I’m sure many of you watched the Super Bowl, or at least the first half of it. I didn’t have a vested interest in either team but I did use the game as an excuse to eat pizza and to watch commercials, two things I have largely given up. I have given up pizza, because my age makes it increasingly difficult to apply it appropriately and commercials because I own a DVR. But for several hours I indulged in both. I even consumed one commercial twice.
The commercial featured lovely scenes and beautiful people and had as its soundtrack the song “America the Beautiful” sung in seven different languages. When the commercial was finished I had three immediate thoughts: 1) America is beautiful; 2) Wait a minute, if we are singing only about the United States, we shouldn’t say America, which actually includes the entirety of two continents; 3) Sadly, this commercial is going to make some people very angry.
Indeed it did. Almost instantly there were visceral comments posted following this minute long commercial. “I will never drink Coke again.” “Speak American” and “It’s unpatriotic to sing our national anthem in another language”, and these are just the ones I can post in a pastor’s blog. And although I don’t post comments online, before I move on, let me answer these three “in-house”: 1) It would probably be good if none of us drank soda anymore; 2) “American” is not a language. And the United States has no official language and not even an original one. When the European explorers arrived there were already hundreds of Native American languages spoken (one of them is in this commercial, Keres, spoken by the Pueblo people; and 3) This is not our national anthem. Whew. Now I know why people post comments. It feels so good to be right.
On a more serious note, it grieved me that such a lovely commercial made so many people angry and it spurred me on to continue to do the complicated work of finding unity in diversity. And I am so delighted that we at North Park University have committed to do this great work with one another.
I am well aware that we have a long way to go before we achieve the kingdom goal of “every tongue, tribe and nation” gathering around the throne of God to sing His anthems, but the Word of God encourages us to stay this course (Rev. 7:9-10). And so today may I invite us to recommit not only to an end-of-the-age vision of a multitude gathered around a God who has no “official language,” but also to a vision for our current age and the strategic work of giving our world a glimpse of the whole Kingdom of God.
In 2 Peter 1:5-8, we are given a bit of blueprint for this difficult work. In this text we find a list of character traits that we will need if we hope to join God in this Kingdom work.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Our list begins with faith in the One who shows no preference for particular people and ends with our love for a world beyond our preferences. And all too often we think the Kingdom of God should advance with just our faith in God and a perfect vision of love. But in between faith and love we find the gritty work of being good every day, the heady work of gaining more knowledge about Kingdom ways, the tireless work of controlling our own selfish desires, the soul work of staying the course when there seems to be no end in sight, the humble work of recognizing that we are not God, and the deliberate work of loving our neighbor.
May we be a people who not only know the beginning and end of God’s kingdom, but a people who are also committed to the work of the middle.