Thursday, January 22, 2009

January 22
Alarmed at One Common Danger
“One day Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side of the lake.’ So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we’re going to drown!’ He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. ‘Where is your faith?’ he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, ‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and water, and they obey him.’” (Luke 8:22-25)

Calvin: “Those with eyes can perceive it is not one sea of evils that has flooded the earth, but many dangerous plagues have invaded it, and everything is rushing headlong. Hence, one must either completely despair of human affairs or grapple with these great evils — or rather, forcibly quell them. Isaiah of old instructed God’s elect not to fear what they fear, not be in dread thereof, but rather to hallow the Lord of Hosts and let him be their fear and dread (Isa. 8:12,13).” (Inst. Preface to Francis I-King of France, 5)

Obama gave a great speech at the Inaugural address. He spoke of the dangers that we face economically (especially from greed and only trying to “prosper the prosperous”), and from terrorists. The "father of our nation," the new president said, "ordered these words be read to the people: 'Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it.' “With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”
Calvin was telling the King of France that we face many dangers, just as Obama was telling us in the Inaugural address. Calvin was proposing that we just not keep the status quo, which his enemies were asking the king to do. Rather, we should consider change for the better. Calvin was never an advocate for retreating away from the world into a fortress. He was not an advocate of going into a monk-like meditation for personal peace in the midst of danger. Nor was he an advocate for just fighting against the world. Rather, he was for grappling with the dangers and evils around us and transforming the world. Richard Niebuhr in his small book “Christ and Culture” points this out- Calvin is not for withdrawing from culture, or against culture, but for transforming culture. There are many Christians today who wish to retreat into fortress like mentality because the world has become a much more evil place than it was- in terms of crime, pornography, greed, selfishness, lust. But Calvin would call us to take our lamp from under the bushel, take our salt out of the salt shaker and make the world better.
I appreciated Obama’s call to face our dangers squarely and not to retreat in the face of them. The problem is not just economic injustice or war. The deeper problem is always spiritual. We do not need to fear what the world fears- losing things, or losing our place in the pecking order of nations. Christians, as citizens want the best for their country and pray for the place where God has placed us. Yet we also know the greater danger is to leave God out of our lives, to not respect or fear Him. This Jesus who calmed the storm can wake up and calm our storm as well if we call out to Him.

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