Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Not Mending Fences

"Not Mending Fences"
Rev. 7:9-17[1]
Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets. In a collection of poems published almost a hundred years ago, he included a now-famous poem called “Mending Wall.” Its opening line, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” expresses a sense of questioning the validity of the boundaries in this world. He articulates the question like this: “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offence. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.”[2]
Now, what we have to understand is that in Frost’s New England stone “walls” were the “fences.” The poem is about the annual ritual that he and his neighbor perform—walking the wall to replace stones that have come off. Hence the notion of “mending fences.” His neighbor insists on holding firmly to the notion handed down to him that “Good fences make good neighbors.” But Frost saw the very forces of nature as arrayed against the continued existence of fences—between the ground swelling and contracting, toppling the stones, and the action of ice freezing and breaking up the stones, the very elements themselves conspired to bring down the walls and fences that conventional wisdom insisted “make good neighbors.” From Frost’s perspective, it would seem that God has built into the very process of nature that which continually uproots and overturns and tears down walls and fences—and perhaps also boundaries and divisions.
This would seem to be one of the points of the vision of the great multitude that no one could count in Revelation 7:9—in the throng worshiping the one on the throne and the Lamb, all the boundaries and lines and divisions that separate people from one another are torn down. Now, we must acknowledge at the outset that this vision is contrary to the way of the world. The world in which we live says that only members are allowed; it says you must have on shoes and a shirt to receive service; it reinforces the notion that differences in color and culture constitute absolute boundaries that must be upheld against all threats. This world wants clear boundaries and fences—and laws that reinforce them!
In the Kingdom of God, however, the standard operating procedure is “neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female, neither slave nor free” (Gal 3:28);[3] it is neither white nor black nor brown nor yellow nor red, neither rich or poor, neither employed or unemployed, neither native born citizen or illegal alien, but all are included in God’s vision for humankind. Like Frost’s notion of creation conspiring to bring down all the walls and fences in our world, God’s Kingdom is designed so that nothing will be left that can possibly divide us!
The vision of the great multitude in Revelation is a startling one if we let it stand on its own. I think the majority view in mainline protestant churches like ours has been to read this passage as if the great multitude were white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant Christian, middle- to upper-class voting citizens of the USA! What a pale vision that is! The seer of Revelation says that this multitude comes from every nation, from “all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev. 7:9). In the First-Century world, I would imagine that as a description of just about every distinction that could divide the human family. In our day and time we have added some distinctions—creed, social class, sexual orientation, political affiliation, just to name a few. But the point of the vision is that the “great multitude” cuts across all of these ways in which we like to divide humanity and segregate others who are different from us.
This is the vision of the kingdom of God—it includes all people; some have tried to make it only a vast throng of Christians from every people group, but I disagree with that. [4] I think it is the vision of universal salvation that the book of Genesis articulates in the narrative of Abraham’s call: “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). The implication is clear: from start to finish, God’s purpose is to restore all people.[5] And the vision of the vast and diverse crowd around the throne in Revelation gives us an idea of what that might look like.[6]
This vision lies at the heart of the call in the book of Revelation to follow the way of the Lamb who was slain. But make no mistake about it; it is also a vision that implies a danger for all who determine to follow this way.[7] It is dangerous to follow a man who was executed for turning the world upside down. It is dangerous to hold faithfully to the testimony of the Lamb who was slain, the one who wins the victory not by force but by giving himself over to death. Jesus Christ performed the ultimate act of non-violent sacrifice, and by so doing he won the ultimate victory over evil and death and violence and injustice—and even over the divisions of this world.
The biblical writers insist that act of sacrifice changed everything for everybody.[8] It “turned the world upside down.” And every time one of us chooses to follow the way of the Lamb in a world that is diametrically opposed to that way, we continue the process of “turning the world upside down.” It would seem then that “mending fences” is something that those of us who seek to follow the Lamb have no business doing! When we take this approach, we must expect opposition, hostility, and perhaps even violence in reaction to our determination to follow the way of the Lamb. [9] But in the long run, I think we can take comfort from the assurance that one day the way of the Lamb will be vindicated; one day all the walls and fences and boundaries and divisions in this world will be eliminated.[10] This is the vision of God’s Kingdom—and as Robert Frost suggested, we can see it written into the very processes of creation.

