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  • Writer's pictureSteven Marsh

Thriving As a church In a Globalized World-My Perspective: a Reflection on Amos 8:1-12, Psalm 52, Co

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; a unifying idea 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?’”[1]

The EU had a breach in its unifying idea when the UK exited the EU earlier this month. The rhetoric of building walls to keep “those people” out is a breach in the unifying idea of a common humanity that is diverse ethnically, religiously, culturally, politically, and economically. Turkey had a breach in its unifying idea of democracy when a coup attempt failed this weekend. Globalization, the process of worldwide integration and development challenges individual cultural identities and unifying ideas. Globalization is about “us” and infuses the notion of sharing and community. Miroslav Volf writes in Flourishing: Why We Need Religion In A Globalized World,

…globalization and the great world religions are shaping our lives—from the public policies of political leaders and the economic decisions of industry bosses, investors, and ordinary employees, through the content of curricula in our colleges and universities, all the way to the inner yearning of our hearts…the quarreling family of world religions is essential to individual thriving and global common good.[2]

Reconciliation with God is the unifying idea of reality, which the four major world religions offer humanity. Christianity states that it is in Jesus Christ that we are reconciled to God. It is with this unifying idea that Christians speak and live unconditional love and hope for the common good.

For more than 1600 years, Christianity was the dominant religion in Western Civilization. At the core of Christian thought is a profound vision of relationships; of the ultimate interconnectedness of all things; the visible and the invisible, the earthly and the heavenly. Made in God’s image, the imago Dei, humans are to live in a transparent and loving relationship with God and one another. We’re to live in a creative and respectful relationship with the earth and with all the other creatures that inhabit it. Christians believe that sin is real and disrupts life as God intends it to be lived.[3]

Paul wrote to the believers in Colossae who lived in a religious context where Judaizers and Gnostics took the emphasis off of Jesus Christ and made Christianity something other than its intended meaning. Faith in Jesus Christ unlocks the imago Dei in which all humans have been created and the process of becoming more like Jesus begins. God’s unifying message in Jesus Christ, loving God and others, is our mission and it challenges us on a daily basis.

Salvation had come to the house of Martha and Mary. Both Martha and Mary pattern the proper response to their guest. Martha served as the word diakovia indicates, giving careful attention to the domestic details. Mary, on the other hand, listened to Jesus as he presented the good news of the kingdom of God. Action and contemplation are both necessary in order to love God and others.

Globalization and our quarreling family of world religions creates much to complain about. David writes in Psalm 52, “Your tongue is like a sharp razor…You love evil more than good…You love all words that devour, o deceitful tongue.”[4] The words we use should build up God’s reconciling work in the world and our actions should reinforce words. We are loved by God in order to love God and others. Again Volf writes,

I believe that we should assess world historical processes in a way analogous to the way we should assess our own lives. Caught in a frenzy of living, we often forget what truly matters…As a Christian, who believes that Jesus Christ is the measure of true humanity…my normative assessment of globalization boils down to this: it is good to the extent that it helps me and others participate in the character and mission of Jesus Christ, and it is deficient to the extent that it doesn’t.[5]

In many ways, we are like the prophet Amos, calling humanity to overcome their hardened hearts, knowing that “Social evil has overwhelmed a people, suffocating them with distorted religious practices and exploitative political institutions that over time have cut off the possibility of hearing about God’s justice.”[6] We are like the apostle Paul, reminding humanity that holding fast to God’s promises of reconciliation in the midst of brokenness is possible because of “Christ’s sovereignty over all of time and creation.”[7] We are like Luke, learning from Martha and Mary that the gospel is both deed and word.

The church can thrive in a globalized world. Globalization is a good thing when we participate in the character and mission of Jesus, the unifying idea of the gospel, for the sake of others and the common good.

[1]Margaret J. Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World (San Francisco, California: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 1999), 2.

[2]Miroslav Volf, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion In A Globalized World (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2015), 2.

[3]Several ideas in this paragraph are taken from a sermon preached by Dan Meyer titled, “Quantum Communion.” Dan is the pastor at Christ Church in Oak Brook, Illinois.

[4]Psalm 52:2b-3a, 4.

[5]Miroslav Volf, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion In A Globalized World, 16.

[6]Willis Jenkins in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 244.

[7]Matthew Fleming in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 3, 256.

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