Pastor Mark Anderson, Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, California
It is hard to watch. Statues being pulled down by confused, embittered young people; a section of a prominent American city is overrun by malicious. lawless persons, disguised in a phony righteousness; people are scorned and stigmatized for the color of their white skin, the very definition of racism, and all in the name of anti-racism.
So it goes as the errant, lost world stumbles blindly on its way, chasing its tail, trapped in the endless demands of justice and the law which eludes fulfillment.
The political\social tensions that are so prominently on display these days reminds me of a startling fact about the New Testament books. They were written – all of them – during the first century, as the Roman empire continued to tighten its grip on most of the known world.
Jesus lived during the reigns of Augustus, the first emperor of Rome, and his successor, the corrupt, ruthless Tiberius. Saints Peter and Paul were martyred by the vain and cruel Nero. The end of the first century, when the gospels and Revelation were written, saw the harsh persecutions of the emperor Domitian. Reading through the New Testament, however, you hear no calls for social justice movements or protests against the political establishment. In a time that was rampant with every form of social and political injustice, the New Testament has an entirely different focus. And that focus is nothing more or less than Jesus Christ and His Gospel. And to the world, consumed as it is with the categories of law, equity, race and justice, that just doesn’t seem like much. It never has.
A small town parade was making its way down main street. Floats provided by various community groups sailed slowly along as the high school marching band stepped lively, accompanying itself with a rousing tune. But the talk of the town, literally, was none of this. For as the parade moved along, the folks gathered on the sidewalks watched as a six year old boy marched ahead of the band. Resolute and determined he kept his own pace, all the while sounding one, solitary out of tune note on his trumpet.
Jesus authorized His Church to go into the world and proclaim the gospel of the forgiveness of sins. That’s the message. Whatever other projects the church may wander into, given its location and circumstances, this is the essential business and what we are to be about. And that Gospel is not concerned with establishing a righteousness based upon the law or justice or gender or any other category that we are supposed to receive as defining today. That Gospel is directed at the hearing of sinners who, trapped in the law, need to be freed from its grip.
So, the next time you’re in some church, whatever else they are parading around and advocating, hope and pray that you hear little ‘Johnny one Note’ playing the scandalous, solitary Word of the Cross, the message concerning the crucified and hidden God who forgives real sinners and promises one day to raise them from the dead. For in that one note of the Cross is contained the fullness of God’s grand symphony of love and grace and divine justice – and it sounds for you.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”