[1] © 2010 Alan Brehm. A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 4/25/10 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX and at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX.
[2] Robert Frost, “Mending Wall,” from North of Boston.
[3] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit, 84, 106, 188, 292, 316, 338-39, 342
[4] Cf. Moltmann, Church in the Power, 135: “Christian eschatology is not merely eschatology for Christians”! Cf. similarly, ibid., 293: since the Christian community is “the sign, the instrument, and the breaking-in” of Christ’s reign and therefore of the new creation, it “is therefore not an exclusive community of the saved, but the initial and inclusive materialization of the world freed by the risen Christ.”
[5] Cf. Moltmann, Church in the Power, 59-60, where he describes the intention of God’s work as leading the glorification of God: “The glory of God is only completed when the ‘creation at the beginning’ is consummated by the ‘new creation at the end’ and when the whole redeemed existence joyfully raises the hymn of eternal thanksgiving.” That sounds like an appropriate description of the vision in Revelation 7! Cf. further ibid., 63-65.
[6] Cf. Richard Bauckham, “The List of the Tribes in Revelation 7, Again,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 42 (1991):99-115; cf. 103, where he emphasizes the vision of the innumberable multitude as a fulfillment of the promise to Abraham and his descendants; cf. also Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 300; David E. Aune, Revelation 6-16, 466-67; cf. further Balmer H. Kelly, “Revelation 7:9-17,” Interpretation 40 (July, 1986): 290; he points also to Isaiah 49 as a basis for this vision.
[7] Cf. also J. Clinton McCann, “Preaching the Psalms: Psalm 23,” Journal for Preachers 31 ( Lent 2008): 43-48, who brings out the similar danger of affirming “the Lord is my shepherd”!
[8] Cf. Kimberley Bracken Long, “Who are These People? Revelation 7:9-17,” Journal for Preachers 28 (Easter 2005): 27-30.
[9] Cf. Gary W. Charles, “Diving into Wonderland: Preaching Revelation in the Mainline Pulpit,” in Journal for Preachers (Advent 2006):15-20.
[10] Cf. Kelly, “Revelation 7:9-17,” 294, where he says this passage presents “an unalloyed ‘gospel,’ a seeing and hearing of the final justification of Christian hope. … The strength of the biblical hope is that it focuses on what is real rather than simply on what will be. Triumph will be because it is the fundamental truth of human life corresponding to the truth of God.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

