A Kairos-Moment for a Cross and Resurrection Narrative

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Most of us were prepared to hunker down and endure what we expected to be the most rancorous electoral season of our lifetime, amped up on the steroids of impeachment and conspiratorial speculation.  Then, the COVID19 pandemic invaded and sent us all to our rooms for an extended stay, only now in more recent weeks once again to spike and surge here and there.  And, finally, video from nearly all directions has surfaced to shine light on the other viral pandemic threatening our world—racism fueled by the presumption of white supremacy documenting clearly and lethally that Black Lives do NOT matter nearly enough.

Some say a perfect storm now rages across the land.  Others think we have come to a tipping point in our part of the world—we’ve seen enough and felt enough that something simply must change.  I am convinced as followers of Jesus we must recognize and seize the gift of a Kairos-Moment from the Lord of history, creating space for breakthroughs in cherishing one another, and especially persons of color, as never before.  Then, for cultivating a culture and systems that more truly reflect God’s plan for all the special beings that bear God’s image.

Kairos” is a Greek term for a special moment or season of “time.”   It’s not like the more frequent “chronos,” denoting time in the sense of duration or measurement.  “Kairos” is time in the sense of occasion or opportunity.  Chronos time conditions us constantly—seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and so on.  Kairos time gathers to a point and then presents itself.  If there’s a perfect storm, I suggest, the Kairos is the eye of the storm, providing calm and context for recalibrating our bearings and redirecting our course.  If there’s a tipping point, the Kairos comes in the moments just before, during and after, when we may position ourselves for the change that will come.

Sadly, however, in this current Kairos-moment followers of Jesus in the U.S. are themselves conflicted and compromised.  We are conflicted in the same ways most others are.  We have accepted the narratives woven together by partisan ideologues on the right and on the left: In general, either, “Once upon a time God founded our nation” … or “… the devil did!” In turn, these narratives offer and drive alternate responses: Either we must rebuild the nation as it was and return its lost glory … or dismantle it and build another the right way.

Both narratives, however, are wrong, especially in the simple and stark way I put them.  God did not found the nation, nor did the devil.  Human beings did, and some of what they did reflected heaven and some hell.  For example, we are glad they insisted all humans are created equal (Heaven) … but sad to acknowledge this didn’t include the slaves among them, or the women (Hell).  But most of the competing narratives also include features that are right.  What reflected heaven’s rule should be identified, examined and embraced, while whatever mirrors hell’s distortion and destruction should be exposed, confessed, and banished.  But who and where are the people who could even begin to do such things?

Of course, I want to answer, followers of Jesus living here and there salting and illumining their part of the world!  But if the salt has lost its savor and the light no longer shines …  what then?

What indeed!  According to Jesus, though, this is the plan: that his followers would salt and illumine their world. Again, according to Jesus, this is the plan that will have impact, especially in terms of embodying a Kingdom narrative enacting a Kingdom way of living that does not derive its origins, values, and methods from the world as it is but from Another—from the realm of the King.  Yes, according to Jesus, such salting and illumining tells a different story, a cross and resurrection narrative where serving and sacrificing out of love for one another, and the others of our world, bring a healing to the personal and communal failings and brokenness that plague the human story as it has come to be.  A cross and resurrection narrative that cultivates and curates thinking, feeling, willing, and acting like we see in the life of Jesus, supported by the Spirit of Jesus breathing Jesus-love into and through our daily lives.  A cross and resurrection narrative where every human being experiences the favor of the God who regards her or him as of inestimable value.  And, a cross and resurrection narrative where from the dust of one world arises a new world with a new humanity beloved and loving, bearing the likeness of Jesus in multifaceted ways.

So, here we are in the Kairos-moment, in the eye of the perfect storm, in the intervals before, during and after changes come.  Our responses must rise out of that alternate, Kingdom narrative, giving a better expression of what the other narratives get right (more or less), and repudiating clearly what the other narratives get so dreadfully wrong.

