Participating in God’s Story – In the Meantime, Callings: a Reflection on Jeremiah 23:1-
It’s been almost two weeks since the election of Donald J. Trump as President-Elect of the United States of America. Feelings of euphoria and despair fill the human spirit. We have serious work to do as citizens and a country. Disregard for authority, in a variety of forms, dominates American culture and life. Yet, Christ the King Sunday insists we come to terms with authority. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. Christians are called out to be different. We have a calling, people. For such a time as this, rise-up church!
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. It was God’s aim to “reconcile to himself all things;” and that God made very clear the redemptive process when he came to earth in Jesus Christ. This is the incarnation; that they had a redemptive vision. 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.
As the 1600’s dawned, this cultural receptivity to the gospel began to break up. The Church had grown corrupt. It was dividing rapidly into what would soon become many denominations. Political and religious authority was breaking down. The printing press emerged. Sudden advances in scientific understanding 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?’”
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.” This simple idea is at the core of all creation. It is the imago Dei. It is the imago Dei that is regenerated at conversion. We are encountered and transformed by God whom we meet in Jesus Christ. Michael Horton writes, “Christ’s kingdom is already here but it is not yet consummated. Christ came the first time in humility and self-sacrifice to bring salvation; the second time he is coming in power and glory to judge.” Yes, as Luke so faithfully records, Jesus saved others and resisted the temptation to save himself that day at the place called The Skull. With the criminal, may we say “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus has called us to love God and others and he has done so with authority.
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. 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 ourselves. Again, Michael Horton writes, “We are passive receivers of the gift of salvation but are thereby made active worshippers in a life of thanksgiving that is exhibited chiefly in loving service to our neighbors.” So let’s get to work, church! We need God and each other. We are only strong as children of God. Thanks be to God.
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.
Margaret J. Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World (San Francisco, California: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 1999), 2.
Michael Horton, Core Christianity (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2016), 157.
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.
Michael Horton, Core Christianity, 159.
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.