have both a mission and a message to share with the world. In His love for us and for all humanity, He commands us to “Go!”
When we hear God’s voice and calling, when we respond to His will, the result will be great and abundant fruit, both in our lives and the lives of others. We must recognize the magnitude of being chosen and appointed by God to go into the world and share the Gospel. We experience the fruit of fellowship and communion with Him when we become His people and call others out of darkness into His marvelous light. We see the fruit that comes through faith when we affirm our appointment as witnesses of grace and truth, and Christ is glorified in us and in the lives of others as they come to Him. We see the fruit of the Gospel and the presence of Christ, when we go and share the love of God through worship, teaching and preaching, and special missions and ministries that bring healing, peace, and hope to people throughout this country and around the world. God has chosen and appointed us to go, and when we do, we will bear the fruit of joy and love in our lives and the lives of so many others.
As we begin our preparations for our 41st Clergy-Laity Congress, let us reflect on it’s theme “Chosen and appointed by God to go and bear fruit”. Let us reflect on its implications for every aspect of the life of our Church in America. Let us evaluate our work and efforts, seeking God’s guidance, and reflecting on how our witness and ministry shows that we are chosen and appointed by God, that we have a calling and a purpose in what we do, and that we are consistently responding to His command to go and bear fruit. We will know that we are fulfilling our mission when the fruit we bear brings healing and joy to the people and glory to God.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America