There’s a question that I guarantee all of us have asked at one point or another. It’s a question that either elicits great excitement or tremendous pain. It’s a question that philosophers and theologians have been asking for all of time. What is the meaning of life? What is the point of all of this?
In just 5 days, we will hear an inaugural address from the 45th president of the United States of America. Jesus also gave an inaugural address, but just before he did, he encountered Satan in the wilderness. Satan attempted to get Jesus to accomplish his mission with security, popularity, and power. Instead, we see a very different mission outlined in Jesus' address.
My mom likes to tell me a story about a cold November night when her and my dad threw on their tennis shoes, bundled up in their coats and walked four miles. After the walk, they changed into their pajamas and played Yahtzee. They filled up an entire score card that night, crawling into bed well after midnight. The next morning she woke up in labor and I was born just before lunch.
This week we put our hope in political candidate. As a pastor, I spend a lot of time listening. I have listened and I have learned from those who find themselves afraid and in deep pain. And I have listened and leaned from those who found a reason to celebrate because they have been heard. I have listened to friends and family and colleagues and mentors on both sides of the aisle. And I’ve watched the distance between the two sides grow impossibly wide and the desire to understand the other all but disappear. This week we put our hope in a political candidate. This wasn’t the first time we’ve done this.
Regardless whether or not people are free, most people don’t feel free. We don’t feel it. We live in fear that our freedom is threatened, that we are threatened, that our way of life is threatened. It’s important to note here, we won’t be talking about American freedom today, but our cultural understanding of freedom heavily influences our Biblical understanding of freedom, and we need to be acutely aware of that.
The Israelites had a pattern of “sin, judgement, repentance and rescue.” Over and over again. They wandered away from, they ended up oppressed under a foreign ruler, and then they would repent and God would rescue them, and then they’d fall right back into the same pattern as before.
Last Sunday was supposed to be a day of celebration for our community. We received a piano in memory of a member, and it would have been her 100th birthday. Her entire family came for the celebration, and I had the service all planned. I wrote the sermon early in the week. The cake was ordered. The decorations were hung.
And then two black men were killed by police officers.
And then five police officers were killed.
God isn’t confined to a geographical place. God is the creator of the world. God is everywhere. God is even where you are. And God is pursuing you, wherever you’ve wandered, and drawing you back. God is working to reconcile you. God is moving you towards his plan.
When I walk through my grandma’s front door, I take an inhale and the smell immediately triggers a flood of memories. I see the blocks I played with as a child on the coffee table, my grandpa’s guitar waiting to be played in the corner, and the family table where I've spent nearly every holiday and special occasion for thirty years. I'm conditioned to look for those things.
Of course, no one was surprised last week when Donald Trump said that his favorite Bible verse was “an eye for an eye”. It’s the perfect example of how little people understand Jesus. Last night someone told me that Christianity feels a lot like playing follow the leader, and no one actually knows what they’re following. It’s really felt like that a lot lately, hasn’t it?