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Archive for July, 2010

Here we are.

Well friends, it sure has been a long while since we wrote about what’s going on with us these days. These are days full of change for the Klines. We moved into a new house nearly two weeks ago, and we love it! It is only a few blocks away from our old house but is an even better location, being on the same street as Duke’s East Campus (which Dave walks to during the school year). I (Hannah) spend the three days leading up to the move painting the whole house. That proved to be very time-consuming and the cause of many aches and pains but I’m so glad I did it because it makes the house look so much better. I had help from some lovely ladies too so that’s always fun. Also, Dave did some ; )

Bill and Karen (Dave’s parents) came the day after we moved in to help us with making the house a home. They are wonderful and we had a lovely and meaningful time amid the chaos of boxes, poorly written furniture-assembly instructions, and general moving fatigue. The three of us got to go out on Sunday to the camp that Dave has been working at this summer to hear him preach the sermon he posted on the blog. It was so great to hear him preach to the camp counselors, it made me very proud and I’m thrilled that Bill and Karen got to hear him too.

We have now unpacked every box and only have a few things left to hang on the walls. It feels like home. Milton has finally come to terms with it, after a few days of not eating his food and wondering what the heck was going on. He has once again found his favorite spots in the house for sleeping and all is well in the world.

Last week I also started a new job working for a family with a little girl named Lila. She is four months old and so so sweet. I get there before she wakes up (she naps from 6-8:30am) so I get to pick out her outfits and dress her in the morning! I love it : ) The parents are lovely too so I’m very content. This position will continue throughout the school year on the days I don’t have class. I will also continue to work for the family that I have been with since December, part-time. We’re hoping I don’t lose my mind. We’ll keep you posted.

I’m so thankful for the Lord’s provision during this season of our lives especially. There have been many ups and downs over the last year but throughout it all God has provided and remained constant. Going into this next year with both of us in school will be a challenge, both financially and emotionally, but we trust God with our whole lives and our whole hearts. I’m remembering to be thankful with each day (whether good or bad) and conscious of the fact that we have MUCH to be thankful and grateful for.

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Here is a sermon I preached for the camp counselors and staff I am working with this summer. We have been going through a series termed “basic Christianity” all summer. I was given the topic “the essential gospel” to preach.

“If anyone is in Christ there is a new creation” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I would like to open our time together this morning by reading excerpts from a letter written by a man named Emmanuel Kataliko, the Catholic Archbishop of Bukavu (which is a city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Southwestern Africa). The letter, written on the occasion of Christmas, was addressed to the suffering Christian community residing in the Congo, who, along with other citizens, had endured a state of constant war, horrific violence, and brutal oppression stemming from a war that began in the Autumn of 1996. In his Christmas letter, the Archbishop describes the situation:

“Our Church herself is not spared. A number of parishes, presbyteries, and convents have already been sacked. Our priests and members of the religious life have been beaten, tortured, and killed because they denounce the flagrant injustice into which their people have been plunged, condemning the war and preaching reconciliation, forgiveness, and nonviolence. Needless to say, there have been no investigations carried out to ring the guilty parties to justice. [¶] The moral decay has reached so absurd a level that some of our countrymen do not hesitate to hand over their brother for a ten or twenty-dollar bill.38

What follows is the Archbishop’s response to such a seemingly hopeless situation:

“My brothers and sisters,

Let us be conscious of these bonds of servitude! Let us recognize our responsibility in this sinful situation that bears down upon us. Let us take the risky path of liberation through the guidance of the Spirit!

Our Christian message is a message of hope. This is the message of Jesus Himself. He, the Son of God, entered into solidarity with our human condition. Born into poverty, persecuted from the first moments of his life, forced into exile in a strange land, he died on the cross so that we might know the love of God the Father. He never avoided the costs of this solidarity, and facing death, he did not turn away.

Today, we His Church cannot betray the hope which He has brought to us. We, His children, are called to continue His mission: to proclaim life and life in abundance, to resist evil in all its forms, and denounce all that degrades the human person. We are engaged with courage, with a firm spirit and an unshakeable faith to be near all those who are oppressed, if necessary, with our own blood, as [many of our friends] and so many other Christians have already done.

The Gospel calls us to reject the use of arms as a means of resolving conflicts. It is through our suffering and our prayers that we will fight for freedom and bring our oppressors to reason and inner freedom.

We commemorate this day the birth of Jesus our brother. He invites us to know him, to love him, to follow him and to be like him. Christ is born from the Virgin Mary: he invites us to receive the incredible newness of grace and praise him with the Angels: “Glory to God in the highest!”

