Sunday, November 13, 2016

Mourn, Worship, Prophesy, Hope

Step one: mourning.

"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

Vindicate me, my God,
and plead my cause
against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are
deceitful and wicked.
You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?"

-Psalm 42:2-3, 43:1-2

It's ok to be sad. It's ok to be mad. It's ok to yell at God.

I am a Christian.

There have been times in my life when I thought that meant that I should always be happy, always be at peace, and focus on spiritual realities to the exclusion of physical realities. 

But that is not the definition of Christ-follower I see in scripture now.

I can mourn (Jesus wept)
I can be angry (Jesus flipped tables)
I can care about injustice and marginalized people (Jesus healed and included, and criticized the powerful)

I can, I should, and I will.

I'm afraid.

I don't want to live in fear. Actually, fearful propaganda is one of my least favorite parts of politics. I mourn how fear makes us afraid of The Other, afraid of change, afraid of losing power and privilege. People make bad decisions out of fear- preemptively harming each other rather than risking any kind of loss.

Yet, I can't ignore fears.

Like most woman, I have been sexually harassed.

I was once walking down the street, in the middle of the day, with a group, and a man walking in the opposite direction grabbed me sexually.

I didn't react. I was too shocked to respond, and no one else saw it happen. I felt so guilty for not yelling at him, for not letting him know it was unacceptable behavior. He continued on, thinking he was entitled to women's bodies, that he could get away with whatever he wanted.

I'm scared when my country says it doesn't matter. I'm scared when churches says to forgive and move on. I mourn because these are real fears and they matter.

Step two: worship

Worship is a revolutionary act.

In the book of Revelation, amidst persecution and rulers who call themselves god, worship of God keeps breaking through. Angels and saints declare their allegiance to God, not the Roman Empire.

"Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.'

"Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

'“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
-Revelation 4:8b-12

Many of us (including me) get tempted to worship our political parties or our heroes. But I must declare that God is King.

I want to help bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth, not wait for it after I die.

We worship what is worthy. Jesus, the lamb who was slain, is worthy because love wins over power. Sacrifice wins over war and violence. Mercy wins over hatred.

"Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:

“'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!'

"Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!'”

-Revelation 5:11-13

Step three: prophesy

Prophecy is not mainly about predicting the future.

I don't know what our future holds. I hope that the worst things we fear won't come true. I hope Muslims and other religious minorities won't have to register. I hope people in power won't be able to sue journalists and comedians for criticizing them. I hope my friends with chronic diseases, with special needs children, won't lose their access to affordable health care. I hope my poor friends and their kids won't lose their food assistance.

Prophecy mainly calls out the wrongs of the present. In our world now, a minor drug offender can get a longer prison term than a rapist. Refugees are turned away to die. Families are separated by deportation. Unarmed black men are considered more scary than armed white white men.

Prophecy says, this is NOT God's will. This is not the world as it should be. Prophecy challenges the status quo, your comfort, and acceptance of wrong. Let's keep challenging.

Prophecy often describes the future in terms of consequences. If you pursue justice and obedience to God, everyone blesses each other, building up the community of heaven. If you pursue selfish gain and personal privilege, inequality breaks down the community- it becomes less like heaven.

God spoke through the prophet Isaiah:

Day after day Christians seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if America were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.

‘Why have we gone to church,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on Sundays, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your actions in God's name ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot pray as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.

Is this the kind of church I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves? ...

“Is not this the kind of church I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

-Isaiah 58:2-10 (my contemporary modified version, see the original full passage at…)

Step four: hope.

We have hope that all bad rulers, all wicked kingdoms come to an end.

Oppressed people talk in code because they lack freedom of speech to criticize their wicked rulers. They don't say, "Rome is wicked!" They say, "Remember Babylon? Babylon fell..." and Rome will too.

Revelation describes the fall of Rome and likewise all earthly Kingdoms with dramatic metaphor, saying that the very injustice and luxurious self-focus will be turned against it.

With a mighty voice the angel shouted:
“‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’
For all the nations have drunk
the maddening wine of her adulteries.
The kings of the earth committed adultery with her,
and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”
for her sins are piled up to heaven,
and God has remembered her crimes.

Give back to her as she has given;
pay her back double for what she has done.
Pour her a double portion from her own cup.

Give her as much torment and grief
as the glory and luxury she gave herself.
In her heart she boasts,
‘I sit enthroned as queen. I am not a widow; I will never mourn.’

Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her:
death, mourning and famine.
She will be consumed by fire,
for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.

-Revelation 18:2-8 excerpts

The Bible has pictures of hope, pictures of the world as it should be in God's kingdom.

Living in the Kingdom of Heaven means that we start living this way now; we live knowing these things are good and true. We may not get to see the full picture yet, but we see glimpses of the Kingdom.

We hope for a better future, we endure with patience, and we commit to the hope that our home can look more like Heaven.

"Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'
"He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'
"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 without cost from the spring of the water of life.'

"I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.

"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let the one who hears say, 'Come! Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.'"

-Revelation 21:1-6, 22-26, 22:17