Troubling Reminders: The Breaking of Dawn
Last week in my Biblical Interpretation class, we were finishing up a section titled, “Is Scripture the Trustworthy Word of God?” The subtitle to that section is “If it is, what do we do with it?” A part of how that second question is to be answered is to realize the transforming power of Scripture in the heads and hearts of those who follow Jesus. The exact quote from the PowerPoint slide at this point was, “With Scripture – the extant story – in head and heart, believers are to the world what Jesus was to Israel.”
We spent a little time talking about “the world” to which we are called to bring the transforming message of Jesus. I asked a simple question – “What’s going on in the world right now?” The answer wasn’t quite so simple. Students mentioned issues like the outbreak of Ebola in Africa, the questions about justice in Ferguson, Missouri, the Ukraine versus Russian story, the Hamas versus Israel story, and of course the beheading of two American journalist by ISIS. Most of the students in this class aren’t old enough to remember the details of September 11, 2014 – but someone mentioned the anniversary was coming up – and that the events happening right now were cause for concern.
Perhaps we will never know exactly all the motivation for the horrific events of 9/11, or for that matter, what could motivate ISIS to do such cruel and inhumane acts against two Americans. Even more troubling is the fact that if what we read is true, often Christians are being targeted by terrorists groups simply because of their faith in Jesus.
Our culture’s insistence on remembering 9/11 every year along with the reality of today’s headlines provide for us troubling reminders of how desperately our world needs the Jesus story to become its story. To His own disciples, Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, so send I you.” (John 20:21) Only in our willingness to be Jesus to the world will His story become its story.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote much of Ethics while in concentration camps in Germany during the last years of his life. I think that if he and I compared “troubling reminders,” I would quickly concede and admit that he faced far greater struggles as a believer than I have. But that isn’t to say that the rather long and troubling list of items from my class when I asked them to tell me about our world isn’t challenging.
In the mist of his struggles, Bonhoeffer said “The night is not yet over, but already the dawn is breaking.” (Ethics, page 17) He said that in the context of understanding our call as followers of Jesus is to be Jesus to the world. “Only the form of Jesus Christ confronts the world and defeats it. And it is from this form alone that there comes the formation of a new world, a world which is reconciled with God.” (17)
Later in class I reminded my students that when we allow Scripture to be what God intended it to be and in our wrestling with its meaning and application in our own lives, “it allows us to move from mere story line about a man named Jesus to an agenda for the world which transforms it into the Kingdom of God.”
Just thinking about the memory searing images so many of us witness on September 11, 2001 is a troubling reminder of how evil humans apart from Jesus can be. Reading the front page of yesterday’s newspaper likely does the same. The world without the Jesus story embedded in its core being has no way to live beyond the old, beyond death, beyond sin.
But what we know – because the Jesus of trustworthy Scripture told us – is that God’s mission is to renew and restore creation to its God-intended purpose. In the person of Jesus, God has inaugurated that mission which will one day be fully consummated in the glory of His reappearing.
Until then, surrounded by troubling reminders, let us not forget what Bonhoeffer understood – “The night is not yet over, but already the dawn is breaking.”
Vice President for Spiritual Formation and Dean of the Chapel