Acts 1:15-17,21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19
By Melody Kroeger
A Pew Research poll on religion, released last week, found that the number of people identifying themselves as “Christians” has fallen significantly, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing. Facebook will begin publishing news content directly from nine news media organizations. Why? Because media consultants found that 57% of consumers will abandon a website if the page doesn’t load within three seconds. News organizations simply can’t keep up their web sites current with our “always on 24/7” world. HBO is launching a new online streaming service that doesn’t require a cable TV subscription. I purchased a new smart phone last week without having to sign a new two-year contract. No change of plan, no contract extension, just the phone!
The world is shifting on its axis, away from commitment with its weary demands and limitations on our freedom, toward an unencumbered life, released from the heavy burden of responsibility. We’re living in a world in which we can be independent – no longer needing to commitment to anything!
”Holy Father,” Jesus prays “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world…and the world has hated they because they do not belong with the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Protect them.”
It sounds surprising and even uncomfortable about the way Jesus talks about “the world” and those who follow him. But what Jesus prays about us is true; at a deep level we do not belong to the world. The world’s ethos is wrapped in cynicism, self-interest and driven by profits. Many nations are deeply embedded in a capitalist economic system fed by the relentless exploitation of our human and environmental resources. Those with too much take from those with too little. This is the world we live in.
And, this is the paradox of being Christian in our world. We gather together as a “set aside” community but also as a community that is sent into the world – called to play a role in birthing the kingdom into its fullness! And this is the good news! We are a community for whom Jesus prays. We are sanctified – made holy – by God so that we have the courage to speak the truth, unmasking evil, and working for justice even in the face of hatred, loss and heartbreak.
It is true that at times the Church itself has stumbled and become entangled in cynicism, trapped by the twin snares of greed and selfishness. We all face times of challenge and doubt. But we can take heart that other people of faith have traveled this road before us. We can take heart when we remember that we have the community of believers to love and support us; we have assurance that the Word is true and the comfort of knowing that Christ Jesus stands with us.
As Jesus prays, we do not actually belong to this world. We do not belong to hatred and desperation. We do not belong to “patterns of prejudice” or hard-fisted greed. This is not what we are meant for. This is not what we were set aside for. We were set aside by God to stand with the marginalized, committed to bring justice to those who cry out, committed to reminding the world to choose hope over despair, blessings over curses and love over hatred. We do not belong to the world. We belong to God.