Now We Know!
A useful technique to deal with stress, anxiety and uncertainty is to find a neutral space or as they say “go to neutral.” This neutral space could be a physical or an emotional place! “Going to neutral” supposedly will give you the opportunity to recalibrate, to re-orientate yourself. Once you find this space you may be able to look at the problem from a different angle, with a new perspective and with new insight! Once you remove yourself from the emotions and anxiety of here and now, once you see the bigger picture, you may see that your situation is not as dire. Somehow it seems that if you are able to remove yourself a bit from your world, you are able to have a better perspective, you are able find tranquility and peace.
“Going neutral” of course is easier said than done. Why is it so hard for us to remove ourselves from our situation to get a better perspective? It is hard simply because we are prisoners of our world. We are time and context bound! It is almost impossible to remove ourselves from our situation and have an objective view where we are in that particular moment in time. This is one reason why we look back and are astounded about views, practices and decisions that were accepted and condoned in the past. We look back on people’s actions in the past and we shake our heads asking: “How is it possible that someone could have this view?” What were they thinking that they could support and defend this outrageous standpoint?” Let me give you an example: There was a time when most manufacturing businesses would simply dump their toxic waste in rivers without thinking of the consequences. Most companies would not do that today. I say most, but not all because as recently as 2014 one of the biggest food producers in the world sent over 18 million pounds of toxic chemical into US waterways. We have some ways to go but we have made progress. My point however is that removing ourselves from our world to find a neutral space is not easy.
It is beneficial, but not easy, to remove ourselves from our situation and look at our world from a distance.
This reminds me of the song with the title “From a distance” written by Julie Gold and sung by Bette Midler.
From a distance the world looks blue and green
And the snow-capped mountains white
From a distance the ocean meets the stream
And the eagle takes to flight
From a distance there is harmony
And it echoes through the land
It’s the voice of hope
It’s the voice of peace
It’s the voice of every man
From a distance we all have enough
And no one is in need
And there are no guns, no bombs and no disease
No hungry mouths to feed
From a distance we are instruments
Marching in a common band
Playing songs of hope
Playing songs of peace
They are the songs of every man
God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us from a distance
From a distance you look like my friend
Even though we are at war
From a distance I just cannot comprehend
What all this fighting’s for.
I love the words of this song! And I generally like the theology of this song! Who would disagree and who does not long for a world where war, violence and disease are absent? Who does not have a deep longing for a world where, in the words of Isaiah 11:6 “the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together and a little child shall lead them. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.”
Great lyrics! However there is one sentence of Julie Gold’s song that is theologically plain wrong. She wrote: “God is watching us, God is watching us from a distance.”
Now for most of humankind this was true that God watched from a distance: We read for example in the Book of Genesis that God looked down on humankind and saw that the earth was corrupt. The emphasis for most of human history was that God was transcendent – in other words God was removed from this world, God watched from a distance! So for most of human history Bette Midler was correct when she sang:
God is watching us from a distance.
But the Hebrew author makes an astonishing statement: “Long ago, God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being!”
So even though there was a time – a really long time- when God was watching us from a distance, that is not the case anymore. A radical change occurred! When Jesus was born, when he became flesh, the author of Hebrews is saying: God himself became one of us! God himself broke into this world so that we can see God’s face in Jesus – the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being!
So gone are the days when God was absent or watching us from a distance! God has crossed the divide to walk with us, to be with us, as one of us! And we will never be forsaken by God! Never again can one state that God is watching us from a distance.
After Christ entered this world, God is Immanuel – God with us!
The implications of this theological shift are enormous! As people who have seen God’s face, as people who have been transformed by God’s love of us and who have been promised life eternal, we are now able to see the world through a different lens! Never again do we have to be so blinded by the here and now or our own context that we became fearful and anxious. The fact that God speaks to us through Jesus, should help us to see this world, our life, our challenges and concerns in a different light. The fact that Jesus became flesh and God broke into this world, should help us to find a space where we can see the world, other human beings, life as such in a new light. Christ, who was one with God and through whom everything as created, shows us another way to live because God is now with us! In a way we look, or should look, at the world through the eyes of Jesus.
Jesus, the Son of God, but also the exact imprint of God provides us, the church, with a neutral space to deal with our stress and our questions and our anxieties! In him and by his example we have an objective and timeless view of what God wants for this world. We have an objective view of what actions and decisions are good and lasting. These are the ones guided and driven by love of God and love of neighbor. These are the actions that are driven in the words of Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is nothing complicated about them. The problem is that people often look at these and say: “yes but… and then use all kinds of intellectual gymnastics to justify war, impatience, cruelty, meanness, harshness and intolerance. When we do this we once again become prisoners of our context! And hsitroy will again judge are actions, decisions and points of view in a harsh way!
But there is more to this. As we meet here today, there are many millions of people who are also meeting.
Collectively the church, you and I and many other sisters and brothers of Christ are celebrating the greatest gift ever given to humankind-God’s only Son. We believe that God by sending our brother Jesus Christ to this world put an end to hostility and brought us a divine peace that goes beyond our understanding. This seems to me is a real divine gift. In a world where people are in uproar and wars never seem to end, in a world where distrust between peoples is seen as normal, a world where angst, worries and concerns are commonly shared feelings, in such a world the Son of God assures us that we will have peace! In a world where the future is uncertain, where resources are scarce, where life is vulnerable and where injustice, hate and greed seem too strong, Jesus reassures us that we are in safe hands! In this broken world, the Son of God came to bring us peace, and to show us that it is possible for people to live in harmony.
From a distance God is watching us. No, we believe that God is walking right next to us, in Christ God has become one of us! Now it is up to us to live as God’s people with our eyes on Jesus, following his example and serving the way he served us – fearless, with commitment and love! If we do so we will be in a good place and history will judge us kindly! Amen.