Repairing the World

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How do we measure up when compared with Yeshua’s* mission? Are we faithful participants in construction the Way toward the Commonwealth of God’s Peace and Justice?

Mark 1:14-15 & 27-28       14 After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, 15 saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”… 27 Everyone was shaken and questioned among themselves, “What’s this? A new teaching with authority! He even commands unclean spirits and they obey him!” 28 Right away the news about him spread throughout the entire region of Galilee. (CEB)
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
[Image: “Creative Commons guernica” by Laurence Simon (Crap Mariner) is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Pondering Mark 1:14-15 & 27-28

Hildegard of Bingen characterized two activities which comprise Christian spirituality — clinging to God (devekut) and repairing the world (tikkun olam). These activities are analogous to the twin facets of Yeshua’s* mission which “involves him in disseminating the good news of God and in expelling the forces of oppression and dehumanization throughout Galilee” (Waetjen, A Reordering of Power: The Socio-Political Reading of Mark’s Gospel, 1989, p. 84). Both descriptions harken back to Micah’s depiction of what God requires — namely “to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, CEB)

Tikkun olam is an embodiment of both “embracing faithful love” (caring for the poor and dispossessed) and “doing justice” (reordering power to give the poor and dispossessed a level playing field, an equal access to abundant life).

As I reflect back over my years of active ministry as a pastor and a regional church executive, I realized that the more I tried to engage church members and presbyters in repairing (tikkun olam) the church and its worldliness the more resistance I found, which lead to a drain on my devekut. Conversely, when I don’t attend to my devekut, I have no energy or passion for tikkun olam.

The church, it seems, gravitates toward devekut and away from tikkun olam. Why is that? Is it because tikkun olam is scary and involves “getting our hands dirty” in politics? Probably. Is it because in the “normalcy of civilization” (John Dominic Crossan’s term for the Domination System) organized religion easily becomes a retainer in the system — that is, a lower official dependent upon the favor of the Powers that be, while keeping the people focused away from true social and political power? Most likely!

In American society, where religion and politics don’t mix in polite company, we have seen that all the economic growth over the past 30 years was passed up to the wealthiest 10%. Political rhetoric and action is tending toward restricting voter rights and defaming immigrants while, in the church, we are still arguing over gays and lesbians (and paralyzing ourselves in the process). In some quarters of the church, “evolution” and “climate change” are verbal signifiers of heresy.

Failure to engage in repairing the world (tikkun olam) depletes and calls into question the validity of the good news that the church proclaims (devekut). To what God(s) are we truly clinging? Does Yeshua’s mission no longer have the power to attract and inspire?

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