A Word from John

Carl Jung, in Answer to Job, juxtaposes gospel and apocalypse as examples of different and unresolved aspects of human personality. The gospel is a testimony to love. Love in the purest imaginable sense, that which is willing to sacrifice self, even for one’s enemies, for the sake of their wholeness. It is unconditional and ever determined. Apocalypse is a cry of vengeance. This is often vengeance in the name of justice and love, but it is the shadowy image of it. It is often in the language of a rectifying time of setting things in proper order by means of disordering the present order of things Its rhetorical intent is the hope to motivate change by use of fear and judgement. It is a specific archetype of prophetic speech. It is the mythological equivalent of a dystopian novel.

The book of Revelation is replete with such dystopian, primal, mythological fears. It’s a fantasy narrative, directed intentionally at what was a present day political and social reality, that speculated a potential future where divine intervention would change the brokenness of the world. Specifically, Revelation is the projected action of God towards seven churches within the Greco-Roman political world sometime after the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem. To give an equivalent today would be a resolution addressing seven different denominations within the church about what they are doing and where they will end up in regard to their response to 9/ 11.

Revelation is rich with imagery of the power of God to bend the arc of history back towards justice: removing the churches that don’t adjust, honoring the ones that do, establishing a new heaven among this newly transformed earth, turning  the weapons of war into plowshares, and creating the environment where the predators of the world final stop eating God’s sheep. You know the proverbial lions laying down with the lambs. Thus this text both offers hope and stimulates resistance to the Imperial order of Rome.

Of those seven churches, the church of Laodicea receives one of the harshest assessments. The state of being neither one thing nor another. The author assumes this to be far worse than being an adversary of God’s reign. I would guess because being moderate in the world corrupts the image of God.

When you are clearly adversarial to the nature of peace on Earth, then no one is going to mistake you as being a noble representation of what is just and worthy of being called divine. You are clearly cold, lost, and irrelevant, but if you say that you are about peace and justice, about compassion, about caring for the least of these, while perpetuating and participating in systems that work in opposition of those hopes, then clearly there is something more dangerous in this way of being. It is deceptive. It is lukewarm. You are neither hot, nor cold. If you say you care, but then you live as if you don’t; say you speak for good, but then you undermine the change that would bring it about. If you vote to continue meeting together to accomplish the mission and then jump ship the moment it challenges you to change; then you are lukewarm. Be prepared for God to spew you out.

Joe Namath in an interview with NPR said life is a team effort. I find this to be true in so many ways. The church is no exception. The church needs you. You are a vital part of the team. The church needs you to stop relying on the commitments of a diligent few. It needs your talents to do more than only participating when there is something in it for you. For the reign of God to become viable and visible, it needs your gifts, skills, knowledge, and experiences. What we need most of all is your honesty. We need you to be either both feet in or both feet out, because this journey is going to be challenging, and having half-hearted commitment would be worse than knowing up front those who are in it no matter what and those who are not.

We often criticize politicians for talking out of both sides of their mouths, for saying one thing and then doing something that opposes their speech. What would we find if we put that same critical spotlight on how we behave as “God -fearing” church people that say we are working toward the reign of God on Earth as in heaven? What ways do we talk a good game, but in practice undermine the change that would make the church relevant to the brokenness of the world?

I’m going to be blunt. The church can no longer afford lukewarm Christianity. By this I don’t mean we need to go on an evangelical proselytization of the world. I mean we can’t keep preaching about love and peace, while doing nothing relevant to actually create change that would bring it about within our communities. We can no longer be a fake church that seeks only our own comfort in this world, while only hoping and praying for the comfort of those that don’t have any. Our thoughts and prayers are not enough. We cannot keep sitting in comfy pews built cheaply by prison laborers and say we care about justice.

Hurst Christian is moving away from being a church that manages its own comforts while talking a good game. We are seeking to become a church whose mission and resources are focused on relevant actions locally. Our focus isn’t to save the entire world, but we will do our best to bring wholeness to the community we inhabit by getting real and forming real relationships with our neighbors. We will not get distracted in trying to mend every problem, but focus on the actual issues our neighbors face, where our skills and gifts can have the most impact. We will do more than worship once a week. We will worship with our actions throughout the week. To do this well, we need honesty and authenticity. You’re either in on that objective for the church or you’re not. There is no lukewarm discipleship.

John Bowers

Minister

Hurst Christian Church