In the present Kairos-moment we must face the evils of racism based on white-supremacy and seize the opportunity to respond to evil in ways compatible with a cross and resurrection Kingdom narrative.  Here are some trajectories from that narrative that seem helpful for Jesus’ followers today. They come from the Apostle Paul’s instructions to the churches in Rome where persons of different cultures were becoming communities of Jesus together.  They had been accepted and forgiven through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, given new life through Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and were empowered by Jesus’ Spirit to learn a new way to live—as individuals and communities that relate to one another the way Jesus relates to them.

Now, on the basis of these awesome expressions of God’s mercy toward them, really us all, they/we are not to be defined and driven by the traditions, habits and patterns of the cultures of this world, but by the love God shares with us in Jesus (Rom. 12:2).  This fleshes itself out in a variety of ways.  Here are some of them.

The cross and resurrection narrative leads us to end one life and begin another—so, “present your whole selves, literally your (bodies), as living sacrifices,” (Rom. 12:1).  We must come to terms with the old life as fallen, sinful, enslaved to the powers of darkness, captivated by perverse and deceptive desires that lead only to death.  And, this goes for Jews as well as for gentiles.  This goes for church folk as well as all the other folk.

The cross and resurrection narrative will lead us to a new mind that is set on the Spirit of Jesus, follows the path of Jesus, and develops the qualities of character and reflexive responses of Jesus.  A new mind that reflects life and peace, freedom and joy, hope and love.

And, thus, the cross and resurrection narrative will demand practices and responses to one another that Paul spells out.

  • We will not think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Which means not more highly than we do anyone  Jews are not superior to gentiles in the cross and resurrection story. Nor can white people claim any supremacy over persons of color.  Part of thinking appropriately about self is aspiring and practicing the preference of others ahead of self.  More, it is to use your gifts—which are all of grace, not our genes, education or accomplishments—for the well-being of others.  Seriously, it is to plan and then to activate one’s grace-abilities for building others up, whether you are a prophet or a mercy-giver.  Further, thinking rightly about self will include befriending and sharing with other persons considered low, unimportant, and even contemptible by the world.  Once you would never have associated with them; now they are friends.  More tellingly, you are their friends.

 

  • We will love genuinely, sincerely, and authentically. The measure of such authenticity is rejecting evil and clinging to good, as the Spirit helps us assess the evil and good by the life and ministry of Jesus.  Authentic love reaches deeply within to share the joys, sorrows and hopes of the Family of God and reaches outwardly to the world of others who are strange, hostile, threatening, and even violent toward us.  Indeed, love blesses those who curse, pursue and would harm us; and love seeks the well-being and flourishing of all people in the way God does.  Love will not retaliate, for that would be the evil they reject.  Rather, love will feed and refresh the enemy, clinging to the good revealed in Jesus.  Thus, love will overcome the evil with good.

In the present Kairos-moment God has in place communities of Jesus-followers in the world who will salt and illumine the world in these ways.   The question for us is whether we and our communities will be among them.

Here are two final observations.  First, a cross and resurrection Kingdom narrative for our time has a passive sense.  That is, as salt does, we may form communities, embedded in our neighborhoods, that enact the new humanity God is creating through Jesus.  And, as salt does, our neighborhoods can sense and taste how it is when all are precious and privileged alike because of the amazing grace of God, and the world can see what happens when we do not think more highly of ourselves but honor and give place to others, especially others who have suffered the sinful assaults of racism by those who regard themselves to be superior.  As the salt works there will be change.

But, second, a cross and resurrection Kingdom narrative for our time must have an active sense.   As light shines it goes where before there was only darkness and the darkness leaves.  So we must go to the places of darkness and to those who love the darkness and let the light that is in us banish the darkness.  This is metaphor, of course, and so “darkness” signals only part of the reality (even as “light’ does).  Even so, as we let light shine, expressing the crucified and risen Kingdom Truth about God and people, we expect to demonstrate the difference such Truth makes, and we expect darkness to flee.

