Saturday, September 6, 2008

What's Left?

As of this writing, Category 3 Hurricane Ike is trending ever so slightly south and away from where many of us live in South Florida. But still, by early next week, a little jog in course could result in the buildings we see around us being flattened, our stuff getting blown away and drenched, and our finances and how we spend our time all changing for years to come. Injury… and even death… could happen to us, or those close to us, as a result of a natural disaster.

What’s left?

Such uncertainty was also the rule of the day in Judea 2,000 years ago. The Roman oppressors, and their surrogates, could at any time take your money, your freedom, or even your life. How, in such conditions, could Jesus challenge us not to worry and speak about inner peace, and even inexplicable joy?

Well, here are a few thoughts…I was having lunch the other day with a friend and the conversation turned to poverty. We agreed that while there is real injustice that God would have us work to make right, poverty, or wealth, can also have a much broader definitions. I recalled a trip to El Salvador in the 1980s when I saw so many people living in houses made of sticks, thatched roofs and dirt floors. What did they have left? By contrast, at least to my North American eyes, they wore the cleanest, brightest clothes and the happiest countenances. What did they have, but God and each other? What else did they…need?

In his book, A Community Called Atonement, Scot McKnight writes, “…atonement is only understood when it is understood as the restoration of humans – in all directions – so that they form a society (the ecclesia, the church) wherein God’s will is lived out and given freedom to transform all of life.” Or, as Dallas Willard puts it in The Divine Conspiracy, “Jesus came among us to show and teach the life for which we were made. He came very gently…and set afoot a conspiracy of freedom in truth among human beings. Having overcome death he remains among us. By relying on his word and presence we are enabled to reintegrate the little realm that makes up our life into the infinite rule of God. And that is the eternal kind of life.” (Emphasis added)

Again, for McKnight, “Jesus’ kingdom mission …comes to fruition in Christian community described in Acts 2…The same can be said for Acts: 32-35. Here we have a society in which God’s will is understood in terms like equality, social justice, economic availability to and liability for one another, and fellowship. Jesus’ vision was coming into existence in the growing clutch of Jesus’ followers who were experiencing the empowering graces of Pentecost. The church is the alternative society to the structures of power found in the Roman world.”

So, if we find ourselves next week with as much…or as little…as the campesino families in El Salvador, is that really all we…need? Immanuel, God with us, and each other, from which nothing can ever separate us. Is that what’s left? And is that all there really is, for which we can be joyously thankful every day?

1 comment:

Steve F. said...

Excellent post, Steve.

I remember when Hurricane Wilma left my home and office without power for two weeks. I worried, fretted, lost lots of business and money. I also learned my neighbors' names for literally the first time - though we'd lived side by side over a decade. (Shame on me.) I took walks with my kids - we didn't want to use the precious gas for which we'd waited in line for hours. We went out at night and saw STARS! since there was no light pollution. We simply sat together and read by candlelight in the warm, humid, un-air conditioned house. We relied on friends for basics.

Steve... it was glorious. I was almost sad when the power came back on. I vowed not to allow the rat race to re-enter my spirit. Yet today, as I watch Hurricane Ike, I know that I am back where I was - worried about how much money and productivity I'll lose if it hits.

No - I never want to live through another direct hit from a hurricane. Even in the glory, it was dreadful. But I would love to live with that peace and trust.

The spirit is willing... but the flesh is weak.

Steve F.