Thursday, March 23, 2006

Resurrection? So What? Politics?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Christ the Center, "What is the meaning of the empty tomb, before the news of the resurrection? Is it the deciding fact of Christology? Was it really empty? Is it the visible evidence, penetrating the incognito, of the Sonship of Jesus, open to everyone and therefore making faith superfluous? If it was not empty, is then Christ not risen and our faith futile? It looks as though our faith in the resurrection were bound up with the news of the empty tomb. Is our faith then ultimately only faith in the empty tomb? This is and remains a final stumbling block, which the believer in Christ must learn to live with in one way or another."

These were words written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pacifist, who would enter into a plot to attempt to assassinate Adolph Hitler, for which he was eventually executed by the Nazis. To ask Bonhoeffer his own question, "Who is Jesus Christ for us today?" And what is the evidenced impact of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in his life? The answer is found in his own actions. Bonhoeffer would attempt to become the "spoke in the wheel" of the government that was not practicing its obligation to be the protector and advocate of all its citizens, including the poor, the weak and the different.

The power of the empty tomb, the stumbling block over which all Christians must confront, is in its haunting way, the sustaniner of those called to be the "spoke in the wheel." The power of the empty tomb and the energy to be sustained as the spoke is found in the community of faith birthed from the empty tomb.

"We are to live together in ways that hallow the earth with peace and justice, and this power is not in the state, nor is it in money, nor does it come from the barrel of a gun. Rather, we are empowered to participate whenever we form into congregations that seek to hear and do torah (live Spirit led lives): individuals can and should resist injustice, but only in community can we do justice. In an unredeemed world, we are all refugees in need of congregational sanctuary." (Jim Corbett early leader of the Sanctuary Movement)

But what can I do against the machine of violence? Who am I to stop war? How can I stop poverty? How can I possibly be the spoke in the wheel of injustice?

Mike is a very good friend of mine. A few years ago he went up north to visit a good friend of his. While visiting, every morning, Mike's friend would get up and go the grocery store and buy two loaves of bread and a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly. He would come home and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He would load up the sandwiches in a cart and go down to a nearby bridge under which several homeless men lived. There he would hand out his sandwiches and then head home.

After Mike got back from his trip he was so moved by his friend's daily actions that he sent his friend some money "to help in his ministry." A week later Mike got an envelope back from his friend. In the envelope was Mike's check with the words "make your own damn sandwiches" written across its face.

Where ever I might find myself and what ever I might be doing, I am called to make my own damn sandwiches and be the spoke in the wheel where ever I am. Bonhoeffer could not act alone and it seems on the surface his actions did have good results. But, as Shelly told me, God holds me accountable for my actions, not the results That I have to leave up to God.

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