“The Best is Yet to Come”
Psalm 30[1]
I think it is safe to say that most of us are living through something we never thought we would ever experience. I think it is also safe to say that most of us are riding a roller-coaster of emotions right now. Overwhelmed with the immensity of the task one day, and on the next firmly resolved and optimistic about the future; angry at the injustice of what happened one day, and on the next deeply saddened at the loss of our community’s home. I think we’re going to have to reckon with the fact that this is just the way it’s going to be for awhile. It’s the nature of grief, as Ellie shared with our congregation. There is the denial that says, “No way!” to a tragedy. There is the anger that says, “No!!!!!” There is the bargaining that says, “Maybe not if?” There is the sadness that says, “Oh no.” And then there is the acceptance that says, “Okay.”
I’ve shared the whole gamut of feelings you have all had. I must confess that when I think too far ahead in this process, I get pretty scared. I can lay out the origins of the Bible in great detail, and I can discuss the intricacies of the Trinity with the best, but I’ve never done anything like this! On Tuesday morning as I was heading to Livingston for the Minister’s retreat at Cho-yeh, I did have the fleeting thought that “I have a full tank of gas, I have a few clothes and some books and 2 of my guitars, and I could just keep going!” One of the services we had at the retreat was a healing service, where all could just silently present their burdens to God and have the experience of feeling the others lay their hands on us and hearing the group pray for us out loud. One of the Scriptures we used during that service was Psalm 139. In The Message translation, one part of it says, “Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? To be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there!” (Ps. 139:7-8). At one point in that service, I was thinking about how overwhelming the task ahead feels to me, and the thought came to me, “I’m there.” I realized that no matter how overwhelming all of this may feel to us, God is there—in every step of the process. Could we even say that God is already there at the opening service of our new building? I think we can.
But we mere mortals have to go through the process one step a time, one day at a time. We all have to go through the stages: “No way!”; “No!!!!”; “Maybe not if?”; “Oh no”; and “Okay.” If we don’t, we will very likely blow a gasket! The grief process has a will of its own in each individual and it will have its way. If you try to take a short-cut directly from A to Z, it will come back to bite you!
I think for us as people of faith, as people who look to Easter as a sign of what God is doing in the world, there is another dimension to this. I think the fact that God brought life out of death in the case of Jesus of Nazareth points us to the truth that God brings new life out of every death. And so as we look this tragedy squarely in the face and take the grief process seriously, I think there is also an element of, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”
I think that is something of the perspective of the Psalmist in our Scripture for today. The Psalmist praises God for an experience of restoration that felt like coming back to life after being in hell (Ps. 30:3). Because of that experience of being restored to life, the Psalmist praises God as the one who “turns my mourning into dancing.” The reality is that the faith of the Psalmists comes out of the depth of pain and suffering. But they look at that pain and suffering from a different perspective. The Psalmists’ praises reflect the joy of redemption —or at least the joy of the hope of redemption. [2]
A few years ago my wife was at a crossroads in her career. She had built her business at the original location to a point where she really couldn’t grow any more. So she had to decide whether to just coast for a while, and let things ride, or to try to open a new store. Well, I don’t think my wife has ever “coasted” for any significant length of time! So she started looking for places where she could build a new salon. At one point, she was worried about whether or not she could handle two salons, and so she asked me what I thought about it. I told her that if she approached it by trying to control the outcome, I thought it would make her crazy, but if she could view it as a venture of the spirit, and let go of the outcomes in the confidence that things would turn out good, then she should definitely go for it.
I think that’s a message for all of us. If we approach the process and the task that lies ahead of us from the perspective of anxiously holding onto the outcomes, insisting that it has to be a certain way, then it will make us crazy, and I think it could even weaken this community. But if we can approach the path that lies before us with the confidence that the best is yet to come, letting go of the outcomes and simply taking each step of this task as a venture of the spirit—or an “Adventure of the (Holy) Spirit”—then I firmly believe we will emerge stronger and more vibrant than ever. I think we can do this—and that we will grow stronger through it. We will have to take it one step at a time, but we can do this. And we can do it in the hope that the best is yet to come.

[1] © 2010 Alan Brehm. A sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 4/18/10 at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX in the aftermath of the fire that destroyed our building.
[2] Walter J. Burghardt, S. J. “Gospel Joy,” The Living Pulpit (Oct-Dec 1996): 38-39; cf. also J. Moltmann, The Passion for Life: A Messianic Lifestyle, 72, 73, 74: the praise of the Psalms is the “laughter of the redeemed, the dance of the liberated; cf. further J. L. Mays, Psalms, 140-41; Patrick D. Miller, “In Praise and Thanksgiving” Theology Today 45 (July 1988); Henri Nouwen, Turn My Mourning Into Dancing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Community of the Servant-Savior[1]

Many of you may not know that when I was undergoing my career transition several years ago, we drove by this church and I noticed the sign that has “Servant-Savior” in large letters, and I told Kristi that I wanted to be the pastor of a church that called itself “A Community of the Servant-Savior”! And here I am!

I think it is ironic that the last posting on my sermon blog is my sermon from Palm Sunday where I talked about experiencing the contradiction of this world when we determine to follow Christ. We don’t yet know whether that’s what happened here, but I think all of us have experienced the discouragement and exhaustion I talked about. When we have to carry these kinds of burdens, I think we often feel like we are alone—but to our church family, I want to say look around you—this group of friends who are here to support us is just a sample of support we are receiving from all over the country. I’ve lost count of the email, phone, and facebook messages I’ve received.

