Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Turning the World Right-Side Up

In the beginning God spoke the universe into being. (Scientists have yet to reveal what caused the big bang or where the matter came from that scattered to form the boundaries of the universe and all that dwell therein.) God spoke the word and what God spoke came into being. And, at some point God decided that what had been created was "very good." It was just the way God had intended it to be.

Then came the moment when evil an sin entered the world. This was not part of God's "very good" world. This was not God's intention. Evil and sin took root - in creation, but more importantly in the inner self of all of humankind. In other words, when push comes to shove and sometimes when it doesn't, or when we are up against a wall and sometimes when we are not, we tend to choose self over everything else. We tend to choose what feels good for us, what seems to benefit us the most and we tend not to think of what our choices and actions and words can do to someone else. I believe that this really clobbered God's "very good" world; and turned it upside down.

One of the main jobs of the church is to participate with God in turning the world right-side up again.

That's not an incredibly popular thing to do. Most folks are pleased with the world as it is, thank you very much. They have learned to live and prosper in an upside down world. It feels good because it is what they know, and how dare we threaten what they know and what they have come to depend on!

There is an interesting scene in the book of Acts where Paul and Silas come to the city of Thessalonica and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the synagogue. Some of the synagogue folks were upset so naturally they started a riot. When the police came the charge against Paul and Silas was that they were the guys who were "turning the world upside down." It would be interesting to see the legal briefs on that one.

The world they were turning "upside down" (or right-side up depending on how you look at it) was a world of sin and corruption, injustice and inequality, idolatry and vice of every kind.

I am pretty sure that turning that kind of world upside down is a good thing. It isn't a popular thing, but a good thing. Turning the world right-side up means change and change is threatening to some people because change means going from what is known to what is unknown. But, it seems to me that if evil, injustice and corruption are the status quo, it is a good thing to overturn them in favor of what is just and good and right.

Sin and evil are indeed the status quo for the most part. Do I really need to illustrate from current headlines??? The church is called to be the prophetic voice for what is good and right and just and Godly in this world. But, if all we have are words, then we join the ranks of the crystal ball-gazers and snake oil salesmen that all seem to have an alternative suggestion for how this world should run. We MUST put action to our voice. We must be agents of change, even if that simply means changing our little corner of the world.

After Apartheid was thrown out as the official policy of South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The idea was that anyone who had committed a human rights crime could come forward, reveal the truth and find some sense of forgiveness for participating in a world truly upside down. How well that worked is up for debate, but it was a Godly step that reflected the values of the Kingdom of God - thus it was a step toward turning the world right-side up. Desmond Tutu told audiences that maybe God was using his little country to model a part of the Kingdom to the rest of the world.

Maybe we aren't going to set up any kind of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (on the other hand the church is supposed to be a kind of Truth and Reconciliation place anyway), but we CAN model part of the Kingdom of God through our words and actions; we can do things that help God turn the world right-side up again.

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