From the Pastor…
Karl Barth, one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, once said that every pastor should begin their day with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. His point was that a pastor should not only know the Bible, but how it relates to what’s going on in the world around us. Sometimes you could call me a “news junkie.” I try to read a newspaper or two, get Time magazine weekly, and occasionally tune in to what has now become a 24 hour news cycle.
I hope that you read your Bible every day, but have you read a newspaper or turned on your TV lately? Mass shootings, regional wars, terrorist attacks, sexual malfeasance, drugs, climate change, political turmoil, and the list goes on. It reminds us that the world can be a very negative, if not violent place. One is tempted to just lock our doors and not venture out. The big question, however, is how do we embrace life in such a hostile world? The scriptures help us to understand. Jesus was also born into a hostile, violent world. Not long after his birth we read that King Herod became jealous when he heard that a new king was born in Bethlehem, so he orders all of the children under two years old to be killed. Luckily, an angel warns his parents and they escape across the border to Egypt, becoming refugees. After Herod dies, they return back and settle in Nazareth.
As Jesus grows he travels among the people, announcing that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor. Note that he just doesn’t stay behind the walls of the synagogue, but spends three years moving around the land. Yet, many of the religious leaders don’t like him. He does some things that some consider breaking the law. He heals people on the Sabbath, hangs out with shady people, like tax collectors and prostitutes, and draws close to people who are of a different race, or have physical and mental illnesses, and children who were regarded more as property. When he returns to his hometown for a visit, he says things that people don’t like to hear, and they try running him over a cliff!
After three years the authorities have had enough. He is innocent, yet is arrested, put on trial, whipped, tortured, and hung on a cross, the Roman version of the death penalty. Yet, little do they know that in he has actually taken on the sins of the world, dying in our place, but raised again so that even though we may suffer and die, we too will be raised from the dead and live together with him and those who have gone before us in faith. Perhaps the greatest testimony to the resurrection is the behavior of the disciples after he is raised from the dead. Before they had locked their doors for fear of the Romans, but now they are no longer afraid. As they proclaim this good news, they too are tortured and martyred. Tradition says that every disciple of Jesus died for the faith, except John who was instructed to take care of his mother. In a very negative setting Jesus and his followers proclaim a very positive word which leads to abundant life, and Jesus invites us to reach out in love even when the world is hostile, and he assures us that by the grace of God, we can. We are invited to look deep inside and decide what we can do to express our love for God and neighbor in this hostile world. When we receive God’s Word as a positive invitation to life in a violent world, wonderful things happen. We may not change the course of world history, but we will be blessed with inner peace and security, of which the gates of hell cannot prevail against; and as the psalmist says, “For even though we walk through the valleys of the shadow death we will fear no evil, for his rod and his staff will comfort us.”
In Christ’s love,