Written from Bukavu, the 24th of December, 1999

Mgr. Emmanuel Kataliko

Archbishop of Bukavu

These are Powerful words. Almost unthinkable words. Words that, let’s be honest, go against our common sense. In such a context of constant violence and instability as that which the Congolese find themselves, these are words that strike us as foolish, and words that come off as absurdly naïve and, if we are talking about practicality, totally ineffective and useless in the real world.

The Archbishop’s insistence for the community to not retaliate might come off nicely on paper, but when the rubber hits the road, when there are lives at stake and when there is the threat of violence against innocent people, we all know that the best way to fight injustice, oppression, violence, and the like is by flexing our muscles back at the threat. What the Christian community in the Congo really needs is for the “good guys” to go in and kill the “bad guys” so that some semblance of peace can once again exist in the Congo.

Really, it seems that this is the best we can really do or imagine, because, lets face it, we live in a broken world, and in order for this world not to simply deteriorate into chaos and oblivion we  need to be realistic about what it takes to survive in a world of war. We know that the gospel has something to do with “peace”, but “peace”, as we tend to think, is really just a figurative term that doesn’t really apply to certain areas of our lives because “peace” is just not all that realistic.

And lets not kid ourselves, this is the way that we in the West typically think about our lives as Christians—particularly in America, where we are generally removed from immediate threats to our security and stability (only because those threats have been moved elsewhere). And this way of thinking has trickled into our understanding of what constitutes the gospel.

Contrary to having our everyday lives and political worldview radically shaped by what God has done in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we tend to think that the gospel is really about our souls and where they will go when we die. We tend to think that the “good news” of the “gospel” is that our sin won’t count against us when it comes to God’s judgment at the end of the world. A comforting idea, isn’t it? And so, as Christians, we convince ourselves that life on Earth is really about convincing as many people as we can that where we go when we die is all that really matters about Christianity.

But this isn’t really the Christianity of the New Testament. Nor is it the Christianity of Archbishop Kataliko. This is the Christianity of America, the Christianity of those who don’t really want a gospel that challenges the status quo or bids us to relinquish control over our lives. This is a purely “spiritual” gospel that teaches us that Christianity really only boils down to a “personal relationship with God”.

And it makes sense to construct this sort of gospel—one that is relegated to the personal, spiritual realm and one that doesn’t very often interfere with a “the way things are is the way it has to be” mentality—one that doesn’t really interfere with the political reality around us (that is, the way the world actually runs).  Here in America, we don’t really need the sort of gospel that the Archbishop spoke of in his letter—the sort of gospel that teaches us to deny the most obvious answer to the threats around us—because, when it comes down to it, we believe more in our common sense and our security as citizens than a in a God who shows us what true freedom means by pathetically dying on a cross.

Within this frame of mind, we don’t really want a gospel that teaches us to suffer instead of fighting back; a gospel that teaches us to say “Glory to God in the Highest” when everything is falling down around us; a gospel that teaches us to have such a radical hope that the worship of God is what really determines our lives, a gospel that shows us that true freedom is following Christ to his cross. We don’t want this sort of gospel because we have duped ourselves into believing that our freedom, security, and well-being is really taken care of by our ability to fight back—or at least have someone fight back for us.

As Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw ask from the perspective of the modern world,

“Who needs a Creator when we can sculpt mountains?”

“Who needs a Great physician when we can heal ourselves?”

“Who needs a savior when we have a four-hundred billion dollar defense shield?

And he’s right. Really, who needs Jesus when we live in a world where everything we need can be bought down the street at Wal-mart? Who needs the Kingdom of God when we already have America?

But maybe there is a different way to understand what the “good news” of Jesus Christ actually means for us here today. In order to understand, let’s go back to our passage—our very short and simple passage—that we heard a moment ago. “If anyone is in Christ there is a new creation”.

What could this possibly mean for us here? What could it mean to be in Christ new creations when we are citizens of nations, when we live in an obviously sinful world. What could it mean as we live out our lives under and in the midst of what Paul refers to as the fallen “Powers” and Principalities”—that is, those fallen systems, structures, constructed identities, philosophies, governments, constitutions, shopping malls, television sets, mega-churches, fashion trends, cars, boats, Universities, military-industrial-complexes, economies, nationalities, radio stations, fast-food chains, agri-corporations, banks, televangelists, lattes and frappachinos, cable news stations, etc., etc.,  etc.—basically all those things that make up a world of division and injustice and wish to control the status quo by keeping us comatose to the deeper reality of God’s grace and peace. What could it possibly mean to be a NEW Creation in the midst of this world?

