See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant. – Jeremiah 1:10
The prophet Jeremiah is given a call. It is a call to do public theology. His task is to interpret what is happening in the world through the lens of what God is doing in the world. It is no small task.
It is, I believe, the task that many of us are called to as well.
I came into ministry when “postmodernism” was the word of the day. How do we do church in the midst of postmodernism? What is a postmodern church? What is truth when people no longer accept absolutes?
The work of the postmodern church leader was seen to be deconstruction. So… we tore everything apart. We dissected, we analyzed, we decolonized.
In the midst of that, many of us had a good time, seeing ourselves as “prophetic”. We stuck out our tongues at the institution and and gave a finger to the old order.
But deconstruction is easy, relatively speaking. Reconstruction is hard.
Do you know much about the reconstruction period in the United States? I don’t. We glossed over it in high school history classes. It’s only in my adulthood that I’ve learned a thing or two about that era. It was a time of previously unprecedented black wealth and black representation in government. This, of course, lead to incredible backlash. The KKK was birthed in the reconstruction.
Reconstruction is about centering new voices and creating a new locus of power. This, for my money, is also what the Gospel is about; centering the kingdom of God above any of the earthly kingdoms that claim dominion. It’s putting love, justice, and peace, over fear, inequality, and violence.
This is a political reality, of course, and that so often is where we leave it. But this is also a personal reality. We internalize the powers of the kingdoms of this world. We internalize hate, violence, greed, oppression, division, and domination. They color our day to day interactions in insidious ways, often too subtle to notice.
They must be torn down.
Much as Advent is about making room for Christ to be born into the world, Lent is about making room for the new creation to be born both in the world and in us. In order for that to happen, we have to demolish some things. That destruction, though, should always be with an eye toward the new thing that is to come.
For the remainder of Lent, I will be looking at passages of Scripture that hit on this theme of things being torn down and new things being built. Sometimes those new things are structures, sometimes they are people.
I think the time for reconstruction is upon us. What we build will come from the ashes of what has fallen. It won’t be perfect. It will one day make way for another, better thing. That’s okay. Our job is to do what we can with the tools we have at our disposal right now.
Whether that be building or destroying…