At 12:01 January 20th, the world released a sigh of relief as the 46th president was sworn into office with all the pomp and circumstance one could muster in a pandemic such as ours. In the midst of the celebrations, star power, songs, and traditions, stepped out Amanda Gorman, a 22 year old, as she put it, descended from slaves with the dream of becoming president only to find herself receiting for one. Her message struck a chord of hope and unity not just with the american nation, but the world. She spoke to something we are all feeling at this time, she spoke to unity and purpose, but without the sugar coating that normally comes with such a message. In her poem, The Hill We Climb, written after the terrorist attacks on the US capital we heard a vision of Good News where through its attoning purpose all things become new. A newness we hear in scripture again today.
The season of epiphany we are now in represents a startling invasion of our world by a very real God who continues to re-orientated our world through the works of his Son Christ. Gorman summed up this season in her words “if we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy…” This legacy, this invasive reality that Gorman was reminding her fellow Americans to live into as a call to re-orientate their lives after a divisive and challenging four years of anger and division, is a basic understanding of what Christ came to do. However to fully understand the power of what Christ came to do the key term for us to hear is love. Christ's ministry of love is more than a hallmark card, it is best understood as the jewish word Hesed- or steadfast love. Hesed, referring to an attribute of God, is the impetus and purpose behind the incarnation of Christ. Hesed is what sent the Holy Spirit to us at pentecost. Hesed is what drives Christ to seek each and everyone of us out and bring us into a closer and deeper relationship with him in our everyday lives. Hesed, steadfast love in unity, is the atoning motivation of God's gift of Christ to us so that in Christ all things become new. Hesed is the invasive reordering of our world from dark into light because once it begins- it is total.
The invasion of love via the kingdom is not new for us in scripture. John the baptist was the one who opened the way for us to see the nearness of this kingdom today by coming into our comfortable lives and calling for us to repent and prepare for the coming of God. We wrote him off as some crazy guy and then came Jesus at Christmas, Baptized by John, who is now beginning his ministry among us doing work that is deeply embedded in this steadfast love of God- this impetus of God’s divine providence, to reclaim and return us to the life God has designed for us. You see, God in God's love is persistent, and despite our best efforts, God will not be ignored. Simon and Andrew were living their faith everyday, following God's laws, and growing their business as fishers to provide income for their families. It would have been hard work, to be a fisherman, but it was an income that provided for a relatively stable life I am sure. So for them to just leave their nets, their whole way of being and income, and follow Christ was not just any day trip, it was a dramatic reorientation of their world into God's world. They stepped out, I believe, into a trusting relationship with God's Hesed, trusting in the love which was calling them into new life, and thus opened another path to seeing the kingdom’s nearness in our midst.
In stepping out as they did Simon and Andrew saw, as Gorman said in her poem last week, that the reorienting power of love in our world is stronger than any human way of life because it comes from God. You and I are made in the image of that love, and as carriers of that image we have a call on our lives to use it as an instrument of the kingdom today. We look at the world and wonder how any one moment of our lives can possibly make a difference in the face of such challenges, it's too overwhelming. We like the safety of our fishing business because then we are in control of our income and lives. Yet our reading from Jonah reminds us that even in a life as messed up as Nineveh, we can live life differently. This difference is found in how we repent and return to God in forgiveness as we re-orientate our lives to his mission of steadfast love in our world. And this is a daily experience of reorientation, which speaks to all sections of our lives as Paul reminds us in his letter to Corinth this morning. Reorienting our lives in repentance and forgiveness begins and ends in love, in every part of our lives, because through it we are given the grace to get back up and try again. The reorientation of our lives through the lens of Jonah and Paul removes the guilt and shame we judge ourselves with and affirms our deepest truth- that we are all human and we all think we are the worst human when we’ve done something wrong. Yet God does not abandon us as our psalm reminds us, God is our anchor and rock as we grow in deeper love with him, by having our eyes opened through our reorientation in love to the truest depths of what God is actually doing in our lives already. It's what we do with that knowledge that matters today.
The balance that Amanda Gorman struck between what was, is, and is to come, is the synergy of what it means to see what God is doing in our lives already. Gorman named for her country the places where fear and shame have clouded over them, and asked them to step into a vision of hope and promise which necessitated a change in the way they lived their lives. Sounds oddly familiar, kinda like the call of Christ to Simon and Andrew today, to see their lives and the promise of hope and purpose for all people grounded in the steadfast love of God for all, and actually start living it today. I think the key to how we do that is found again in Gormans text. We are to merge. We are to merge because as she reminds us what is just nice is not always just-ice. To merge is to grow, to add, to amplify, to unite, to bring to common purpose that which we seek to see in our world, and as Chistians that is the kingdom of God's steadfast love held open to every single human being. To merge then is to ask ourselves what our world would look like if we stopped spending billions of dollars on political campaigns and used that money for poverty reduction? What if we had financial investment principles and goals which required the companies we support with our savings to respect and renew creation? What if we saw reconciliation with our neighbours as a chance to fall in love again, rather than a court case to be argued? What if we decided to merge mercy with might, and might with right? Our legacy would indeed be love, because in our lives the kingdom of God's love would reign, a reign we need now more than ever.
When Day comes, Amanda concludes, we step out of the shade- the shade of our fearful lives, aflame and unafraid of the life of freedom that stands before us, because in God there is always light in the darkness, light that draws us out of our boats, out of our fear, out of scarcity and into the abundance of God, but only if we are brave enough to see it. Everyday gives a new chance to practice our bravery to step out and into God, a bravery which is planted deeply in our hearts and fed by the truth that God is always with us opening our eyes to a kingdom of his steadfast love. A kingdom that has come near again to us today. Are you brave enough today church, to be and see that kingdom today? Christ says to us today to come and follow him, into a kingdom way of life that builds a world through the hesed of God. How will you respond to and walk in that love this week?