As our story gets told in the public forum, unfortunately various people will use our tragedy to promote their agenda, and in the process will try to define our identity accordingly. I want to just take a few minutes to remind us of who we are. We are A Community of the Servant-Savior!

We are a community—not the community, but simply a community. That word is full of meaning—we are a family, we are a supportive and embracing group, we seek to include all who want to join with us on our journey of faith. But it is also incredibly vulnerable and humble. It suggests openness to the Spirit of God. We seek to create a safe place in which to ask questions, to be closer to God and to share in community in a deep way. And it suggests that we see ourselves as “in process,” not that we have “arrived” or “stand” for anything other than that kind of genuine spiritual quest.

We are also a community of the savior, Jesus the Christ. While we take Jesus seriously, we take ourselves lightly. We are a community of the “Servant-Savior.” We believe that Jesus came to “serve, not to be served.” And we also take seriously our commitment to follow Christ in that spirit of service.

Because of that commitment, we seek to promote the justice, peace, and acceptance of God’s kingdom. We see diversity as one of God's many blessings to the community and so we welcome everyone—regardless of nationality, race, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation. And because of that commitment we seek to be careful stewards of all the earth, embracing and celebrating the goodness of God’s creation.

These are just some highlights of who we are as “A Community of the Servant-Savior.” I’ve only been here a couple of years, but I firmly believe that we will emerge from the tomb of this rubble to a whole new and vibrant existence, just as our Servant-Savior did on that first Easter Sunday.

[1] © 2010 Alan Brehm. Thoughts delivered by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 4/11/10 at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX in the aftermath of the fire that destroyed our building.

A Whole New World

Isa 65:17-25; Ps 118; 1 Cor. 15:19-26[1]

Over the last several weeks we’ve been looking at the steps of Christian faith. They include:

· Confessing “Jesus is Lord” because we are not our own, but we belong to God

· Embracing the faith that God is working to bring life and love and peace and justice to all things and everyone;

· Trusting in the faithful mercies of God in the face of the tragic suffering in our world;

· Entrusting ourselves to compassion of God that is transforming us from within, making us “new” in the process of making all things new; and

· Consciously deciding to follow a man who was executed with the full awareness that it means we too must carry the cross.

I don’t think that these ideas exhaust what it means to embrace faith. But just looking over the list, it seems a daunting task, a project that will take a lifetime. It is not an easy path to walk.

If you ask most people sitting in any kind of church on this Easter Sunday why they are willing to make such an effort, I think the answer you would get is “so that I can go to heaven when I die!” The path of following Jesus is a hard one, and the payoff that keeps people going is the promise that when they die they will enter heavenly bliss.

Now, let me say that I don't think there's anything wrong with anyone believing they will go to heaven when they die because of their Christian faith. It just doesn't go far enough. It turns salvation into something that you “get” when you die rather than something that we have right here and now, it makes Christian discipleship into a condition for “getting in” instead of a way of life in response to God's grace, and it defers the Kingdom of God into “the sweet by and by.” In a very real sense, I think it makes God into a kind of kiosk operator handing out tickets to a “the greatest show not on earth.” In short, making the Christian faith about “going to heaven when you die” misses the point of the good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.[2]

The Christian faith is one that is focused on promises like “I am about to create new heavens and a new earth,” and “they shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain,” and “as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ,” and “I am making everything new.” While it is true that the good news creates for each of us on an individual level a renewed experience of God’s love, that is only the beginning of what God is up to in this world, not the end.[3] From the biblical perspective, our faith is about the hope that the power to raise to life one who was imprisoned in death is a power that can transform everything and everyone. The good news of Easter creates in us the confidence is that “he who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one.” It constitutes a kind of promise—Paul calls it the “first fruits”—that the new life that transformed Jesus on that first Easter morning will one day transform everything and everyone. We hold this faith in the assurance that if death could not stop him, then nothing can.

