Guest Blog: The Christian Holiday I’m Most In Need of Right Now


R. Maxwell Grant

11/18/2016

If you're not a Christian and you're on my Facebook feed, chances are you're probably pretty mad at American Christians right now.
 
Take it from me: I'm a pastor, and I am livid.
 
I spend a lot of time thinking about the Gospels. Studying the tradition and what it has to teach us about today. Praying—which for me is about trying to hear what God is looking for from all of us, and then also from me, in particular. Listening to vulnerable people. Helping to fix what hurts when and where I can—and especially the spiritual aspects of people's pain.
 
This is all the garden-variety Christian stuff—a regular Sunday churchgoer or a weekly Prayer Group member could pretty much say the same. Or so one would hope.
 
And yet.
 
And yet we all know that the church, the family of faith—this group of people who have signed on to live, more or less, the life I just described—went overwhelmingly for Trump…that is, they—ugh, we—went overwhelmingly for someone who is flat out opposed to the values Jesus taught, the example Jesus set, and the transformation Jesus offers for those He calls to take up the cross and follow Him.
 
The hate that has erupted since his victory is despicable proof that the worst fears of everyone opposed to him were right all along.
 
Yet most Christians aren't afraid to tell the world that he's our man.
 
Mostly, I'm speechless.
 
Yet then I reflect:
 
 We do this, we Christians. We mess up on the whole following Jesus thing.
 
We know it.
 
The people who hate churches because we're full of hypocrites don't know the half of it.
 
Maybe that sounds too cutesy. Let's put it another way.
 
We also know that the ugliest version of that dynamic isn't when we somehow lose track of Jesus for ourselves (however that happens), but when we smugly see ourselves marching right behind Him as we move toward some newly-baptized form of bigotry and hatred.
 
The Jesus we love so often turns out to be a God we remake in our image – a Jesus that serves our interests or speaks to our fears.
 
We know how easy it is for Christians to see only the Jesus we want to see.
 
And how catastrophic for everyone that can be, whether they're Christian or not.
 
It's bad enough when hatred poisons our own lives. But there are public consequences to our sinful blindness that can reach well beyond our own lives, or the life of the church community, into the whole world.
 
The Christian view is that one day, we in the Church will have to answer for that.
 
A more nuanced view, also Christian, is that we are already answering for it—that the diminishment of human community and the disrespect for the individual dignity of all people is actively, presently sinful in ways that fundamentally harm Christian and non-Christian alike.
 
As John Donne so famously put it, "Every man's death diminishes me, for I am a part of mankind." Everyone's death. Not just the Christian ones. Or the white ones. Or the male ones (the whole "man" reference there, notwithstanding). Our finest traditions teach us that anything destructive of the common good is, first and foremost, a great affront to the God we love.
 
If you're not Christian and all you can say is, "I hope so," well…yeah.
 
But it's into this moment and with all these thoughts in mind that I'm finding myself spiritually hungry for a Christian holiday that's never meant much of anything to me before—a holiday happens to be this coming Sunday.
 
It's called "Christ the King Sunday," and it's the last Sunday of the Christian year (which begins with Advent, the four week period of waiting in anticipation of Christmas).
 
It's the Sunday when our Scriptures talk about Jesus in the most exalted terms we have – as the Lord of All Creation, the King of Kings.
 
As one of our readings says, "…in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him" (Colossians 1:16).
 
Frankly, in most years, I would understand words like that as pointing to the triumphalist Jesus that makes church history so morally dismal.
 
But I'm hearing them differently this time around.
 
And I'm praying that my fellow Christians hear them differently, too. "The nations are in an uproar," says the psalmist, "the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts."   
 
Hello.
 
With our nation in an uproar and tottering precariously, to me, these words are a reminder to Christians that the world is not ours, but unequivocally God's.
 
It's a reminder that God's agenda is infinitely bigger than any agenda, much less a Christian agenda, and even the "right" Christian agenda.
 
It's warning to the church not to fall so blindly in love with power and the mechanisms of influence that we forget who we are and whose we (think we) are.
 
A church that believes it can use power uncritically is in danger of almost entirely losing the Gospel it claims to cherish.
 
It has happened before.
 
This Sunday, we in the churches need to repent the power of that temptation and seek the strength and wisdom to go forward differently.
 
We need to see that this is what love of neighbor requires.
 
In these days when the nations are in an uproar, and the kingdoms totter, we need to rededicate ourselves to the cause of a broader faithfulness that welcomes all and serves alongside all.
 
This Sunday challenges the church to live beyond its own immediate interests.
 
I pray we Christians take that challenge to heart.
 
See you out there, fighting the good fight.

This blog originally appeared on Rev. Grant's Facebook page. It is reprinted with his permission.



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