God is calling for profound change in our lives and this world, made possible by Christ’s freely given, no strings attached saving action on the cross that abolishes sin and ensures a pathway to our freedom. As the apostle Paul reminds us, in his letter to the Christian community at Rome, we are, and here is a beautiful phrase, “alive to God in Jesus Christ.”
“Alive to God in Jesus Christ.”
We are alive to God in Christ Jesus, and this new life calls us to set aside sin and participate in Christ’s resurrection work. This resurrection work of Jesus is turning the world upside down.
In fact, as the writer of Matthew tells us, in this new world order brought about by Jesus not even our birth families, hypothetically the closest of close ties in a person’s life, is primary anymore. Jesus is primary. And the way of Jesus is the way of the cross. And the way of the cross will likely mean losing life as we have known it in order to participate in the loving and saving changes being wrought by Jesus for us and through us for the world.
Some or all of us have probably had the experience of examining the things we were taught by our parents, overtly or by example, considering that which we received that was worthy and timeless, and separating those timeless and worthy teachings out from the inevitable failings that attached themselves to our parents by virtue of them being human. In relatively intact and healthy family systems these may be minor adjustments, in less healthy family systems more wholesale changes may be required. And in extreme examples radical departure from our families may be necessary and even deep and profound courage, such as the stories we hear of former white nationalists leaving behind what they were incorrectly and damagingly taught by their parents.
We are alive to God in Jesus Christ.
And as the write of Matthew is reminding us, there may be times when to follow the cross puts us at odds with those closest to us as we seek with Jesus’ help to move deeper into a life of discipleship and faith.
In recent weeks several of my nieces have sent other members of my family - my nuclear family plus, if you will – e-mail notes to encourage our collective participation in rising up as part of Undoing Racism. While I have responded encouragingly and positively to them, I have also wondered what the rest of our nuclear family is thinking about all of this. I’m pretty certain that the entirety of my nuclear family plus are “all in” for this battle of the Light that is the standing up for an end to the oppression of people because of the color of their skin.
So I’d like to also believe that this past week when my family members heard the news that a means for children born on United States soil to become United States citizens that is known as DACA was upheld by our own Supreme Court, we all jumped for joy wherever we were, even as I did. I know that I literally jumped for joy because I believe that such a decision as upholding DACA and this roadway to citizenship for our sisters and brothers of color was both the right thing to do within the civic and governmental realms of this world, and that it also aligns with our deepest Christian understandings of Jesus’ commandment to love God and our neighbors, part of being alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Which means that if I was to find myself at odds with my family because they did not agree that the Supreme Court had “gotten it right” with this ruling around DACA or how to work to end racism, we might need to have a discussion. Maybe even two or three or ten or three hundred discussions. And amidst a lot of prayer and seeking to be humble and looking to the compassionate wisdom of God rather than to anyone’s need to be right, Jesus and Jesus’ commandment to express love for neighbor would need to be my tether, my root and my rock, not my family. The reminder from the writer of Matthew that Jesus is the foundation of this new saving grace world order, not my family, would need to be my guide. Though family ties matter deeply, our deepest roots are and should be in Christ our Savior.
So, too, for the Church, when we discover that as congregations, or on a national or international level we have gone astray; then we need to repent of wherever we have gone wrong and step out again for Jesus.
These days, all too many of us in the Church have grown complacent about racism and inequality, and we need to repent of this. Especially repenting of the ways this has hurt and continues to cause hurt far too many of God’s beloved children. And if we find ourselve in turmoil or uncertainty as a Church with a capital “C” about how to proceed with the work of dismantling racism in the world and in our own Church body then we need only look to the cross to understand the sacrifice that God in Christ is asking of us, that is to let the sin-filled ways of the worlds and our own hearts be put to death, and a new life and new world order be founded on the rock of our Savior Jesus Christ to rise in their place. So that Jesus our Rock endures as our only guide and foundation.
I can’t help but think that as Christians we could be much more daring in our Gospel Sharing work. I can’t help but think that we might grow to become less preoccupied and worried about whether or not all of this will make anyone in the world or our families or the Church uncomfortable; instead becoming much more faith-filled and wholly occupied in our hearts and thoughts with Jesus’ saving and resurrecting work, bearing the Light of Christ for the world. Alive to God in Jesus Christ.
Yes, I can’t help but think that God in Christ wants us to continue the evolution of our very beings, so as to shed all that does not serve God and rise up to, as Matthew wrote, “tell in the light...” and “proclaim from the rooftops” the good news of Jesus; so as to become the bold proclaimers of the Light that God is calling us to be.
Alive to God in Christ. Amen.