Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Caesar Is Not Lord.

Vengeance is mine sayeth the imperialist, and the current iteration of that deadly reality is American. In reading international news sources, which I've done since childhood, I'm struck at how military intervention for "national interests" has become nearly ubiquitous across the planet. It seems every empire has arrogated unto itself the prerogative that belongs only to God when it comes to final judgement, life or death.

This is not a uniquely American behavior by the way, it's been true of every great empire across human history. But these last hundred years have seen US being the military top of the hill. And like every other empire, we gladly fabricate an appropriate mythology to fit our place in the political pantheon seemingly sensing that we are somehow uniquely immortal, unlike every other empire which has passed before us.

Caesar is not Lord.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Christian as Insider and Outsider

The Christian is always the insider on the outside and the outsider on the inside.

The Christian is the insider on the outside because they are always engaged in the affairs of this world, since they are called by Christ to be in the world, and yet not of it. For a Christian to be involved in the intimate details of our common life, both private and public, yet without succumbing to the ever present idolatrous temptations from all sides, means they must have a concrete reference point from which to judge rightly the circumstances they find themselves in. And the concrete reference point is the very life and ministry of Christ Jesus.

It isn't some objective principle above and beyond the vagaries of history, as though that could give us any insight into what to do in the here and now. No. The Christian is guided in what they can and must do by the radical particularity of Christ's ministry to those directly in his midst. His kingdom spread as far, and only as far, as the sound of his voice and the touch of his hand. This is why he told his disciples the kingdom of God was in their midst.

The Christian is also never fully identified with the environment they find themselves in. The Christian is always a dual citizen, a citizen of whatever earthly city they are a part of, but also a citizen, indeed their primary citizenship, of a heavenly city called forth by God himself founded on Christ as the Cornerstone of a heavenly temple being built in the gritty details of our life here on earth.

The Christian is also always the outsider on the inside, because, while they are indeed residents of a heavenly city, they are also flesh and bone, blood and sweat, living breathing wounds and sins. The Christian recognizes within themselves every impulse, every desire, every hope and fear, of every person in their midst within earshot, eyesight, and physical touch. And again this understanding must be held, not by relying on some theoretical understanding of their corporate and individual creatureliness and fallenness, but with a tangible, indeed visceral SENSE of how this exists and is played out in their own day to day life.

And likewise the concrete reference point for the Christian to be able to get an accurate sense of this reality comes to them through the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. The Christian sees and begins to understand the reality of their own beauty, sorrow, wounds, sins in their majestic broken tapestry only by looking upon the particular hands, feet, eyes, limbs, minds, pulses of those directly touched by Christ the Lord. Thus the Christian sees each wound, each cry, each laugh, each hidden sigh as uniquely belonging to the one owning these experiences as they do themselves, knowing that Christ's word and touch heals and reproves each according to their need.

As Christ has done for us, we are called to do for one another.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dragonflies and 9/11

Early this Sunday afternoon I went for a walk on campus. I went to the top of the hill behind our building and sat on a bench and read for a few minutes as the sun shone down. I put my head down and laid there for a few more minutes, all the while listening to the sounds of nature buzz around me. I sat back up and noticed an aircraft flying overhead. I was reminded that ten years ago in the days following 9/11 I saw and heard no aircraft flying anywhere since they had all been grounded from coast to coast. The sight and sound of an aircraft has become normal again these ten years later. It was an odd feeling to realize that.

I got up from the bench and walked on the grass looking at the dragonflies darting around my feet. These supremely beautiful creatures used to scare me so much as a small child, partly because of their name, and partly because of their fearsome look. But now as I spy them from mere feet or even inches away I notice that these amazingly aerodynamic creatures with their nearly transparent wings flit from blade of grass to blade of grass nibbling away as they survey the vast expanse of a field so seemingly small to me.

I wander towards the edge of the hill to a group of trees and find them clapping their leaves as the breeze flutters through. What they were applauding I don't know, except to say that they seemed happy as the bees and bugs and birds all intertwined in the majesty of nature right before my eyes. A bumblebee, seemingly clumsy, navigated a spiders web and flew effortlessly through an opening in the web from one flower to the next. A nest of wasps or hornets crawled out from under an overhang on a concrete pillar on the hill as they make ready for cooler weather so close at hand.

Each of these beautiful creatures make their way whether as flora, fauna, insect, bird, human, all bound together in a much larger web of intertwined life. The quietness of this respite from the rampant noisiness I far too often give myself over to reminds me that there are sounds and sights that transcend us. But these sights and sounds are also a part of us at our core. The breeze blows and dragonflies take flight from blade of grass to blade of grass and feed on the field before them. As it rested on a blade of grass I could see the blades beneath it through its shimmery wings. I can hear the breeze as well and wonder where it will carry me to next.