Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Political Platform of Jesus

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I get the immense privilege of preaching this weekend. We’re in the midst of a sermon series on the Lion and the Lamb (and the Donkey and the Elephant). Yes, we are doing a political series. Who does that? It’s so much easier to remain politically correct and mum on the issues of politics; but we at State Street Community Church have never been known for doing the easy thing.

I don’t consider myself very political and I have always wanted to be more so. I am probably more politically engaged in this election than ever before (and what an election to try to be knowledgeable). My oldest daughter became very politically aware last year during the primaries due to an engaging Government class (taught by her grandfather) and the fact that she gets to vote for the first time in this election. Her growing interest compelled me to be more engaged. I even voted in the primaries, which is a first for me. So here we are zooming towards the elections and it seems that not only our country but our church members could not be more polarized. It seems everyone is fighting to be the loudest, to gain the power, to be right; and it occurs to me that we are fighting for power in the wrong kingdom. Somewhere along the way we have bought into the belief that if we are able to propel the right political party or ideals, then Christianity will win. What we fail to realize is that Christianity has already won. It won the day Jesus became the living Word that dwelt among us. It won the day Jesus beat death and made all things new.

So where does that leave us politically?

Someone asked me if I’d be endorsing a candidate this weekend during my sermon. Umm…. Ha… No… However much I love the idea of raising my arms in victory, screaming a candidate’s name and running up the center aisle, it’s probably not a good idea. I don’t believe the pulpit is the place to endorse a candidate. I believe the pulpit is the place to endorse the political platform of Jesus. And at the heart of the platform of Jesus, is justice.

Justice…We like to throw that word around in conjunction with our political beliefs. And it’s a loaded word. What justice means to one, may not be what it means to another. So what does it mean to God? Unfortunately, I think too often we equate justice to punishment, an eye for an eye. Our justice is wrapped up in retribution and becomes very inward focused as we fight for what we feel we are due.

I think God looks at justice differently. There are several words that equate to justice in the Scriptures. There is mishpat; there is shalom; there is righteousness. Mishpat in the Old Testament seems to be connected to the character of God and how we reflect that character in our identity as people of God. When we see this word in the Old Testament, it’s usually connected with caring for the poor, the widow, and the orphan. God expects this from the people that wear his name. In shalom we have the idea of peace and justice. This type of justice is witnessed through community. We see this in the laws God established for his people early on. We see this in the Acts community who shared everything and no one was in need. And these were never seen as acts of charity; this was community living with equal standing. We also see the word righteousness. This simply defines justice as what is right. It is the idea of recognizing what is wrong in this world and making it right. The beauty of this kind of justice is that it tends to focus outward on the other. It is at its core about healing, about restoration.

So in light of this increasingly tense political season, I think it’s important to remember which kingdom we are fighting for. Are we fighting to be the loudest voice? Are we fighting to hold the most power to ensure our comfortable way of life? Or are we seeking to be a voice of justice. In the wise words of the prophet Amos in the face of hypocrisy and power struggle, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Let justice roll down like healing waters that seek to restore and heal. Let what is right and good be the predominant voice of change.

 

simply Christ

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My new favorite book is Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. When I read it, I at times feel as if I’m reading from different chapters of my life. That is always a scary thing because it means something is going to challenge me, possibly stretch me, and I am more than likely going to have to come to terms with some aspect of myself that I don’t particularly like. I didn’t even make it past the introduction before tears began welling up in my eyes. It was then that I decided I would not zoom through this book and come out on the other side with a few nice thoughts and quotable phrases. I was going to take my time and really reflect on what was being offered. Now I’m not terribly far into the book, only a few chapters, but already it’s sparking reflection and many “a-ha” moments. You see at the heart of this book is discovering a simpler way of life that is in tune with the current of Christ. It’s recognizing and leaning into sacred moments in each day instead of frantically running through life with a checklist in one hand and score card in the other.

 

I have always been a (ahem) motivated individual. And this personality type only intensified as I got older. I don’t want to just do well in class, I want an A. I don’t just want an A, I want a better A than the guy next to me. If you tell me as a professor, that you don’t give A’s, I’m going to prove you wrong. I want you to know that I am smart. And this is just academics. Being smart is not enough. I have to be competent as well. I need you to know that I can handle whatever is thrown at me and handle it well. This of course is not enough. I need you to know that I am a good mom. Of course I can drive; of course I can volunteer; of course I can provide snacks for the team. And I can cook and bake and organize activities and teach valuable life lessons to each of my children on a regular basis. And I will do all of these things while looking fabulous and maintaining a keen sense of humor.

 

The problem with this type of mentality and lifestyle, is that eventually you just can’t. You just can’t. You turn around one day and wonder where the fun, easy-going girl went and why did she leave behind this hyper-intense control freak? And even when you at first begin to recognize this, something inside you pushes you onward, deeper into the frenzy.

 

Why?

 

Shauna talks in her book about how we feel as if the frenzied life uses us up, but in reality we use it. We use the noise and the busy-ness to drown out the feelings of inadequacy, the sense of emptiness. Because deep down that’s how we feel: empty, inadequate, just not enough. We buy into the idea, whether real or perceived, that if we’re not smart enough, pretty enough, responsible enough, motherly enough, or whatever enough that we will be judged. I may be off here, but I feel this is particularly an issue for women. I don’t see many men who worry about what the other dads will think if he doesn’t volunteer for the class party. Not to say that men don’t experience their own unique challenges; but I do think it’s different for many women. Women are simultaneously judged for being too smart or not smart enough; for not being sexy or for being too sexy. Being a woman in a “man’s” profession, I feel that tension. If a male pastor delivers a sub-par message or bad advice, it’s excused away with a “bad day” or “well you know what he meant.” If a woman pastor doesn’t deliver, it’s blamed on her gender. That’s a lot of pressure. I’m not so sure I want to be the voice for my entire gender. But let’s just add that to the list of things that I’m not enough at.

 

All this to say, it is so easy to get caught up in a never-ending cycle of producing and delivering and earning, and somewhere along the way we forget. We forget about grace. We forget about redemption. We forget to participate in kingdom living that recognizes our identity as those made in the image of God, and our worth in Christ as those who are changed because of the resurrection. My worth is not found in my doing. I can never earn the love of God (or others for that matter). I am, from the outset and at this very moment, so incredibly adored by God. I need to rest in this and define myself by this. I need to stop trying to prove my worth, so that I can embrace the sacred reality of kingdom living, living as a person of the resurrection.  I need to breathe in the grace of Christ that is sewn into the fabric of my day. Inhale; exhale. No more frantic; no more judgment. Simply Christ. This then becomes a way of life. Focusing on one person and hearing their story with no distractions. Choosing a conversation, a leisurely walk, or a silly joke over the desire to perfect every last detail. Recognizing the grace of Christ in the very air that we breathe. And I don’t have to try so hard because I actually believe that I am enough, because He is enough.