I love the John Lennon song, “Imagine.” You might think that as a Christian I would take umbrage at John’s attitude toward religion, but I totally get it. A lot of bad stuff has been done in the name of faith — and Christianity has more than just the blood of the lamb on its hands. But rather than imagine a world with “no religion, too”, I’d rather imagine what the world would be like if we would no longer “say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me.” That would truly be the “healing and restoration of the world” that our vision statement challenges us to participate in.
Our Old Testament readings give us a choice between Psalms 51 and 119. Reading both offers a marked contrast in how one goes about “knowing the Lord.” While Psalm 51 is a commendable exercise in groveling self-deprecation (we could all use some humility, if not humiliation). Psalm 119 is the song of one who truly has God’s law “written in their heart” — and it offers us a clear take on the difference between us and Jesus — the difference between beseeching the Lord’s forgiveness, and what the reading in Hebrews refers to as “reverent submission.”
As the Son of Man — in “the days of his flesh” — Jesus certainly cried to the Lord with all the imagined fervor of Psalm 51. But, although like the rest of us sinners he would have preferred that the cup pass from his lips, “he learned obedience through what he suffered”… and was made perfect. That kind of reverent submission is not easily imagined, let alone emulated. It’s much easier to imagine there are no countries.
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.