Rev. Carla Christopher-Waid
Texts: Job 19:23-27a, Psalm 17:1-9, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17, Luke 20:27-38
At first read, the texts we wrestle with today speak to the resurrection. The faithful and ever believing Job speaks of when his Redeemer will walk the earth. Then, in one of the most lovely and intimate pieces of poetry in the First Testament, Job says that "in my flesh, I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another." The text turns to a blissful surrender of self for a delicious embracing of the connectivity, the unity, we experience once the moment is surrendered for the eternal. Once the loneliness of self alone is surrendered for self as part of a greater, interwoven whole. Job does not demonize his earthly flesh, he does not dismiss the importance of living fully into our God-given bodies. At the same time he looks forward to the beauty that comes from looking at his body and seeing not just the flesh of Job, but the Spirit of God. Job and God are one, Job's neighbor, the one who stands at his side, is also one with God. Therefore Job and his neighbor are not separate, not isolated and alone. They are both beloved creations of God, carriers of the same divine spark. That realization of our connectedness in the Redeemer is so beautiful that Job's "heart faints within" him.
The writer of our Epistle text in 2 Thessalonians writes a similar poem of God's adoration. The members of Jesus' church are chosen as first fruits, called to obtain glory, and loved passionately through grace. We are called to reject the traditions of the world, ones that Jesus addresses in the Gospel in uncharacteristically direct terms. The marriages grounded in inheritance, in ownership, are rejected. The definitions of self as an encapsulated and finite beings are dismissed as belonging to the immediate age rather than the timeless one of the resurrection in which there is no "you" or "me", no "us" or "them", only we.
It seems a simple concept. We are beloved by God. All of us. When we look at ourselves, when we look at our neighbor, no matter who they love or what they look like or what they believe, we should see a breathtaking beauty because we are adored and perfect creations of the same God who made swirling galaxies of perfect stars and sleek panthers and long-necked sunflowers who know how to look toward the sun. We should joy in ecstatic gratitude that we are not and never alone. Instead, we needed a summit and a raft of documents to affirm 'the golden rule' as a real thing. Let's read that back. The church of the redeeming Jesus with the power to overcome the divide between death and life, followers of a Bible that abolishes the separations inherant in our most entrenched traditions like legal marriage, the named "children of the resurrection" have to revisit 'Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten'?
In this month of local elections, as public debates between aspiring presidential candidates dominate the airwaves, I know that yes, I need this primary lesson. I have no sacred call to be a nice girl. No divine edict summons me to passivity or conflict avoidance. Jesus was no model of hesitancy that sacrificed advocacy and care for the marginalized. What Jesus also refused to do however, time and time again, was be pulled into debate that dissolved over semantics and personal attacks. Because in Jesus there is no personal. There are only systems that hurt and harm the whole.
In Jesus I am called to seek to table turn and actively overthrow injustice that harms any part of the body of Christ, because it harms me and it harms God. We are one. At the same time I cannot seek to destroy or attack an individual, because in the body of Christ, that harms me and it harms God. We are one. Just in writing this commentary I have prayed for those I never had the strength to pray for before. Because I know they are as harmed by their hatred of me as I am harmed by their hateful actions. We are hurting together, and God is hurting in our shared pain. We are one. More urgent than ever is the call to disrupt and deconstruct hurtful and harmful systems of racism, nationalism, sexism, queerphobia, poverty, violence, ableism, and any form of institutional or systemic oppression rooted in an illusion of division between a sinner/saint and their neighbor. We are one. Just as urgent is the call to love my neighbor as myself. As I love God. As God loves. Because, uncomfortable as it may feel to share skin, we are one.
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