Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Barth on Christian Community and Civil Community: Polling Place Meditations for Election Day 2016

"The church is witness of the fact that the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost. And this implies that- casting all false impartiality aside- the Church must concentrate first on the lower and lowest levels of human society. The poor, the socially and economically weak and threatened, will always be the object of its primary and particular concern, and it will always insist on the State's special responsibility for these weaker members of society. That it will bestow its love on them, within the framework of its own task (as part of its service), is the one thing and the most important thing; but it must not concentrate on this and neglect the other thing to which it is committed by its political responsibility: the effort to achieve such a fashioning of the law as will make it impossible of ‘equality before the law’ to become a cloak under which strong and weak, independent and dependent, rich and poor, employers and employees, in fact receive different treatment at its hands: the weak being unduly restricted, the strong unduly protected. The church must stand for social justice in the political sphere.(Christian Community and Civil Community, 173). 
As we walk to our polling places and fill out our ballots, may this frame our work and witness as the people of God in the public sphere. May our voices echo those whom Jesus leveraged, befriended, and called blessed (Matthew 5:1-12).

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Prophetic and Idolatrous Power of Instead


The seven letter word can be the greater motivator of change. Instead of _______, let’s try ___________.  Instead can leverage creative thinking and alternative realities to what has always been done but no longer works. Instead can be a fulcrum for new possibilities in the midst of perceived irrelevance and dysfunction. The utterance of instead can provoke hope in the midst of complacency and the absence of individual and corporate imagination. 

Instead can lead people to change careers in light of a newly discovered call, to pick up and move as they work to alleviate poverty and various forms of injustice, or to surrender possessions and privilege for the sake of those who are most in need of solidarity and advocacy. 

Throughout history, great movements of justice and liberation have been sparked by those who pondered and lived into a particular instead.  These days, instead even frames new paradigms for organizing and sustaining the church and related initiatives for being God's people in the world. 

But instead can also distract us from the sacred now. Instead can place a wedge between and blind us to our neighbors and loved ones right in front of us. Instead can be the liturgical refrain within the temples of angst, envy, and ingratitude, recited as we offer the present moment as regular sacrifice to the idols of what we think we could be, should be, or want to be doing instead.  

Yet the call of the Christian is to live in the now as an agent of God’s grace, assured of our appointment that undergirds our work and witness right where we are. 

Remember Esther, "God has called you for such a time as this…"

Richard Rohr says it this way:
“It is living in the naked now, the ‘sacrament of the present moment,’ that will teach us how to actually experience our experiences, whether good, bad, or ugly, and how to let them transform us.  Words by themselves will invariably divide the moment; pure presence lets it be what it is, as it is.” (The Naked Now 12)
So where you work, live, and serve in this moment is where you are supposed to be for now.  Whether a working professional, social worker, doctor, stay-at-home parent in the suburbs, community organizer in the city, public high school teacher, international mission co-worker, church administrator, entrepreneurial innovator, or ecclesiastical leader, God has called you to sacred work in that time and place- in the sacrament of the present moment. 

So when you sit in a pew in the back of a church, wrangling children as they color on bulletins while others lead from the front and preach in the pulpit, we are both where God intended. There is no instead. 

But there is an until. And when that day comes, if our newly found instead hinges on prophetic witness rooted in God’s compassion and love versus idolatrous discontent fueled by envy and angst, we will be far more prepared and ready for what the Spirit stirs when that day comes. 

The difficulty is discerning between the two insteads

That takes more than a blogpost; instead takes an entrusted community of faith, hope, and love.