Love–The Salvation of a Remnant: a Reflection on Psalm 90:1-8, 12, 1 The
Walking the long road is a series of actions loving God and others. In fact, walking this long road of actions demonstrates how the events, people, actions, and spiritual practices of humans are interconnected…life is highly interconnected. We are all in this together. Except, we often feel that a remnant of folk value interconnectedness more than others. What is a higher value? Unity or autonomy? Do we prefer the long road being more often straight or crooked? Robert Klose lives in a crooked house. As a first-time homebuyer, he was initially alarmed by all the noise his century-old house made.
At every sound, Robert would sit up and say, “The place is falling apart.” Seventeen years later, he’s used to it. It’s other people, like his carpenter Mike, who don’t appreciate it. “Bob, your house is crooked,” Mike declared. he was right. I could see it in the floors, the ceilings, the roofline, the doorjambs, even the window frames. Drop a ball on the floor, and it will roll away into oblivion. Open a door and don’t worry about forgetting to close it—she’ll take care of that herself. There are windows that haven’t been opened in years because they can’t be…. Mike the carpenter worked for me with great reluctance. I understood his frustration—his measurements meant nothing, because nothing in my house was square, nothing was level, and it seemed that, in places, nothing was holding the place together. Mike’s advice? “Get out while the getting’s good.”
Robert decided that fixing the crooked house was impossible. He decided to live with it.
Many of us work hard at avoiding our interconnected dependence on and with one another and God, regardless of how “crooked” things may be. Like Robert, we just live with it. Remnant people, however, work hard at correcting crooked ways to move more fully into the straight-way of interconnectedness and unity. Karyn L. Wiseman writes, “Today humans live in a world that tends to separate us through technology, unlimited mobility, and familial isolation. However, that is not the end of the story. In the Christian life, everything that we have completed, seen, believed, and experienced comes together in judgment day in ways that remind us of our interconnectedness.”
Psalm 90:1-8, 12, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, and Matthew 25:14-30 confirm the point made in Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18: it’s time to live like a remnant, which requires sole faithfulness and obedience to the one true God. First, we must acknowledge the relationship between sin and death. Sin is a causal break in what life is meant to be now and eternally. Second, we must acknowledge the day of judgement is coming. I hope you recognize that there is pressure against being Christians. This pressure is greater or lesser given the circumstances, times, and places in which we live. The fluidity of history is very real. And third, God offers us gifts, which we are to use to shape lives, communities, futures, and wealth. Avoid petty jealousies or resentments about the gifts we wish to possess or don’t have. We need to live fully, in gratitude and generously, out of the gifts we have received. Remembering, telling, and living the way of Jesus is not static. Rob Bell, the author of Love Wins, writes,
…If something is wrong with your God, if your God is loving one second and cruel the next, if your God will punish people for all of eternity for sins committed in a few short years, no amount of clever marketing or compelling language or good music or good coffee will be able to disguise that one, true, glaring, unacceptable, awful reality. Hell is refusing to trust, and refusing to trust is often rooted in a distorted view of God. Sometimes the reason people have a problem accepting “the gospel” is that they sense that the God lurking behind Jesus isn’t safe, loving, or good. It doesn’t make sense, it can’t be reconciled, and so they say no. They don’t want anything to do with Jesus, because they don’t want anything to do with that God.
Remnant people choose faithfulness and obedience. Living as an interconnected remnant of followers of Jesus, focused on Jesus’s way, is of paramount significance. For others see Jesus and begin to want something to do with God. One of my covenant brothers, the Rev. Dr. Steve Hein, with whom I was just with in Wilmington, North Carolina, relates the following story:
Steve was on safari in Africa. The guide was very clear on instructions, one in particular. “When I say, stop and don’t move, you must stop and not move.” Towards the end of the safari on the last leg back to the start of the journey, the guide stated, “Stop and don’t move.” Everything in Steve’s mind and heart resisted obedience. He actually thought he knew better and would run for safety. In the bush fifty yards away, to the right of the group, was a bull elephant. Eventually, the elephant scampered off. Steve asked the guide what would have happened if the bull elephant had charged the group. The guide, without missing a beat stated, “I would have run toward the elephant.”
God has your back. Do you obey God? It takes remnant thinking and experience to walk the long road, in a straighter and less crooked way.
Humanity has lost its way. Only God is transcendent. Human is finite. We must rediscover that there is an end to life, with consequences and an ethical standard for how to live. God is the moral standard. God is our sovereign judge and humans must take responsibility for their actions. Syndicated Op-Ed Columnist David Brooks writes, “Freedom without covenant becomes selfishness. And that’s what we see at the top of society, in our politics and the financial crisis. Freedom without connection becomes alienation, and that’s what we see at the bottom of society—frayed communities, broken families, opiate addiction. Freedom without a unifying national narrative becomes distrust, polarization and permanent political war.” Christians have a common narrative, God’s redemptive purposes for life and our responsible behavior in that narrative.
Christians can endure a lot, if we realize that we are secure in God’s covenantal promise. God is for humanity, not against it. Let us, as Christians, share that good news with others.
I attribute the articulation of interconnectedness of life in this paragraph to Reinhold Niebuhr, The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr: Selected Essays and Addresses, ed. Robert McAfee Brown (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987), 218.
Robert Klose, “Life in a Crooked House,” Christian Science Monitor, (8-22-05).
Karyn L. Wiseman in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 4 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 291, 293.
I am grateful for insights gleaned from Haywood Spangler, Mark B. Lee, and Lindsay P. Armstrong in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 4, 297, 299, 301, 305, 307, 311, and 309.
Rob Bell, Love Wins (New York, New York: HarperOne, 2011), 175-176.
David Brooks, “Our Elites Still Don’t Get It” in The New York Times, November 17, 2017.