Well, first of all, Paul’s statement—that in Christ we are new creations—is incredibly good news. You see, this litany of powers and principalities I’ve just listed—the world we live in—it all seeks to enslave us to a particular logic of scarcity, fear, division and stagnation. As creatures who have rebelled against the free gift of God’s love and grace, we are powerless to resist the powers’ hold over our lives; we cannot help but to operate under the backwards logic of the world—we are slaves.

Yet it is precisely over against our enslavement to the fallen world around us that the gospel of Jesus Christ is really good news (and it really is news: its a public proclamation from God to humanity that there is a new reality in Christ) The new reality is that God’s incarnation in Jesus—where he defeated the powers by dying on a cross and being raised again, thus killing the logic of death and ushering in a new history of life—has freed us from the powers’ hold over our lives; the powers’ prison door has been unhinged so that humanity no longer has to operate under its logic of captivity.

The good news is freedom! Its new creation! In Christ, we have been re-created and have received new minds; we have received a new logic and with it a whole new possibility of life. We have received life where there was previously death; we have received reconciliation with God and with each other; in Christ we now have the freedom to live outside of the logic of the fallen world and live freely in the Kingdom of God that has come in Jesus Christ; we have received newness.

What I want to say to you today is that this newness, this radically new identity and logic that we have received in our baptism and as we have chosen to follow Jesus to his cross—this  is the gospel. This is the good news.

The gospel is the proclamation of pure freedom—real freedom, not freedom in the sense of “I get to go shopping and have infinite choice about pursuing “happiness”—but rather,  the freedom to live in God’s Kingdom; freedom to imagine a deeper reality; freedom to no longer be a slave to the logic of the world; it is freedom to live life in an overflowing reality of love, peace, friendship, creativity, joy, community, sharing, and reconciliation; it is the freedom to embody a different reality—to live under a different logic—than the fallen world around us. It’s the freedom to relinquish control over our lives and given them over completely to the grace and peace of God. Hear the good news: Jesus makes us new creations in a world of death. Jesus makes possible what was before impossible.

For instance, the world says that it is impossible to live peacefully, that it is impossible to refuse violence at all times. The world says that it is impossible to imagine a world not defined by war, that it is impossible to love our enemies. The world says that it is impossible to share with each other unconditionally. The world says that it is impossible to reconcile ourselves across constructed divisions of nationality, race, religion, sexuality, economics, and other differences of ideology. The world says that it is foolish to trust our lives to the grace of God and abandon the “logic” of the world—again, that is, the idea that “the way things are is the way things have to be”.

The world says all of these things, but Jesus has shown us and given us a new possibility—one that, yes, is indeed an actual possibility for us to embody as we learn together to make our lives conform to the way of the cross—the way of selfless and non-resistant love that proclaims an infinitely deeper reality than the reality of the fallen world.

Here is the essential gospel, the essential good news in Jesus: we have been set free—set free in the most real and concrete way imaginable. We are set free to resist the logic of fear and scarcity. We are set free to love each other without condition. We are set free to care for those people whom the world has left behind. We are set free to feed the hungry, house the homeless, befriend the imprisoned, come alongside the sick, and suffer with those who are oppressed. We are set free to proclaim and embody the Kingdom come.

I would like to end our time together this afternoon by going back to Archbishop Kataliko’s letter that we heard earlier. In this letter, we see the good news of Jesus being lived out as a real possibility. We hear the Archbishop residing in a different reality than that of the violent world he finds himself. This is an example of someone who has learned to abandon the already defeated powers of coercion and oppression that Christ has set us free from; this is an example of someone who has learned to live in the logic of love, truthful worship, and trust in the sovereignty of God.

Again, as the Archbishop reminds us of the truth of Christmas, the truth of God’s good news for us in the form of a child, “[God] invites us to know him, to love him, to follow him and to be like him. Christ is born from the Virgin Mary: he invites us to receive the incredible newness of grace and praise him with the Angels: “Glory to God in the highest!”

As the church, the gospel is our reality. The world waits for the gospel to be proclaimed through our lives that are determined by a savior who chose to die on a cross rather than fight back. The world waits to hear that peace is a deeper reality than war; that love is deeper than sin.

We here today  find ourselves caught up in that story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as we learn to follow him together. We are caught up in a story of wonderful news which only makes sense when we learn to join in the chorus of the angels singing that Christmas hymn, “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among those whom he favors.” Hear the good news: Christ has set us free. Amen.

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