For Sunday, December 30, 2012
First Sunday After Christmas
This has been a difficult week for my local church, Elmbrook. One of our young leaders and a promising police officer, Jennifer Sebena, was brutally killed by another one of our members and her husband, Ben Sebena. This comes on the heals of the Newtown, CT tragedy and two recent local mass shootings at Azana Salon and Spa and the local Sikh Temple. Our world can be brutal beyond words. Jennifer was shot in the back of the head twice and then three times in the face. Ben was an Iraq war veteran who’s testimony had been featured at one of Elmbrook’s mens’ conferences two years ago.
I had breakfast with my friend John Witmer earlier this week. His own daughter Michelle was the first female National Guard member ever killed in combat. Thinking about Jennifer’s death, the loss he suffered, and what seems to me to be the futility of our country’s attempted nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan I asked him, “What are we still doing over there?” We couldn’t answer the question with anything other than great cynicism.
Amidst such brutality, injustice, and cynicism, what can we as the church do? We can do Colossians 3:12-17. We can be compassion and kindness in the face of brutality. We can decide to have our own lives defined by love rather than capitulation to injustice. We can let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts rather than cynicism because the greatest brutality and the greatest injustice was done to the Son of God Himself when we ourselves as humanity writ large crucified him on a cross. Yet this wasn’t the end; it was the beginning of a new community founded on faith, hope, and love.
What the world needs most is a church in the world that can be itself without reservation. When we gather, I don’t think we ought to be watering down our message to make it palatable to a wider demographic. What we ought to be doing is what we read here. We ought to be letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly. We ought to be teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom. We ought to be able to sing with real gratitude that amidst brutality, injustice, and cynicism, there is something real – a loving Father that sacrificed his one and only Son for a brutal, unjust, and cynical bunch such as ourselves.
The immediate context of this passage is Colossians 3:1 which says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” There is a place above, and in that place Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, having already secured our future and hope. This is more real than the computer screen on which you are reading. We are called to be the community of something real; can we stop pretending and get on with it?
Point to Ponder:
What is the voice of God saying to you about how you could help build a community of something real within your own sphere of influence this week?