Unlike most of God’s people for most of history, we have opportunities to shape the governance over us and to help hold it accountable.  We can protest and demonstrate for what is right.  We can vote for leaders and legislators who are responsible for that governance.  And we can enter the spheres of governance themselves in order from within to salt and illumine them in keeping with the unfolding cross and resurrection Kingdom narrative.

If our part of the world is weathering a perfect storm and reaching a tipping point, we must recognize the present Kairos-moment.  A Person of Color has shown us the way, the truth and the life.  He did not think himself superior to others (though he was) but placed himself at the service of all others, loved them and served them, poured out his life for them until he breathed his last as he hung on a tree.  Then God vindicated this One and his way, exalted and enthroned him, and will put everything under his feet in the end.  His followers know that the future belongs to this One and his way of ordering human life and community.  They salt and illumine their world by walking in his footsteps; they treat one another, their neighbors and potentially all persons in the way he treats them; and they take his light to the places and lovers of darkness.  In the Kairos-moment, we must play our part as agents of such a cross and resurrection Kingdom narrative.

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    I had just a couple simple thoughts:
    1. We didn’t protest removing prayer from schools. Where were Jesus followers then?
    2. Now that protesting is popular we can lock arms with this social norm and it’s popularity and feel good about being Christian in America.
    3. Voting our conscience is dividing the church. Defunding police is dividing the church. A Godly sherrif who carries a gun along with his deputies divides some FMers in Ohio. Nazi Germany, the annihilating of Jews, History cycles and Jesus will come back. So in the meantime what would Jesus do? Maybe we should usher him in by actions which are culturally permissible?

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      Thank You Pastor Nelson. I hear you, or read you, I think. The problem with voting our conscience is that consciences are molded and shaped in various ways, often apart from our intent. We know that it is possible for a conscience to be hardened or “seared,” as the expression goes. What I plead for is to shape our minds, our thinking, and then our practices by the cross and resurrection narrative we find in the scriptures. In the post I am noting certain ways of responding to the mercies of God (Rom 12:1) that lead us to have minds renewed (which bears on what we call conscience). Paul then instruct how to regard self and others in ways consistent with this new mind. Eslewhere, Phil., he calls it the mind of Christ. I contend we should vote and advocate and demonstrate in ways that reflect this mind, and model what it looks like. White supremacy, or any kind of exalting of self at the expense of others have no place among followers of Jesus; more, I do not see how we can follow Jesus without opposing all such pretensions of superiority wherever it comes to expression and whoever expresses it.

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        Interesting! Of all I wrote, and I know you can’t respond to everything, the conversation goes one way and then the other. Are we left voting or right voting. Voting non-right takes us smack into socialism. Then voting non-left takes us to survival of our republic. What say you? I am picking up on FM today being pro left and voting left. Am I missing something?

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          Hi Nelson. You are right I can’t respond to every point, in a way that I would like. That would end up being another post. I agree that no one protested the Supreme Court’s decision re prayer. But their decision re abortion on demand, on re-defining marriage, and a host of other issues did inspire protests–some of which were helpful and others not so much.

          I do not think protesting as such or demonstrating as such is now popular, so we can or should “do it.” it has always been a right guaranteed by the constitution and followers of Jesus have exercised that right–again wisely and otherwise. in the current mess we are in, I think it not only permissible but faithful to protest things that we know are wrong–dead wrong, such as racism. It is a sad commentary that legitimate protest invites others to use the occasion for their own purposes. But that does not invalidate the legitimate and proper protest of the majority of the people who are there.

          I am not sure that “voting our consciences” has divided the church. I think it more often the case that voting or advocating in partisan ways divides the church.