The point of Christian faith is what Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls God’s “dream”: that God is working in this world toward a day when “justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” when “nations will not learn war any more,” and when we will see “the end of cruelty and suffering in the world.”[4] It is a dream of a whole new world where all people and even all of nature are filled with God’s love, God’s freedom, God’s joy, and God’s life.[5] This dream is difficult for us to imagine. As the prophet Isaiah put it, it will be something completely new and different from anything anybody could possibly envision. He said that God’s new world would be something that doesn’t even compare with the “former things” (Isa. 65:17; cf. also 43:18). It is nothing less than “the perfecting of the whole creation.”[6] While that may seem too utopian a dream to put much stock in, while it may seem like so much “pie in the sky” wishful thinking, the fact is that our faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ “calls us to hope for more than we have yet seen.”[7]

The good news of Easter is that if we can rise above anxiously worrying about “going to heaven,” then we can begin to gain a vision of God’s whole new world in which “evil in all its forms will be utterly eradicated,” so that “God is really honored as God, human beings are truly loving, and peace and justice reign on earth.”[8] That vision of God’s whole new world calls us away from the trappings of this world that try to captivate our hearts and minds. And that vision draws us into the peace and joy and hope of God’s whole new world—right here and right now. It inspires us to “seek first God’s kingdom and God’s justice”—in this world, right here and right now.[9]

[1] © 2010 Alan Brehm. A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 4/4/10 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX and at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX.

[2] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, The Way of Jesus Christ, 4: he says this view of Christian faith is “truncated” because (among other things) it severs the connection with the hope of the messianic kingdom of justice and peace in the Hebrew Bible.

[3] Moltmann, Way of Jesus, 284-85.

[4] Presbyterian Church in the United States. A Declaration of Faith. 117th General Assembly (1977), reissued by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1991, § 8.3; 8.5; 10.2.

[5] Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom, 124, 178; cf. also Moltmann, Way of Jesus, 306-7; cf. also The Book of Confessions, “The Confession of 1967,” 9.32.

[6] Moltmann, Way of Jesus, 303-4; cf. also Jürgen Moltmann, The Coming of God, 265-66.

[7] Declaration of Faith 10.1.

[8] Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The Study Catechism: Full Version with Biblical References, 210th General Assembly (1998); question 85.

[9] Cf. Moltmann, Coming of God, 234.

