Saturday, July 2, 2011

Moral Commitment Preceding Belief

It's funny because I'm always a bit startled when I run into someone who references something from my blog; after all, I've been writing on it a lot as of late really for my own sake, to help process and integrate my learning into my life and subsequently ministry. Of course, I'm always glad when someone benefits from the writing; oh the mercy and kindness of God, but my natural assumption (whether accurate or inaccurate) is that not so many people read it but that it's me, Jesus and a few interested persons involved.

All that to say, I give away something that, in theory, could lead one to justify not showing up for tomorrow's worship service at Grace Chapel :-(. I do something here I haven't done before (at least not that I can recall having done), but I "give away" the sermon I plan to preach tomorrow.  These ideas have been so poignant and impactful on me as of late, especially under the tutelage and guidance of Steven Garber that I must write about them, even if one day early. The format is one I send to our musicians and office people during the week so bulletins can be prepared, music themes developed, etc. Blessings to you my friends, whether few or many, and come by tomorrow, especially if you were planning on it anyways :-):

Series: Gospel of John
Text: John 19:1-16a
Title: The World That Is Really There
Quote: “... and so I would like now to introduce a more culturally neutral term for that economy that I have been calling the Kingdom of God. Sometimes, in thinking about it, I have called it the Great Economy, which is the name I am going to make do with here...”  -Wendell Berry

Themes: moral commitment precedes belief. Because we are people who see first and foremost with our hearts, we imagine the world as we would like it to be and then live out of that vision of life; our moral commitments precede what we believe about life, God, the world, etc. Pilate was a classic case of someone who was ultimately committed to the retaining of his own power, status and position and so, despite the little voice inside telling him that he had no basis for a charge and no reason to put Jesus to death, nonetheless, he crowded out that voice that stirred fear and anxiety within and lived according to his highest moral commitment, that a world with him remaining in power was the best world to be conceived.

The Jewish peoples did essentially the same thing, needing Jesus dead, despite the fact that they too had no basis for the claim of blasphemy (especially since Jesus spoke the truth about himself at every point). In crying out for his crucifixion, the Jewish leaders end up shouting “we have no King but Caesar!” Here we see those accusing and seeking death for a purported blasphemer, ... blaspheming. Why the obvious inconsistency? Because moral commitment precedes belief. Remember Caiaphas who said in John 11:50 that it is better for one man to die than for an entire nation to perish? The Jewish people saw the preservation of their religion, political power and semi-self-rule to be more important than submitting to One who was promised long ago to bring the actual reign of God; they were committed to such a world, ... so lived in it.

But what happens when the pangs of conscience begin to press in on us or our lives are exposed to be something less than what they purport to be? What happens when the hypocrisy within is revealed and we are found to embrace a vision of the world that doesn’t account for how the world really works and how human flourishing actually best takes place? We all stand in a historical moment of our own, like Pilate, perhaps in ways less poignant and significant, but poignant and significant in their own rights nonetheless. And when the Greater Economy (Berry’s way of describing the Kingdom of God, the world that is really there, the deepest of all realities) calls to account the lesser economies/worlds that we have created for ourselves, ... will our commitments and beliefs make sense of the world?

So in our historical moment we stand with a choice: 1) will we continue to crowd out the inner voice that reminds us we belong to a Greater Reality all around us as this is the world God made? or instead 2) will we humble ourselves, live in repentance and receive the eyes to see and the ears to hear that Voice that means to bring consistency, integration and wholeness to our lives?


Tara said...

As someone who is not at Grace today - thanks.

Hope all is well...miss you guys. :-)

al halls said...

Mike , Pilate was in was a moral dilemma. He faced a difficult task. The hated the jews and was forced out after the death of Tiberias Caesar. He created a situation with the jews that caused his recall to Rome. He was appointed by Tiberius. I was wrong.
Pilate gets the place in the history book. We all put him on the cross. Pilate was our instrument.
I wonder if Pilate knew how much the Jews hated Jesus. It would have really pissed them off to put jesus in prison for life.It couldn't have happened . Jesus needed to die at that place and time.Praise the Lord for all of us sinners.

Jay Simmons said...

Wish I was there! It sounds like the Lord is shaping you in the same direction he's shaping me. Grateful.

Mike Hsu said...

Hi Tara, Al and Jay,

I hope you all had a happy 4th. Wow, I've been away from the blog for 3 days and I return to find 3 comments. Wow, as stated in this post, I'm always somewhat startled that someone is actually reading but praise be to God. Tara- we miss you and hope you are well. Al- I love your heart for Jesus brother- you have a way of keeping things simple, to the point and "real" for me. Jay- can't wait to get more time with you in KC later this month- I showed the John Perkins video in a class last Sunday- really good stuff except for the fact that a number of people said it made them so engaged with the visual beauty and appealing nature of the food that they didn't really hear what Perkins had to say!