          I do not understand the other items in your third point, not knowing the persons or situations to which you refer. BUT …

          your question about what should we do? usher in the kingdom by doing things that are culturally permissibe? I am not sure what makes you go there, but I would say, God forbid! That is what the world does–things culturally permissible, hoping it will accomplish something, and that is what Paul says we must not do–conform to the present age. I think we usher in, prepare for, contribute to the coming of Jesus’ kingdom in its fullness by doing things that are Kingdom-possible, as opposed to permissible. That is what Paul is saying in Rom 12, I believe. If we could form communities where the internal dynamic was as Paul describes, it would offer powerful salt and light for our world.

          One final comment. You ask are we left or right leaning? And you note it seems we are more and more left leaning. You mean politically left and politically right. But my answer is I hope we are left leaning when to be so on an issue or in a situation most reflects the values, goals, and methods of Jesus’ kingdom. And, I hope we are right leaning when that most reflects the values, goals etc of Jesus’ kingdom. Some of my friends will assess that answer as no answer or as an evasion. But I think that is only because they can only think in terms of the narratives of the left and the right. The way of Jesus not only invites but empowers us to be drawn into a kingdom narrative that features the cross and resurrection of Jesus empowering a people to take up their crosses and go with Jesus, if need be to literal death, in confidence that wherever it actually leads, it ultimately leads to resurrection and the new world Jesus promises when Kingdom comes. i hope and pray that the FMC will be filled with people who can see a larger Story than simply what this party or that tells, and pursue the ways, priorities etc of that Story.

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    Thank you Bishop Kendall. This is a quality spirit-filled word that all followers of Jesus Christ should attempt to meditate on. We should look different as we bring our Christ’s presence with us into the discussions and actions of this world.

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      That black lives matter is a truth with which no FM, indeed, no follower of Jesus, can legitimately argue. The organization Black Lives Matter is a different matter (pun intended) altogether. I find it disturbing these kinds of distinctions seem to be overlooked or ignored when church leaders exhort us to kingdom living. As a pastor who preached and taught the call to transformative kingdom living I am dismayed that this thoroughly biblical message (G.E. Ladd) is increasingly conflated with Marxist political thought.

      On a related thought . . . a few years ago I heard one of our bishops lament about how badly we had handled the LGBTQ issue, to the outright applause of some in the congregation. There was no explanation other than this verbal bombshell. And frankly the moment left me dismayed. What exactly did he mean? Taken one way, in the sense that we as a church has often been judgemental and have alienated those in that community, treating them as persons of unique sinfulness, I could wholeheartedly agree. But, taken at face value, his statement, made around the time of the push for legalizing gay marriage, could also have been taken as an endorsement of the trend seen in many denominations to accept and celebrate that cultural shift. While I felt I knew what this bishop intended, his pronouncement was anything but clear. I was left wondering which possible meaning the congregation was applauding.

      It seems to me that in issuing calls to kingdom living we must be careful to distinguish between kingdom ends and cultural movements and that this care must be taken by those on both sides of the left/right, liberal/conservative political divide. It is the kingdom vision that unites us, not our conformity to the same political viewpoint.

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    I wonder why you started with the impeachment. It really had very little to do with the daily lives of any American and was a political attack from one party on another based on the preponderance of evidence.

    To me and for a great majority of conservatives reading this it sets the tone of a bias bookended by a call to vote meaning vote out the current administration. An administration that has actually done more for minorities and blacks than any in my lifetime.

    White supremacy as an issue in America is a ghost of the past. But as every 4 years come these ghost return from the graves brought back by the gypsies of the left and the Democratic party. As an issue in the minority community white supremacist would not even be in the top 100 according many conservative black activist. Rather, the destruction of the black family by forces like BLM as black fatherlessnes has risen from 22% in the 60s to 75% now. More young blacks have been killed in the last few weeks by other young blacks then this time in several years. But the protest are 6 whites for every 1 black protestor… odd. Children die in the streets of Atlanta and Chicago but not a single biline or street gathering but media hype over hugely hyperbolic statics of cop death squads killing black men….no evidence… and black communities are burned to the ground. So forgive me if though your letter is meaningful its basis is so far off contextually I have difficulty in its consideration.

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