A Theologian In Progress

June 18, 2015

Charleston and the Church

Filed under: gospel,politics,theology — Sean Carroll @ 8:03 pm
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The ‪#‎CharlestonShooting‬ is a tragedy. Innocent people had their lives taken because we live in a nation that believes more powerfully in the right to weapons than it does in the radically inclusive love of the Gospel.

Last night brothers and sisters in faith had their lives cut short as they worshiped and prayed. As these brothers and sisters were united an act of unfathomable violence stole away in their pews. A man murdered these faithful because of their skin tone. But more profoundly these brothers and sisters were saints in their witness to the Gospel. They allowed a stranger in, they welcomed him, and like Christ they died while loving their enemy. This is sacrifice, this is the Gospel. We mourn because we have lost bold saints who worshiped at a church that has for centuries stood against the status quo, they worshiped when it was unlawful for African Americans to have a church, they saw their church burned during the civil rights movements, and they continue to keep loving their community.

This is church. Not programs, but a witness to the nation that there is a better way. Today in honor of them may we decry the celebration of violence in America. These brothers and sisters are heroes, even more they are martyrs. They died for the eternal Kingdom of peace. May we honor their lives and memories by standing against the violence around us, may we declare we must turn our swords in plowshares. May we stop violence, and share a meal. May we start to realize we are not strangers but loved creatures made in the eternal image of the loving God. May we work for healing and peace. Today may we learn to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. As Jesus said may we love our enemies, pray and bless them, because only as we celebrate these saints will we see that their sacrifice is the tangible representation of the Cross that declares even our sworn and hated enemies must become our family.

Matthew 5:
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,[o] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Revelation 21

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless,the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

May our churches become what they are intended to be, the physical home of God among this broken world. That’s what these saints believed like the apostles, like Martin Luther King, Jr., like Bonhoeffer, like those in the Middle East, India and across the globe today. These saints remind us that God is here, that he is wiping away tears, and he is making all things news. Those who resort to violence show they never knew him, they show they have chosen to live without God, and God will in due course recompense them for their profligate decisions. But today, and for the rest of our lives may we be bold enough to live as these saints, to live as the Gospel demands, and to structures are lives like the true Church, the physical manifestation of God’s love to bring peace to the near and far.

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. ‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared’ (Luther).” -Bonhoeffer

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Dr. King, Jr.

‪#‎gospel‬ ‪#‎america‬ ‪#‎violence‬ ‪#‎prayforcharleston‬11427670_10103261475044787_2178328833189317591_n


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