Dark Brightness

Bleak Theology: Hopeful Science

Assurance [Rom 8]

This morning we have to make a judgement call. It has been clear and sunny, which means that we will have icy roads: they may not be gritted as the council is still recovering from floods and frost last weekend. So we will make call in about 30 minutes about if we can get to church, which is just after dawn at this time of the year.

One should meet with others regularly, for reproof, for praise and worship, and to encourage each other into good works. This does not relate to our salvation but instead our witness. If we are of Christ, we shall do the works of Christ, and not the work of Satan. All too often we are deceived, and thinking we are doing good, encourage and support evil, and sometimes we do this (as the old confession says) as our own deliberate fault.

But in all this struggle, we have this assurance: we were chosen by God to do his good work from before the beginning of time. It is not us that will keep our salvation: it is him.

Romans 8:26-39

26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So how shall we show our witness? There are two parts to this: internal and external. Internally, we are to hate evil, love each other, love honour, truth, beauty: all that is good. We are to support each other. First.

Then externally, extend hospitality, when able, live in harmony, and do not let our pride lead us into that delusion which is parading our virtue.

Romans 12:9-21

9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Expect our enemies to weaponize this: to take the command to care for all and not take vengeance as permission to exploit and oppress. To sit on their tail, and demand alms, food, wine, and pleasure. To demand that we do not the first — hating evil — because they want us to do the second.

We are placed in tribes and nations and congregations. Within my town there are ethnic churches. For our nations are differnt. We do not all have to be the same, and forcing us all to be beige and not black, white, brown and red, not modern, celtic, charismatic or high church is to demand that we sacrifice beauty for an ideology that is not of Christ.

“This is what the future of the Presbyterian Church looks like!” Co-Moderator T. Denise Anderson declared to a group of nearly 40 young adults attending this year’s Presbyterian Intercultural Young Adult Network’s post-Big Tent gathering. Sponsored by Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries, the assembly of multicultural young adults ages 19-35 included individuals with ethnic backgrounds from five continents.

“This gathering is a great networking opportunity for young people from different backgrounds, cultures and experiences,” said Sarang Kang, a young adult Christian educator and conference facilitator.

Presbyterian Intercultural Young Adult Network at Big Tent. Photo by Gail Strange.
Keeping in step with the Big Tent theme of “Race, Reconciliation and Reformation,” the gathering allowed participants to give their perspectives on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s efforts to dismantle racism within the 93 percent white denomination and the country.

This was Byron Elam’s first Big Tent experience. Elam, a recent college graduate and member of First Presbyterian Church, a predominantly white congregation in Jackson, Tennessee, answered the question, “How can conferences like Big Tent help congregations make a difference in race relations in the PC(USA)?” He said, “Conferences like this can educate Presbyterians on the issues surrounding race and racism. It can provide tools and resources for individuals to take back to their churches to dismantle racism in their congregations and communities.” Elam added that most Sundays he’s the only African American attending the worship service at his church.

Aliea Rothwell, a college junior from Chester, Pennsylvania, and member of Thomas M. Thomas Memorial Presbyterian Church, a predominantly African American congregation, responded to the question, “How can events like Big Tent equip young adults in the church to handle their biases related to racism?” Rothwell said, “Big Tent helped me see that all white people are not bad. Before coming here, I always had my guard up. Big Tent helped me to recognize that there are genuine people in the PC(USA) that care about racism and its effects on individuals and communities.”

Stating that we are not one is a sin. Saying that any race should not have the gospel preached is a sin. But preferring your tribe and kind is not. Racism is now a null term, used as wedge issue by those who hate truth, beauty, justice, and (in particular) the West and European culture.

The very culture that sent missionaries to the world because they took Romans 12 seriously.

Let us rejoice that Christ holds our salvation, and his work is complete. Let us not pretend that we can make this world perfect: that will require a new heaven, a new earth, and a winnowing of evil from out of each of us.