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Embrace Geneva's Future: World Communion, Reformation, Christ the King and Making Disciples

Hope, Peace, Joy and Love: a Reflection on Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 46,

Colossians 1:11-20, and Luke 23:33-43

We have serious work to do as citizens and a country. Disregard for others, in a variety of forms, dominates American culture and life. Yet, Christ the King Sunday insists we come to terms with the hope, peace, joy, and love of Jesus Christ. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. Christians are called out to be different.

The journey of discipleship has moments of hope, peace, joy, and love. For more than 1600 years, Christianity provided a compelling vision of human identity, purpose, and ethics. Christians demonstrated a quality of life which was different. The Church was recognized as a shaper of societal beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviors. Christians believed that all things had begun within God whose internal life as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was relationship in its very essence. Made in God’s image, the imago Dei, human beings were to live in a transparent and loving relationship with God and one another; and a creative and respectful relationship with the earth and its creatures that inhabited it; that it was the sinful disruption of these vital connections that brought a fall from the state of grace in which humanity had been living. But God would one day restore the unity that had been lost. God made very clear the redemptive process when he came to earth in Jesus Christ. This redemptive vision made the early Church a force that broke down the social distinctions of the day. It made Christians a force for justice and compassion, freedom and equality, education and innovation, and community and creativity.[1]

Sudden advances in scientific understanding, however, were laying bare the mechanics of the universe. Human’s sense of self-sufficiency radically increased. John Archibald Wheeler was a theoretical physicist and colleague of Albert Einstein. The man who coined the term “black hole,” Wheeler was possessed by the search for a unified theory of reality: “To my mind there must be, at the bottom of it all, not an equation, but an utterly simple idea. And to me that idea, when we finally discover it, will be so compelling, so inevitable, that we will say to one another, ‘Oh how beautiful. How could it have been otherwise?’”[2]

Christians can live the simple idea, because of what Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords accomplished. With Paul in the text from Colossians, we hold the belief that “God was pleased to have his fullness dwell in him (Jesus), and through him (Jesus) to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”[3] This simple idea is at the core of all creation. We are encountered and transformed by God whom we meet in Jesus Christ. Jesus has called us to love God and others and he has done so with hope, peace, joy, and love.

We have a calling to live, one which speaks into a culture which is self-absorbed and leads with no regard for authority. Our voice calling for justice, like in the day of Jeremiah, the power of God will be seen in shaping the playing out of human events.[4] We are called to love and reject triumphalism and defeatism. We are to offer a witness of God’s unconditional love in Jesus Christ. We are to love our neighbors. And those neighbors are most likely not like us. So, let’s get to work, church! We need God and each other. We are only strong as children of God.[5]

The texts in Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 46, Colossians 1:11-20, and Luke 23:33-43 are all about being ready for the new thing God is doing. It is now, but not yet. Jesus is the now and he is executing the new thing of justice and righteousness in the land through you and me, but it is not yet fulfilled.

Jeremiah 23:1-6 creates a narrative for our lives around the now and not yet of the new thing that God is doing. That narrative is that regardless of the times we live in and our current circumstances, God rules the universe with faithfulness and love. Whatever the issues ecologically, economically, socially, or politically, God is in charge and control, and involved in our lives. Jeremiah 23:5 reads, “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

Psalm 46 exhorts us to never forget that God is always gathering and protecting God’s people. Have confidence in the promises of God. Justice is being fulfilled and will ultimately restore peace. Psalm 46:1, 5, 9, and 10 read, “God is our refuge and strength; God is in the midst of the city; God makes war cease; and know that God is God.”

Colossians 1:11-20 asserts that every human being innately wants to contribute to a meaningful existence for themselves and others regardless of the circumstances they may find themselves in. And yet we know society struggles with the increasing number of homeless living on the streets. The money expended to care for and provide to the underemployed, unemployed, and mentally ill is staggering. But there is still a new thing that God is writing in the lives of these who live on the margins of society and are a drain on governmental services. Jesus reminds us, however, that whenever we give and love to the least of these, we are doing it unto him. Colossians 1:11-12 reads, “May you be strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.”

Luke 23:33-43 displays a different experience of hope, peace, joy, and love. In fact, hope, peace, joy, and love are at the core of Jesus’ ministry. They are not visible or obvious. Hope, peace, joy, and love are invisible and beyond our senses. Yet, they can be fulfilled and experienced. It requires commitment and trust to see it through. God’s faithfulness invites each one of us to be faithful. God promises to rebuild our lives now and renew us from our brokenness. It is this invisible and beyond our senses hope, peace, joy, and love that we remain committed to and trust in God to bring about the new life. God is full of mercy and love. And God continues to save us day in and day out. Luke 23:43 reads, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”[6]

Friends, admit and confess the need for a change of mind and heart about the purpose of being a Christian and a participant in the church. Let go of the past for it does not fix anything. Focus the church’s generosity outwardly for the sake of others. Practice the Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commission, and Matthew 25. Do not be motivated or guided by your preferences in music or worship styles. Value a long tenure for pastors who lead. Make specific plans to minister and to evangelize our community. Recognize the slow erosion in your experience of Christian community. Make specific plans to minister and to evangelize our community/communities. Practice the Great Commission. Make prayer a priority, both personally and corporately. And have a clear purpose of being church not going through the motions of church. Doing these things bring hope, peace, joy, and love to your walk with Jesus and your participation in the mission of God in and through this congregation.

God is writing God’s unconditional love for you and others on your heart. God is leading you to forgive others and receive forgiveness. God has given you spiritual gifts. Your life matters. You are loved. You are needed. God is doing the new thing in your life, even now, so that your experience of tithing from your cognitive, affective, physical, spiritual, and financial resources from your life wallet will really matter to you and others. Yes, the journey of discipleship has moments of hope, peace, joy, and love, and those moments increase when when you embrace God's healing grace. Embrace Geneva's future.

[1]I have adapted several ideas in the above paragraphs from a sermon preached by Dan Meyer titled, “Quantum Communion.” Dan is the pastor at Christ Church in Oak Brook, Illinois. [2]Margaret J. Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World (San Francisco, California: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 1999), 2. [3]Colossians 1:19-20 [4]Idea adapted from Martha Sterne in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 4 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 317. [5]Idea gleaned from Neta Pringle in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 4 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 330. [6]In all four sections of textual analysis, I have benefited from the thinking of L. Juliana M. Classens, Carlton J. “Cobbie” Palm, Thomas G. Long, D. Cameron Murchison, Philip Wingeier-Rayo, Patrick Oden, and Michael Pasquarello III in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), 495-497, 497-499, 500-502, 503-505, 505-506, 507-509, and 509-510.

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