Friday, April 02, 2010


Isa 50:4-9; Ps 31; Phil 2:5-11[1]
No discussion of the steps of Christian faith would be complete without acknowledging that it is essentially a decision to follow a man who was ridiculed and executed. It is one of the difficult aspects of our faith, mainly because that man called all who would be his followers to live a life that consists of “dying” for others. Jesus said, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27). This is such a prominent feature in the call to discipleship that Jesus gives us that I am astonished that there are people who think that if we follow him our lives will somehow be exempt from suffering.
But suffering is unavoidable for those of us who determine to follow Christ. This is true above all because we live in a world where the principles by which people operate are in direct contradiction to the principles of God’s kingdom. Among the many I could quote are:
• There’s only so much to go around; I’ve got mine and you have to get yours
• I have the right to defend my property even by violence
• Winning is the only thing, nothing else matters
Let’s look at those “standard operating procedures” of our world. The first is the one that says with Roger Waters of “Pink Floyd,” “I’ve got mine, Jack, keep your hands off my stack.”[2] We hear it in different versions these days, like “I’m not responsible for those who can’t stand on their own feet.”[3] But essentially it is the principle that “I’ve got mine, you have to get yours.” But Jesus says, “none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions” (Luke 14:33).
The second principle of our world is the one that says, “You can take my gun away from me when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.” It is the notion that violence is “legitimate” if I’m defending myself.[4] But Jesus condemns the death and destruction violence spreads when he says, “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52).
The third principle is the one that elevates competition and success above everything else. It is the idea that “There are only winners and losers; if you’re not a winner, you’re a loser.” Again, in direct contradiction to the way things work in our world, Jesus says, “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24).
We live in a world where following Christ—really following Christ and not just “playing” at discipleship—means that we must inevitably experience the “contradiction” of the world in which we live.[5] We should expect ridicule and humiliation, opposition and anger, in response to the principles Jesus articulated. We should expect that if we determine to seek first God’s kingdom and God’s justice (Matt. 6:33),[6] which flies in the face of the vested interests who hold the money and the power and the influence in our world,[7] those who belong to the vested interests will call us things like “fascist” and “communist,” and even worse.
In contrast to the success mentality and prosperity orientation of our world, the Bible speaks of the “servant of the Lord” as one who essentially suffers. If this flies in the face of the standards of this world, it is only another indication of how far the standards of this world miss the mark. In contrast, the God who pours out love in this world, who lavishes us all with the compassion that transforms us into something new, must experience that self-giving as suffering. And so God’s servants are called to suffer because it is the only way to truly fulfill God’s purposes in a world of suffering and injustice.[8] Those who truly seek to follow Christ, who truly seek to serve God’s purposes and to promote God’s kingdom, and who truly seek to align their lives with God’s new creation will inevitably suffer as well.
In our lesson from Isaiah, the way that the servant suffers is by the experience of shame. The servant speaks of being humiliated in his own day and time because he has listened carefully to the message of God’s peace and God’s justice restoring this world, and has sought to teach that message to those around him. And the response of the vested interests of his day was no different from the way the vested interests of our day respond. They attacked him and humiliated him.
I’m not so sure that the humiliation factor is that significant to us. I almost think that discouragement is more of a concern in our experience of suffering for our faith. It is discouraging to continually face the contradiction between our faith and the way the majority of people in our society live. It can be exhausting to swim upstream continually, day after day. I think we can get weary from going against the grain all the time. And exhaustion leads to discouragement—to the cry, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” I think one of the most significant temptations for Christians in this culture is to just give up and go with the majority. It’s hard maintaining the effort of marching to a different tune while everyone around you looks at you like you’re stupid or crazy.
There is a very real sense in which we live our lives in our own “Good Friday” of following Jesus by “carrying the cross” (Luke 14:27). It can be dark and discouraging on Good Friday, but Easter morning is coming, and with it the joy of our “mourning turned into dancing” (Ps. 30:11)! Although it may feel like we are alone when we endure the contradiction of this world, we are not alone—we have the empowering presence of God as well as the support of a community. We really need no other vindication than the knowledge that it is God’s new creation that we are struggling for, and God will win the victory in the end. Therefore we can be confident that “in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).[9]

[1] © 2010 Alan Brehm. A sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm on 3/28/10 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX and at A Community of the Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX.
[2] Lyrics to “Money” from the Album The Dark Side of the Moon (Harvest/Capitol: 1973).
[3]Cf. Darrell Jodock, “Standing with the victims,” The Christian Century, March 22, 1995: one of the implications of following the Christ who was a victim of the “powers” of his day is that “The task of Christians is to keep our attention firmly fixed on those ‘falling through the cracks’ so that there is someone present to watch out for their interests.”
[4] Cf. Walter Wink, The Powers that Be, 42-43, where he describes the “Myth of Redemptive Violence” as “the dominant religion in our society today”! cf. also p. 48-56, where he demonstrates how “Redemptive violence gives way to violence as an end in itself” through Media like TV and film (p. 56). He concludes, “violence can never stop violence” because its very success only breeds more violence (p. 134); on the other hand resisting evil through nonviolent means “never fails, because every nonviolent act is a revelation of God’s new order breaking into the world” (p. 135).
[5] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, 21: "Faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience. It does not calm the unquiet heart, but is itself this unquiet heart in man. Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it."
[6] For this translation of the well-known verse that usually reads, “seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness,” see the Revised English Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible, among others.
[7] Cf. Wink, The Powers that Be, 39: he calls this “The Domination System” which he says “is characterized by unjust economic relations, oppressive political relations, biased race relations, patriarchal gender relations, hierarchical power relations, and the use of violence to maintain them all.”
[8] Cf. Wink, The Powers That Be, 124, 134-35.
[9] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, A Broad Place: An Autobiography, 103-4: “hope for an alternative future brings us into contradiction with the existing present. ...If we had before our eyes only what we see, then we should come to terms with things as they simply are ... . The fact that we don't come to terms with them ... is the unquenchable spark of hope for the fullness of life, for righteousness and justice on the new earth, and for the kingdom of God. That keeps us unreconciled, restless and open for God's great day.”