by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
Set the captives free, defend the poor, share bread and one cup with everyone”
We want to bite off more than we can chew in the inner city.
We want to purchase an apartment complex and rehab it, have spiritual retreats there, and work in the neighborhood. This will be more than we can handle – and that is exactly the idea.
Those of us in the outer city (suburbia) never drift into rebuilding the inner city in the name of Jesus unless we own the problems, unless we get in over our heads. This is a theological point, and a good point to make near Easter: In Jesus, god comes to be with us, he lowers himself, empties himself (Philippians 2:5-11) and enters into “solidarity” with us – he becomes one of us. BUT – though we kill him on the cross, unlike us, he rises and is victorious over death and humanity’s evil; Jesus begins a new era, a new way of being human. He is the first fruits, the first of the harvest of new Adams, new Eves.
We now have power, god’s Presence in the his Spirit. Let’s be clear: we are not building the kingdom of heaven on earth by our own will and strength – the Spirit intercedes, guides, and empowers us. The resurrection shows us we need not worry or fear “those who can kill the body” (mug you in the inner city). The resurrection is not just a theological supernatural sideshow to prove how powerful god really is; no, the resurrection in the vindication of all that Jesus taught and demonstrated: death is the big enemy, but thanks be to god who gives us the victory in Jesus: Love wins! Now we chase evil away; we bring down the powers and rulers of the this world. Fear not!
Purchasing an apartment complex is not unreachable. The one linked here could sell for as little as $30,000. We have more than that amount committed to the inner city through EPIC, our three year financial challenge. We just don’t have the cash in hand at the moment. But we will, I am sure. Then after we buy the work really begins: interior demolition, remodeling, getting and keeping good tenants, repairs, etc. It’s a long-term venture — one step forward, two steps backwards… more than we can chew. Just like Jesus.
This is our cross to bear. This is our “emptying.” And this is our small corner of the world to resurrect and make into the kingdom of heaven.
Do not think Jesus spoke empty words: “I am making all things new” (Revelations 21:5), or that he meant to make things new in the far future – or burn up the earth and start over, or that his words are a failed promise. The new day had begun. We live in that new day. I for one will not succumb to the numbing of religion, the cheapness of “Jesus is just saying metaphorical rhetoric.” The early church didn’t seem to think Jesus was just blowing smoke. They saw the new kingdom and did not lie to themselves. Martyrdom clarifies.
Let us take up our cross and change our world. Amen?