Thursday, December 31, 2009
Praying for a New World in 2010
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
To harbor the view that Jesus Christ is king in a world that actively proclaims the lordship of Rome and its Caesar is to act obstinately.
Brian Blount, Then the Whisper Became Flesh, on reading Revelation
They are about how the crucified Jesus is a more adequate key to understanding what God is about in the real world of empires and armies and markets than is the ruler in Rome, with all his supporting military, commercial, and sacerdotal networks.
John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, on apocalyptic literature [like Revelation and the Gospel of Mark] in the New Testament
Reading on the last day of 2009, on the second-to-last-page-of-the-Bible, the prophetic vision of John turns to the future hope of the people of God and the entire world. Since the days of Isaiah, God's people had always set their sights on the new world that their god Yahweh would bring when He came to earth to reign [Is 65:17]. The Apostle Paul believed that, in Jesus the King [or in Greek, 'Christ'], this 'new creation' was inaugurated [II Corinthians 5:17] as the community of Jesus followers lived out this 'new world' of joy, hope, healing and comfort in the shell of the old world of sin, pain, persecution and shame. These Christians had a new lens to view the world because the power of God was stronger than what the political and religious 'powers' of the Roman Empire had to offer. The resurrection trumped the cross and vindicated the suffering, obedient, humble, gentle, nonviolent way of Jesus.
This biblical future hope, unlike that of conservative evangelicalism, is on earth where God dwells with humanity. The notion of a disembodied heaven came later as the Christian message became hellenized. For the Jews, including Jesus' first followers, eternal salvation was cosmic and earthy, when God's space [heaven] collided with humanity's space [earth]. This marriage of heaven and earth will destroy death and pain and fulfill the thirst of every living creature.
So, until that glorious day, what do the followers of the crucified Lamb do with ourselves? Just that. We follow the Lamb wherever he goes, clinging to the way of Jesus of Nazareth who preached peace through enemy love, service and forgiveness. Here's how the Revelation, [or in Greek, 'apocalypse'], of John reports how Christians will win the battle over evil (in the form of violent Caesars and intoxicating wealth & comfort) in the Roman Empire in 12:11:
But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.
Life in the Empire, whether Roman or American, depends on the Christian community's willingness to follow Jesus' suffering way, no matter how much it threatens the Caesars [whether political leaders or corporations or any other power] of our world and no matter how much it costs us. Note the nonviolent nature of the revolution. We are dipped in Jesus' blood, spilt in the 1st century Palestine confronting the strange coalition of religio-political empire in Jerusalem.
May this New Year be marked by 'the politics of the Lamb:'
Inclusion--the Lamb associated with and invited the tax collectors, lepers and prostitutes. The Kingdom of God has no boundaries! Shouldn't we, then, embrace illegal immigrants, Muslims and homosexuals and fight for their dignity?
Justice--the Lamb protested the marginalization of the poor and Gentiles in the Temple action in the days leading to his crucifixion. The Kingdom of God is not limited by markets! Shouldn't we actively protest the US tax code which has led to the widening of income inequality? Shouldn't we advocate for undocumented workers who deserve amnesty and our African-American brothers and sisters in the inner-cities who are suffering through unemployment rates from 20-50%?
Peace--the Lamb went to the cross speaking truth to power without lifting a weapon and demanding that his followers do the same. The Kingdom of God extends its boundaries without militaries! Shouldn't we gracefully and empathetically listen to 'the other': those from different ethnicities, faith traditions and sexual orientations? Shouldn't we actively demand an end to US war-games in Iraq & Afghanistan, as well as drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen?
Here's to a new world of jobs, education, health care, housing and debt remission for everyone: no longer Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free, gay nor straight, black nor brown nor yellow nor red nor white--we are all one in Jesus the King!