With All Your Heart Worship Series: COMING TOGETHER
Fourth Sunday in Lent — March 31, 2019
We have embarked on a “journey of the heart,” walking these Lenten days toward resurrection. Embracing transformation, new possibilities, and new life is what our journey is all about. But we still have work to do before we arrive in the garden with an empty tomb. As Easter begins to appear on the very distant horizon, we might be tempted to quicken our pace. But if we listen to the Apostle Paul, we are reminded that we still need to walk slowly and with great care. Before we can get to the new creation of Easter, we have some repair work to do within our own hearts and in our world. So far on our journey, we have travelled through fruitful fields, barren wilderness, countless stars, promises of God both large and small, and tables where all are fed. Like threads that sew together a patchwork quilt, this week we begin binding together our journey with repentance, reconciliation, and repair.
There is a particular concept that our Jewish brothers and sisters use to describe how they are called to respond to a world that feels like it’s coming apart at the seams. It is a process that calls all humanity into action. Tikkun Olam, in the simplest of terms, means “to repair the world.” When the fabric of society is torn, Tikkun Olam not only calls each of us to participate in mending what is broken, but to make it better than it was before it was damaged. And when it comes to the art of repairing the world, there are no shortcuts, no easy answers. It is the difficult and time-consuming work of repairing by way of reconciliation and restoration.
To repair systems and structures, we usually need to break them down to basic levels, see where the problem is, address the root causes of failure, and then begin rebuilding. It is not hard to look around this world, our own communities, perhaps even our own families, and see a thousand different fissures – cracks where God’s harmonious creation has somehow gone awry. Tikkun Olam is not about grand gestures, but rather small acts of kindness, small steps made in faith, small displays of love and solidarity. Each daily action that embodies lovingkindness does not necessarily make an immediate, large impact. But as we keep loving and walking in grace, our collective actions, all together, can add up. They can begin to make a new world—a whole new creation!—if we only have eyes to see it.
Paul urged the gathered community in Corinth to expand their vision, to see that “everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This kind of seeing moves beyond what our eyes can plainly see. Humanity has always tended to focus on what is broken, what is limiting, what is imperfect – both in ourselves and in the world. What if, on our way to building a new and better world, all the limits we put on people and things were suddenly dismantled? What if we started to see the world through the eyes of Christ, whose eyes saw human difference as an opportunity to expand the reign of God on earth?
Jesus saw through all barriers and boundaries, broke them to the point where even death lost all its finality. Jesus saw through all brokenness and hopelessness, poured himself out to the point where love conquered all. What if part of our Lenten discipline involved learning to see with grace-healed eyes? What if we learned how to see with a newer, broader vision so that the widening of our vision led to a widening of our hearts? What if we focused on the threads of creation that bind us together and through the work of reconciliation began to stitch the threads of a new creation--threads that would bind us closer to one another and to God?
Our reading from Paul recalls a prophecy from Isaiah about the world made new: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19). Paul continues this ancient theme, telling us the new creation is always and everywhere in our midst. It is always being created. And it is created by us through Christ. We are God’s vision. We are the ones that are resurrected with Christ. We are the ones who, while walking the wilderness way, have found Living Water in the desert. It is no longer enough to simply see and perceive that a new world is possible. Because we are to be the agents of reconciliation who keep working to bring God’s vision into reality. Paul proclaims, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.” Anyone? Anyone! Are you in Christ? Then there is a new creation. Is anyone in your congregation in Christ? Then there is a new creation.
The Lenten wilderness is a place where it becomes necessary to shed some of our old ways. We need to let go of sin and selfishness, greed and self-centeredness to make room for this whole new, resurrected life into which we are called to live. Paul asks his community—and us—to “be reconciled,” “trusting the ministry of reconciliation to us.”
Reconciliation will involve letting go of our old ways of seeing. How can our Lenten journey help us to see beyond the obstacles and stumbling blocks, the places where the fabric of humanity seems too threadbare and torn? And how can we begin to open the eyes of our hearts, to dream of a world fully reconciled and renewed, resurrected and restored?
You no doubt have those in your pews who resist seeing a new vision, a new way of living and being, those content to stay in their own grave-clothes. But the good news is Christ keeps calling, beckoning, pulling at us, drawing us together so that all Creation might be reconciled to God. The good news is that when we see the frayed edges of human injustice and indignity with the eyes of Christ, then we are compelled to start the work of repair, the work of mending.
The world will never glimpse God’s vision unless we share it, unless we make a concerted effort to say with our hearts and our lives: this is where the world has been torn asunder . . . this is where love is calling us to go . . . this is what love is calling us to bind and to build. Let us heal the hurt with the ties that bind it back together in Christ. Let us point to the places where water flows in the deserts of life. Let us work to live into the fullness of God’s good creation. Let us see beauty while creating harmony, justice, and reconciliation – one small act at a time.
Rev. Todd Pick is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church, serving in the Central Texas Conference. He is a pastor, poet, and painter. He has contributed many articles on worship, creativity, and beauty to Worship Arts Magazine. In addition, his art and poetry were featured in the December 2018 issue of Magnet Magazine, a Christian publication in the UK. Todd is an accomplished artist who has created stage visuals for many United Methodist conferences, including the 2012 and 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is a featured worship expert on Dr. Marcia McFee’s Worship Design Studio. Holding a Master of Divinity from Drew Theological School, he was artist-in-residence there from 2007 to 2009 and was twice awarded the Hoyt L. Hickman Award for Liturgical Studies. Todd and his wife, Jennifer, enjoy a partnership in life and ministry. Together, they enjoy writing, planning worship and leading workshops and retreats across the country on multi-sensory worship.
Rev. Jennifer Pick is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church serving in the Central Texas Conference. She is a pastor, worship planner, biblical scholar, and writer. She has a Master of Literature in Biblical Studies from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. She has studied biblical archeology in Greece and Turkey through Cambridge University. Rev. Pick graduated with a Master of Divinity from Drew Theological School with an emphasis in Early Christianities. She is a recipient of the Lawrence E. Toombs Prize for Old Testament History, the George R. Crooks Prize for excellence in Homiletics and the Warren Memorial Prize for excellence in Greek New Testament Studies. Rev. Pick was a Ministry Fellow through the Fund for Theological Education, where she studied holy space and Christian pilgrimage throughout Europe. With a particular passion for incarnational preaching and worship, Rev. Pick has found creative ways to engage facets of emergent worship within large and small congregational settings. She draws upon all the senses in liturgical movement and ritual to create worship experiences that involve whole-bodied devotion.