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  • Writer's pictureSteven Marsh

Thriving As a church in a Globalized World-A Mindset of Respect: a Reflection on Isaiah 1:1, 10-20,

Scott Sabin, the Executive Director of Plant With Purpose, relates the story of an Episcopal priest who partnered with his organization to love and work with the people in the mountains of Haiti. Sabin writes,

As we sat in the dark, he [the Episcopal priest] told us how happy he was that God had given him a task. “God gives each of us something to do for him. It’s as if he gathered us together and said to each of us, ‘I have a very important job for you.’ It makes me happy that God has something for me to do. I feel excited!” But after a pause he said, “Can you imagine how it would feel if he [God] said to you ‘I have nothing for you to do?’ So many of the people in these mountains think they have nothing to give.”[1]

Fear impedes the heeding of God’s call. Ponder the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Luke 12:32 reads, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The Table represents life in Christ which we receive by faith and experience through a lifestyle of obedience and service. The human predicament is profound. Karl Barth writes,

God is the hope of man-the God who took such interest in him that He Himself became man in Jesus Christ, that in Jesus Christ He died with us and for us, and that in the resurrection of this man Jesus Christ, He then revealed Himself to be the hope of man, to be the manifest hope of all those who look to Jesus Christ and are ready to live by faith in Him. From the standpoint of this hope fear is defeated. Jesus says, “Fear not!”[2]

Luke 12:35 reads “Be dressed for action and have your lights lit.” The image is that of a robe which was worn in Jesus’ day. The robe needed to be tied appropriately around the waist, or its sheer length would cause the wearer to trip. Luke admonishes the reader to be like the slave waiting for the master to return home from the wedding banquet. His readiness was characterized by opening the door immediately after the master’s first knock, as opposed to scrambling at the last minute to find the robe, the key, and the light to eventually open the door. Luke 12:37 continues, “Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes.” Oh, Jesus will return. Are you ready?

Intolerance marks the efforts of globalization and the world religions. Fear motivates both. Miroslav Volf writes,

…taut tension marks the relation between world religions and globalization in regard to toleration. Globalization pushes against religions’ rootedness in tradition, embrace of the sacred, and affirmation of universal ethical norms that exceed the right to do one’s own thing as long as others are not harmed. Religions, on the other hand, resist globalization’s corroding of traditions, its undermining of a sense of the sacred, and its paving of the way for soft relativism.[3]

To be a thriving church in a globalized world, Christians must come to terms with the notion of a transcendent call on one’s life. It is the responsibility of each of us to heed that call. Judaism and Islam have the same idea of a transcendent call on one’s life. We must respect that.

The writer of Hebrews notes that spiritual lethargy is overcome by faith. The context of this letter was one of martyrdom and ridicule, for being a follower of Jesus. Faith overcomes fear. Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham were ready.[4] With David in Psalm 50, we affirm that God’s call invites us to participate in God’s mission. Isaiah states that in heeding God’s call, worship becomes authentic. From Luke, we learn that heeding God’s call activates God’s blessings.

Once we say yes to Jesus, no matter how young or old when that journey begins, we are to have our robe tied, so we do not trip. God has something for each of us to do no matter our age. The Table speaks. Let’s heed the call. Amen.

[1]Scott Sabin in The Sower (Summer 2016), 4.

[2]Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, 3.4, 594.

[3]Miroslav Volf, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion In A Globalized World (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2015), 102.

[4]John C. Shelly was helpful in my understanding of Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 with his insights found in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 328, 330, and 332.

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