Friday, January 20, 2017

The Christian Work that Is Before Us

Christians are citizens of a very unique kingdom. This kingdom, like Christ himself, does not seek our own self gain but the interest of all humanity. We are invited by Christ to help build a global society of friends and bring about a promise of peace, reconciliation where justice and right remembering triumph over hate, division, self-interest, and corruption. We are to bring about a world where the creatures of God are protected and people might find hope and renewal of life.

God invited us, through Christ, to work on this together. We are invited to work on this global project across all national lines, languages, and ethnic divides. We will face challenges and hardships brought about by those who are determined to keep us apart. Those who wish to take advantage of us will sow seeds of discord and suspicion. But, as faithful Christians we believe that division will not have the last word. We believe as faithful Christians that hope wins. We believe forgiveness wins, mercy wins, love wins, and that God wins. Moreover, that this victory is not for any select group or entitled people. This victory is for all people of every race, nation and tongue.

Our power to do this peacemaking, reconciling, justice work comes from God and is delivered by his work on the cross and tomb. We are given this vocation and this ministry by virtue of our baptism wherein we participate in Christ’s own birth, death, and resurrection. No powers of this world can take away or add to the gift of love and sacrifice bestowed on God’s people to share grace with a helpless and hopeless world. We are to give what we have received, not wealth or power, but love, mercy, and forgiveness. We have no savior but Christ, no king but our Lord, and our primary citizenship is found in God’s government. We are baptized citizens of a different country with a different purpose. Nothing, not powers, not principalities, can separate us from God’s love. God’s victory is our victory. God’s triumph is our triumph.

Our moment was creation. Our moment was the deliverance of the people out of slavery in a faraway land. Our moment was in a nativity in a little-known town. Our moment was by the sea of Galilee. Our moment was at the cross at Calvary. Our moment was at the empty tomb and upper room. Our moment was a global moment, meant for all people, given freely to all people. Our moment was a unifying moment of all humanity and not one for a special few. Our moment is remembered every Sunday, and every day. Our moment is worn around our necks and at our headstone when we die. Our moment is marked forever on our hearts and steers our vision towards a unity of people of every kind, of every difference, gathered into one family. There is only one God and only one savior in whom our hope may be entrusted and that is God in Christ Jesus.

Our movement, was and is the Jesus movement and it exists for the proclamation of the Good News. This movement defines righteousness not by what we deserve or can get but by what we can give away and what we can hand over. Some will say this movement of self-sacrifice for the other, no matter their otherness, is weak. But our movement is strong and is not swayed by wind nor doctrine by the powers that be in this world. The prophets of old remind those involved in our movement that all people are God’s people and are to be offered dignity. Our unified destiny is not one of worldly success but heavenly peace. Our unified destiny is rooted in the maxim that those who lose life will find it, those who serve will be first, those who sacrifice will be born again.

Our movement promises to be a good neighbor. Our movement, the Jesus movement, promises to come when you need help. It promises to bind you up when you are beaten and robbed. It promises to give our own wealth so that you may be safe. It promises to mend and heal, to support and care, and to love when others would cross on the other side and protect their own. Our movement is one that understands neighborliness when it is local and global.

There is no new vision for us who follow Jesus. There is only an old vision of a new creation. This is a vision whose victory only comes from self-sacrifice for the other. God’s vision is one of giving in order to receive and before receiving. It is one where we wrap a towel around our waste and wash the feet of road weary souls. Our vision is one that sees enough to go around and plenty of food to be multiplied and shared like loaves and fishes. Our vision is one that chooses to cast a net differently than the worldly powers suggest in order to serve the most people.

We reject the notion that hoarding our riches for ourselves will bring success. Why? Because our scripture tells us that to hoard the manna, all that comes from God, is to watch it decay and worms will surely destroy it. Our work is to not store up what rust and moth consume but to share what we have as our sacrifice of faithfulness to God who shares all with us. We do not believe in such a thing as an isolated human being. We live in a global community and the least among us are of our concern. We have learned from Jesus and from those who first followed him that the people outside our house, at our gates, the impoverished, incurable, helpless people of God are in fact our concern and our business whether they exist in our country or in the neighboring country or halfway across the world. We are all created in the image of God. All people are God’s people. As such, all people are our brothers and sisters. Progress built upon the backs of another is not progress at all.

Our allegiance is to God in Christ Jesus and his kingdom. Our loyalty is to God and to God’s family – the whole human race. Yes, “how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” This is a universal and global truth not to be exploited for any one select group or individual. Our solidarity is universal and is for the good of the whole human race.

We know that violence, hatred, and oppression is a very real fact in the world - and we reject its power of fear over us. We claim our mission to seek peaceful means of stemming such violence. We seek to transform the world not by violence but by love. This is the God we worship - a God who is love. One who forgave his torturers and one who died rather than raise a sword against his enemies. The God of peace is a God far beyond our understanding to be sure. Yet it is peace, reconciliation, truth, and justice that will be our work.

All human beings will die. This is true and there is nothing and no one who will keep us from our end. But God promises that death will not have the last word and for its sting has lost its venom. While we cannot ever be fully protected from the world and from death, we are fully delivered by God’s hand. This is our hope and our faith.

We proclaim boldly that we are citizens of a very unique kingdom. Indeed, there is much work before us.


  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball