Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Fall of All our Walls

I have the fall of the Berlin Wall on my brain:  25 years ago today the gates were opened and people allowed to go through.  I remember holding my breath, thinking that this would never be allowed to stand.  I had the crushing of the Tiananmen square protest very much in mind.  But this episode had a different ending.

A victory for non-violent resistance.  You could argue that it was just public officials who misspoke and border guards who were afraid to shoot. More in this news story.  I will go to my grave feeling happy about that event, regardless of whether or not it was intentional. 

You could argue, as some have, that this incident led to the ghastly wars and massacres of the 1990's in Bosnia and other parts of the former Yugoslavia, along with other bloody revolts in part of East Europe.  But it's hard to ignore that the opening of the gate and the tearing down of the wall also led to the reunification of Germany, which happened fairly successfully.

Yes, I will remember this date as a victory for non-violence.  It's also a day to celebrate living as if the life we want has already begun to break through into our current lives.

On this day, we can remember that it is possible to make a way out of no way.  If we dwell in chains, we may wonder how--how can we make a way when no way seems possible?

We can take comfort in each other.  If someone else has had success, we can dream of it too.  That success may be the publication of a book with a spine.  It may be increased literacy rates in our lifetimes.  It may be that we move to the city or region where we really want to live.  It may be the overthrow of an oppressive regime.  It may be that we leap to that job that makes our spirits sing. 

Often our dreams are too puny.  We hold back because we're afraid to be disappointed again.  But now is the time for big dreams.  What would you like to see manifest in the world?  What would you work for if you truly believed that anything is possible?

In the meantime, we can take solace from our compatriots.  We can encourage them and hold them up.  Together, we will be stronger when we fight against despair.

At some point, we'll likely see some success.  At that point, I hope that we remember to turn around and stretch out our hands to others who need us.  If we have that kind of power, we can hire the younger artists, even though we may feel threatened by them.  We can work for the freedom of all, even if we worry that we'll lose some of our benefits.  We can continue to cheer when oppressed people overthrow their governments, and we can hope and pray that the results are peaceful.  I continue to be amazed that the Soviet Union just let all of those countries in East Europe go.

That’s the way redemption works—not in the ways we would expect, but in surprising ways that take us where we could not dream of going, and sometimes faster than we would expect. If we could travel back in time to tell the people of 1985 that the Soviet Union would soon crumble and South Africa would be free of white rule, the people of 1985 would think we were insane. If we could travel back to the first century of the Roman empire to tell of what the followers of Jesus would accomplish, those people would laugh at us—if they even knew who Jesus was.

Despots use language to convince the people that they’re living different lives than the reality they actually experience.  Dissidents use a similar tool to dismantle empires. Dreamers use language to call us to our better selves.

When we think about the future of the Church and what we might do to attract the unchurched, I am convinced that it's not about different music in our services or some program that serves the community.  People will come back to churches when churches give them the language of hope again.

It's all there in our Bible, the ultimate resistance text.  Jesus comes to announce the Good News that the Kingdom of God is breaking through, and it's a Kingdom unlike earthly kingdoms.  Over and over again, Jesus tells us that we don't have to wait to enjoy this life in the Kingdom of God.

And seeing what happened at the East German border on this night 25 years ago reminds me of that Gospel message.  Good news indeed.

No comments: