What follows is a condensed version of the head-smacking-good sermon from my pastor this past Sunday. For the full version, check out the Life at Jeff Street blog.
The king is in his castle. The queen is on her throne. The president is in his office. The congress is in session. The corporate chair is in the boardroom.
And so begins the royal story, as Walter Brueggemann calls it, the story that shapes and dominates our culture…The story that shapes and dominates and often defines our reality.
Global warming? Nuclear war? Healthcare? Endangered animals? Re-instatement of the draft? The cost of gasoline? The cost of milk? The answer to these questions, indeed often the questions themselves are shaped by the royal consciousness, revealed through the royal story.
“We are children of the royal consciousness,” says Brueggemann. “All of us, in one way or another, have deep commitments to it” (The Prophetic Imagination).
…we live in a world phony down deep
in which we participate at a slant.
Ours is a seduced world,
where we call evil good and good evil,
where we put darkness for light and light for darkness,
where we call bitter sweet and sweet bitter
where we call war peace and peace war,
so that we rarely see the truth of the matter.
(Brueggemann, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth)
Which is why so many Americans were initially supportive when our nation invaded Iraq. The powers deceived us well, showed us authoritative pictures, Colin Powell dressed in all of his military finery with all of his military doodads. And we, as Americans, swallowed what they wanted us to swallow. The royal version of the story. Weapons of mass destruction…
Jesse came home from a day at the fair with his classmates, and told me that he saw military vehicles there, was able to get in one, push the buttons, even, my, don’t they start young…that he saw military vehicles there that cost three million dollars. “Can you believe that?” he asked. “Well, yes,” I said. “That’s where our tax money goes. That’s why there are so many people in our nation who do not have healthcare, that’s why there are so many people in our nation who do not have affordable housing, that’s why there are so many people in our nation who do not…”
Kings and queens and pharaohs and parliaments and presidents pass down fear-based, greed-based decrees, and we the people shape our lives to the realities that they create...
The royal story, according to last night’s news, is that we’re going to keep our soldiers in Iraq for the next four years. But there’s a sub-version unfolding: a mourning mother sets up her folding chair on the side of the highway. And even now, the reality that George Bush and other leaders of our nation have created is being re-shaped. God is relentless in God’s purposes, and God's desire is peace.
Some of you have been involved in some sub-versions this week.
Susan, Dan, Sue and Mike have been exchanging e-mails this week, talking about how they can get more kids at their kids’ school to “opt out,” meaning to sign a sheet saying that the school does not have permission to give their name to military recruiters. We need to put up posters, they’ve said. We need to develop posters, they’ve said. We need to have a workshop, they’ve said. These e-mails may not amount to much. But maybe they will.
Yes, some of you have been involved in some sub-versions this week. In fact, you’re involved in a sub-version right now. Because simply being a part of this community is a sub-version, being a part of any true community is a sub-version in this world that so values individualism. Tithing is a sub-version in this world that so values the accumulation of wealth. Meeting for worship is a sub-version in this world that puts a premium on time. Telling the truth about who we are and where we hurt during joys and concerns is a sub-version in this world that teaches us to mold ourselves to look and act and own like everyone else.
Yes, a sub-version is unfolding, and you and I are smack dab in the middle of it. God is pursuing love over hate, peace over war, justice over oppression, community over alienation, authenticity over falsehood. God is writing a whole new story, and we just might be some of its lead characters. Imagine that!