The World As It Should Be
April 22, 2018
Rev. Fritz Nelson – First Presbyterian, Columbiana; First United Presbyterian, EP
Text: Ephesians 2:1-10
So last week I shared with you a story – from the novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio – about a boy named Auggie and his friend Jack. Auggie’s a really cool kid with severe facial deformities. Jack is Auggie’s friend – or rather was Auggie’s friend until he threw Auggie under the bus to gain approval of the popular kids.
As we pick up the story this week, Auggie and Jack have stopped talking to each other. Jack doesn’t realize Auggie heard his mean comment, which was so automatic he doesn’t even remember saying it. He knows Auggie is angry but isn’t sure why. Jack also knows he misses Auggie. Auggie was super funny, wicked smart and – most importantly – a true friend.
Then, one day, it clicks. Jack remembers what he said and why he said it. He’s heartbroken. Furious at himself. Even more furious at Julian, the popular kid he was trying to impress.
Later that day Jack overhears Julian calling Auggie a freak. Jack walks up to Julian and levels the bully with one giant punch, one expulsion worthy, tooth popping, face bloodying punch. Over winter break – which Jack gets to start early – he reaches out to Auggie. Jack apologizes. Auggie marvels at the force of the punch. Jack seeks forgiveness. Auggie forgives. “Are we good?” Jack asks. “We’re good,” Auggie replies.
In the World As It Is we throw our true friends under the bus for the short term satisfaction of sitting at the table with the popular kids, of going to their parties and receiving their affirmation. But Jack finds their friendships hollow. He finds himself dying a slow inner death. He begins longing for the genuine friendship provided by one who had few friends. He longs for the open acceptance provided by one who knew what it was like not to be accepted. Jack begins longing to escape the World As It Is, to experience the World As It Should Be, to be free.
“You were dead,” Paul writes to the Ephesians, “to the trespasses and sins in which you once lived. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him…” In our resurrection the World As It Is slips away. We begin living the World as It Should Be.
We begin living the World as It Should Be where an uneducated fisherman becomes the rock on which Christ builds his church.
We begin living the World as It Should Be where Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, can sit learning at Jesus’ feet while society expects her to be in the kitchen.
We begin living the World as It Should Be where Jesus acknowledges a despised tax collectors belonging and the tax collected redistributes his wealth.
We begin living the World as It Should Be where the spiritually dead, the emotionally dead, the physically dead receive new life; where we’re raised with Christ into new beings; beings triumphant over the World As It Is; participants in a revolution encompassing all of humanity, a revolution starting with each of us.
Jack can’t be free until he experiences the failing of the World As It Is and acknowledges his participation in it.
Jack can’t be free until he wrestles with his own complex feelings for his friend and acknowledges Auggie’s worth as a person created in the image of God, Auggie’s value to him, their mutual belonging.
Jack can’t be free until he changes his loyalties, reorients his values.
Jack can’t be free until he reaches out to his friend, pursues reconciliation, has his reconciliation accepted, receives forgiveness, and accepts that forgiveness.
The end of winter break finds Jack over at Auggie’s house working on their science project together. Back at school – Yes, Jack is allowed to return – Jack finds himself the victim of an organized shunning. He’s exiled from the cool kids lunch table, forced to sit at Auggie’s table, where conversations are real, friendships deep and grace abounds; an island of the World As It Should Be in the midst of a sea of pre-teen World As It Is; an island of freedom, of belonging, of life.
The World As It Should Be starts with us.
It starts with the longing for something different, a new way, a new path, a wholeness, a completeness foreign to the World As It Is.
It starts when we acknowledge our participation in the hurt, suffering and struggles surrounding us and defining our lives.
It starts when we deny power to the social structures, to the lies masquerading as truths, to those who seek to profit at the expense of our bodies, our minds, our souls.
It starts when we affirm and celebrate our belonging to God, the image of God in our neighbor, the promise of Christ to lead us into a new life, a restored life, into the World As It Should Be.
It starts when we follow Christ into the World As It Should Be, when we participate in the revolution, when we revel in new found freedom, in hope, in healing, in new life beyond all expectation.
It starts when when we experience the judgment of the World As It Is and persevere anyway, knowing the only way to bring about God’s promise is to live the promise, the only way for the world to become what it should be is for us to live as if God’s new world already existed, as if resurrection were already possible, because it is.