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I am rebuilding a violin made in 1719 by a famous builder. I can spend hours in my garage meticulously working over every detail. Reminds me of Bezalel and Oholiab called out by name in the Book of Exodus to oversee the building of the tabernacle — not that I am on that level!
Some religious traditions hold that there are places and events where the veil between heaven and earth is very thin; where one experiences God’s presence in a real and personal way. I think most of us can relate to that. When I’m working on that violin, it often seems that the veil is so very thin and I find myself, as it were, in the presence of the Creator God.
However, sometimes that veil can be as thick as cement. In the case of the Human Sexuality Report — how it came to be and was passed — I believe that is true. As many of you know the General Synod of the Christian Reformed Church approved this 175 page report. Although in the report there is an effort to embrace members of the LGBTQ community, in effect it does the opposite.
The congregation to which I belong has a pretty full range of opinions about welcoming and affirming LGBTQ people. Still we sit side by side with each other in full communion. To be honest, we lost a couple families over this, but we have also gained several due to our being inclusive and welcoming.
The Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples and in turn us to pray, has this phrase in it: “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” When we think of the Kingdom we often think of a future time when God sets things right. However when Jesus announced the coming of the kingdom, it was in the present, not the future. He announced the Kingdom was at hand, it was and is now, not just something in the future.
Some Christian traditions believe this earth and cosmos will be destroyed by God in the end — burned up, in order for God to make room for a new creation. Granted there are such images in the Bible but for the most part they are misunderstood. This leads some to say that it does not matter what we do to our environment since its ultimate destruction is imminent. This perspective can easily nourish a totally secular understanding that supports the accumulation of power and influence. Unfortunately, it’s likely this is one reason this perspective is as popular as it is in Western Christianity.
However, the Bible also says that God will not destroy creation. God is going to renew it. The resurrection of Jesus not only shows this but is its first step. It is God’s ultimate yes and endorsement of creation. Jesus was raised with a renewed body out of the same material as his old. God’s purpose in creating and recreating, has broken into the present through Christ’s resurrection.
So, when we pray, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” what do we mean? If this is not simply a future hope but something in the present, how does that happen?
As we work towards those same future ends which God has in mind for his creation — justice, peace, alleviating pain and death — we participate in the present reality of God’s Kingdom. As we protect the environment, as we value it and are its caretakers not its exploiters, as we value children and humanize everyone rather than dehumanize, we participate in God’s kingdom here on earth. We become part of making this veil between heaven and earth, between God’s presence and ours, closer to its ultimate goal where God’s presence fills the earth bringing beauty, unity, wholeness in every aspect. Your labor is not in vain.
The CRC General Synod’s acceptance of the Human Sexuality Report missed the mark. It dehumanizes and marginalizes the LGBTQ community along with those who support them. The veil is thick and exclusive.
We are called to make that veil as thin as possible.
When we pray “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” it is a call to action for us to live that out.