Saturday, September 22, 2007

Some Thoughts about Change

some thoughts about change:

things are bad the way the are now. we can all agree to that. amen? and the gospel is about change, about love and about redemption. so what does this mean?

part of being the church (that's you and me, fellow christian) is working for change in the bad situation. it's part of being Jesus for the world, part of incarnating God's love and our love for God (how's that for construing a generative, greek friends?). yet there's a second, nasty, part. Jesus assures us (and history does as well) that all our efforts at initiating change will fail. we our born (again) failures. this is where faith factors in. faith is the commitment to continue in this effort of change despite the miserable outcomes. faith is trusting that changing the bad situation is the endgame of God's plan for the world.

to get really, honestly theological about this whole matter, we need to bring in "the kingdom" vocabulary. nothing concerned Jesus more than the kingdom of God. most of his preaching, his parables, and his prophesying had the kingdom or the coming of the kingdom as their content.

now let's get this straight, when Jesus spoke of the kingdom, he wasn't referring merely to the collected souls of bible-believing, baptized churchmembers. the kingdom is a reality as concrete and factual as my cup of coffee in the morning or the applecake cindy is baking in the oven right now. or, perhaps more aptly, it's as real as the litter on our sidewalk, the homeless drunk begging for change beside the morse fresh market, and the impending cta price hike. it's a matter both political and social, both systemic and personal. the kingdom is the way things should be, life as God intends it to be. it's the new heaven and the new earth.

the way things are aren't the way things God intended them to be. we're aware of that. at the same time, we know that Jesus called us into a discipleship marked by loving people and opposing the evil in society (and in our own hearts). so how do we, the church, fit into all of this? we are the foretaste of the kingdom that isn't here yet. we're the foreshadowing that gets trampled over by the depressing, plodding plot of day-to-day life as is. we are the people always trying to change, trying to love the unlovable, feeding the hungry (who are ungrateful and will just be back tomorrow hungry again), healing diseases of people who are only going to die in the long run anyway. we are ironic, paradoxical, senseless.

the apostle paul talks about the Holy Spirit (God who is present in and through the church) as the down payment of the promised things to come. in a certain way, we can talk talk about the church as God's presence on earth (this is where we need to root our understanding of incarnational ministry)--as the place where God meets with humanity, as the bearers of the Holy Spirit. if we try to look at both these ideas at once, it's easy to see how the church itself is a down payment of God's largest promise to the world (like he told abraham, "I will bless all the nations of the earth through you"). after all, Jesus says we are to be the salt of the earth, a city on a hill, a lamp on a lampstand.

but none of this means that we'll ever be successful. experience testifies to how far our attempts end from success. we are, in the current situation, bound to lose. Jesus blesses the poor, the hungry, the depressed, and the persecuted. this is where our continued fight against the bad state of things becomes an act of faith and hope. faith in what? hope in what?

we hope only in Jesus, in his return. we have faith that we are not forsaken (the presence of the Spirit with us give us reason for this hope). he will come back and bring his kingdom with him. he will dry every tear and make sure everyone in my neighborhood has enough to eat and that teenagers don't shoot each other and people across the globe do not have to sweat and bleed and worry and die just to produce my t-shirts. he will make things the way they should be. so we wait. wait and live as the promise, the premonition of his return. right here in rogers park, in springfield, in skopje, in belgrade (or i pray that we do).

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