Letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach - July 2016


July 1, 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, The 4th of July will be here soon, and so will the celebration of Independence Day across the United States. Many nations have a day to celebrate independence, a holiday to commemorate their identity. On Wikipedia, you can scroll through a list of them from around the world. There are multiple Independence Days every month of the year - some founded as recently as 2011.

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July 2016   

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Anybody who knows me knows there is one piece of pop culture that I absolutely love – Sherlock Holmes. I have more Holmes memorabilia than I'd like to admit. I've visited 221 Baker Street many times, and enjoy watching the many films made about this interesting character. I especially look forward to every new episode of the most recent BBC show, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth.

The Sherlock Holmes Museum
at 221B Baker St.

The first of these stories was published in 1887, which means we’ve had almost 130 years of Holmes cracking cases. Even if you haven’t watched the television show, or read any of Conan Doyle’s work, I bet you still know a thing or two about Sherlock Holmes. You probably know he’s a detective, and that he solves mysteries using brilliant deductive reasoning. Maybe you know that his friend Dr. Watson assists him on many cases, and that Watson is often the narrator of these tales. You might even associate him with that classic pipe and deerstalker hat.

It seems like there’s always a new radio, movie, or TV show starring Sherlock. Throughout the long history of the character, many actors have shaped our understanding of this intriguing personality. He’s been played by actors such as Robert Downey Jr., Jeremy Brett, Peter Cushing, Orson Welles, Basil Rathbone and many, many more. Each adaptation offered a slightly different twist, a new perspective, to give us a more three-dimensional understanding of who this Holmes fellow actually is.

This reminds me of something we see in the Bible – something called “The Harmony of the Gospels.” There are four Gospels, each written by a different author – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These men were utterly changed by Jesus (even Luke, who never met him), and all wrote their accounts very close to the events of his life. But the four Gospel writers each offer a different focus, a different perspective, and even some different stories that help illuminate the life of Christ. These Gospels aren't telling contradictory tales about our Lord, however. Instead, each of these accounts enriches the others, building and harmonizing with one another. 

People can have radically different views on Jesus, some that directly disagree with one another. But truth overcomes such controversy. Karl Barth, the 20th century theologian famous for his Church Dogmatics, studied the scriptures like Sherlock Holmes on a case – with a pipe in one hand and a pencil in the other. Barth turned to Scripture asking the question, “How can we understand

God?” He came to realize that God had already given us the answer – in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the true revelation of God. He is our brother, advocate, Lord and Savior – and through his incarnation he has pointed us toward the Father who offers us love and grace.

Actor Basil Rathbone in his portrayal
of the character Sherlock Holmes.

Various actors have given us their “take” on the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, some emphasizing his analytic abilities, some his wit, others his refined manners. Each version of the story, each performance on film or radio, helps give us a different perspective on Holmes. There are many adaptations and versions, but each points back to the central character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle over 100 years ago. We have four Gospels, and many more books of the Bible, that focus on a central figure as well, our Lord Jesus. Unlike the fictional Holmes, Jesus is real and living. But we’ve been given different books to help us understand different dimensions of his nature and gospel.

And unlike when I sit back with some popcorn and enjoy the latest Sherlock, we’re called to be more than just an audience in the story of Jesus. You see, he asks us to do more than sit back and watch his kingdom unfold. We’re not asked to solve a mystery, but to participate in one! The mystery of our salvation, the way that has been laid out before us, made possible for us, is one we get to joyfully participate in. Like Dr. Watson, we get to marvel at and testify to Christ’s power up close. So close, in fact, we’ve been adopted as children into God’s family thanks to the saving work of Jesus and the indwelling of his Spirit.

Here at GCI, we believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, eternally begotten of the Father. We’re grateful that God reveals different aspects of his life on earth through the four Gospel writers. God gave us Jesus, as well as the inspired Word, through which we can learn about his life, death, resurrection, and glorious reign. As Christians, we’re not called to be passive viewers – instead, we’re “on the case” too – joining in to spread the good news of the person of Jesus to the whole world.

Just like the character of Dr. Watson spread the good news about the great adventures of Sherlock Holmes, we here at GCI are spreading the good news of Christ’s merciful gospel. We’re committed in many ways, whether it be through our various international and community-based congregations and outreach ministries, along with our educational and training programs, all focused on being an example of Christ’s transformational love. When you give to GCI, you’re being more than an audience member. You’ve joined the great work of the gospel that continues to this day. As Holmes would say, “The game is afoot!” and we’d like to say thank you for participating in that great work. Although we each have different perspectives and experiences, we are all united in the truth and the call of Christ. That’s a truth you don’t have to be a detective to discover!

Celebrating the Way, the Truth, and the Life,

Joseph Tkach
President – Grace Communion International

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