New Visions of Hope for a _______ New World

What do you remember about September 2016? Try this thought experiment, “In September 2016 I was ___________.”

I was…32 years old. It was my first fall serving as pastor of this church. … That’s about it. I don’t remember much else. I’m guessing that unless you had a major milestone in your life that month…you probably don’t remember much about it, either. And yet, from the perspective of human history, September 2016 was a singularly monumental turning point. It was in that month that carbon dioxide was measured at 400 parts per million in the atmosphere. The last time there was that amount of carbon in earth’s atmosphere, humans didn’t exist.

All the people who were alive from August 2016 to October 2016 journeyed together from the world as we knew it into a planet that no human beings have ever inhabited before. Without interrupting our normal lives or leaving our homes…we all became adventurers on a shared expedition…literally going where no humans have gone before. So we find ourselves needing to think and move like the historic explorers who have come before us. We need to realize that however prepared we may or may not be, the journey will require us to live in new ways, to think in new ways, to utilize new tools, to adopt new mindsets and understandings. Life on a new and unpredictable planet is going to require us to adapt to new and unpredictable lives.

This is why our church is taking seriously the Theological Challenges we face. Our faith teaches us that God is constant and unchanging, ever-present and abounding in steadfast love. Even though human beings and the world they create change constantly—sometimes drastically and rapidly—God remains the eternal birther of grace and life. Even if God remains the same, however, the relationship between God and humans…the relationship between God the Creator and the world humans are creating…that relationship evolves and changes as well. The task for people of faith in this time is to think through the meaning and impact of these changes in our lives.

Yesterday in worship, we articulated an understanding of humans, God and Christ that might serve us well in this time: Humans are paradoxically creatures made of dirt/dust/ground and also “made in [God’s] image.” One of the earliest stories we tell about how humans have managed the tension between our physical, earthly nature and our Divine Selves was the time that humans broke God’s one and only rule…and then failed to take responsibility for their own actions (read for yourself HERE). Human beings are creatures who bear the image of the Divine Creator…the only sentient beings aware of the difference between Good and Evil…and it’s possible that our most tragic flaw is our inherent desire to not take responsibility for the evils we do.

In this understanding of what makes a Human Being, we could say humans are creatures born with a Divine Burden…a “terrible privilege”…knowing the thrills of evil and the gifts of goodness…constantly forced to choose between the two. God is the One who has given us all things, all gifts…for good or for ill….and Christ is the one who modeled what it looks like to choose what makes life good…and share it with others. Christ demonstrated both the joy of that choice…and its great costs.

I am not saying that all people need to believe in God or Christ in order to become more fully human. I simply offer this understanding of the “meaning of life” as it is helpful to me…and perhaps it is helpful to you.

We weep and pray over another weekend of violent tragedy in our country. I’m old enough to remember when mass murders were not a daily part of American life…but they are now…in this _________ new world.

We rage and reel at the blatant hate of all kinds that is spewed from Presidents and pundits alike across all our screens on a constant basis. I’m old enough to remember when our society took the collective responsibility to hold itself together through respect and tolerance (even though this allowed us to cover up our deepest, ugliest evils without ever actually redeeming them)…but in this ______ new world we have allowed our right to say anything we want to surpass our responsibility to “treat others as we would want to be treated.”

We fear and grieve the ways we have polluted our planet and altered its very being…possibly forever. In elementary school we were taught about Global Warming…and we were taught it was a far-off problem that humans would, naturally, solve. That was in the late 80’s…the exact same time that corporations and global powers were stifling any further conversation about the problem. And less than 30 years later, human beings collectively—if not entirely knowingly—brought this far-off problem directly to our doorstep. That is the _____ new world in which we live.

So where do we place our hope in this new world?

For me, Hope is found in a simple blank space…a blank space that it is our collective responsibility to fill. God has created us with the blessing and the burden to be connected to both Earth and Spirit…to both receive and share all that makes life good. God has shared with us all wisdom and insight, has elevated us to Divine Beings living an earthly existence, God has established a covenant with us that promises eternal life for the cost of loving ourselves as God loves us and loving our neighbors as ourselves. The world is literally ours to make…or unmake.

How would you like to describe this New World in which we live? Brave…Good…Kind…Loving…Generous…?

I place my hope in the blank space that has yet to be filled…knowing it is entirely possible that our generation can—by God’s grace, by Christ’s example, by the Spirit’s guiding—define what kind of New World our children and grandchildren will inherit.

For more exploration of Hope in our time, join us this Saturday from 9:00a.m.-3:00p.m. for handmade crafts and blueberries, and Sunday at 8:00a.m. and/or 10:00a.m. for worship,

Brian Gruhn