we bear witness to a better day

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

Come, descendants of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Isaiah 2:1-5

Today in the United States is Memorial Day when Americans who lost their lives in military service are honored. We indeed should remember them and their sacrifice. But we as followers of Christ and the church of Christ ought to point to a better day when violence is not only the last resort alas unlike today, but when war will be no more.

That thought sounds so unreasonable when there’s so much violence and evil in the world. We have to remember that violence is not ended with more violence. Sooner or later that cycle continues as old grievances surface. Unfortunately what ought to be and what actually is are so far apart. It’s like you have to use a hopefully sanctified imagination to think of anything which could be different.

Violence is a fact of life, embedded in the human existence. There is not the necessary trust in God, in Christ with the hope/anticipation of the resurrection to make the commitment to something else. But if churches of Christ aren’t doing this, then what does that say about our witness? Are we just supposed to be okaying, even strongly supporting military action and wars of the state? Surely not.

We in Jesus point to a better day. By how we live along with our telling of this. We encourage nations to make peacemaking the priority, along with trying to understand and address underlying issues behind the violence. Realizing indeed that all violence will not be vanquished until Christ returns. Nevertheless doing all we can to point ourselves and others to a better day. And hopefully seeing that played out more in creative ways in opposition to oppressive regimes, with the commitment to do good to the distressed, and ultimately to all. A tall order indeed. But a large part of our calling. In and through Jesus.

the great need for sanctified imagination

It was A.W. Tozer who wrote and spoke of the great need in the church for a “sanctified imagination”. And we need to look for that and see it not just in terms of individuals, but in terms of the entire church itself, certainly drawing from individuals. We need the gift of being able to “think outside the box.”

Tradition is a great gift, and one that is too easily dispensed of by the church. “If we’ve always done it this way,” means for some that we need to do it in a different way. But certain practices and habits of life are indispensable as the backdrop and even the means of entering into something new and fresh. I think of Monastic orders and practices in this context, and the newness of life and vision which can arise from them.

A sanctified imagination as in thinking outside the box is certainly not confined in just how one does church, but in how we are the church. And we should always be thinking and praying on just how we can meet our neighbor in showing the love of Jesus, whoever that neighbor may be. And we may want to give our attention to this, not only to those with whom we have some kind of natural affinity, but perhaps especially those with whom we may seem to have little if anything in common at all. And particularly to those who are regarded as outcasts either by the world (often the refugees fleeing war torn countries) and even, sadly enough to say, by the church (I think of transgenders, which are at the center of a hot issue right now). We want to be well grounded in the truth and love that is in Jesus, and that’s going to mean being present in and through Jesus for all, for everyone, insofar as that’s possible. And where it seems impossible, trying to reach the unreachable through prayer, which is our first priority of practice, anyhow, being in the word of God (scripture) and prayer in the fellowship of the church.

Perhaps a main thought here is that while certain things may remain the same, like in our Anglican tradition, the liturgy for the gathering and for Holy Communion, there can be added some variations even within such liturgy at times in keeping with insights on how to be more faithful in light of cultural context. And most importantly in the mission we’re strengthened for even after the worship gatherings.

Change can be incremental, setting in place new traditions at the time, which may be helpful for a while. We need to be open to being stretched outside of our comfort zone. It is easy for me to simply settle in and try to do well within a certain practice, doing this day after day, week in and week out. But I need to be open to what might perhaps be small changes which can be helpful in letting in the gentle yet powerful breezes of the Spirit. A way of thinking, “sanctified imagination,” I believe supported by the New Testament which in itself ought to be part of our tradition.