Lent Devotions: Press on toward liberation


Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).

By Sarah Chivington-Buck

Philippians 3:12-16

For what did Christ Jesus take hold of us? Salvation might be the most common answer. But what do we mean by salvation? I was blessed to spend a week with Brian McLaren at the Companions on the Inner Way Retreat this past week. He substituted the word liberation for salvation. Christ takes hold of us to set us free. We are liberated that we might participate in the liberation movement Jesus began. Paul worked to spread this movement of Jesus across cultural and religious barriers. Right before our verses, Paul is talking about being in Christ, knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection.

McLaren talked about the concept of kingdom of heaven used in the gospels as equivalent to Paul’s concept of “in Christ.” The kingdom of heaven is at hand, is near, is within us. Similarly, living “in Christ” is a reality we can experience now. The kingdom, life in Christ, is not just some lofty place in the clouds we go after we die. It is God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. It is about shalom and wellbeing spreading to all people, all creatures, all plants, all water systems, all soil and rocks.

Paul clarifies that he has not yet attained this goal, and 2,000 years later we have not either. We have not managed to figure out how to live in the peaceable kin-dom of God. But we don’t give up! We strain toward our desire for peace and justice. We press onward, responding to God’s call to love everyone, friend and foe. We push ahead, answering God’s call to overthrow systems of domination that block justice for the most vulnerable.

Does that feel impossible right now given the current situation in our country? In our world? Yes, at times it does. Yet we must live up to the goodness and justice we have already attained. We have made amazing strides toward equality, so we must not backslide. We still have a long, long, long way to go before creating a world where all are safe and welcome, cared for, and respected. So we strain on toward this goal. We organize marches and movements for justice, we hold prayer vigils and worship services that empower all God’s people, we take time to unplug and enjoy beauty and rest so that we can keep running, with energy and imagination, the race set before us. And we remember always that we do not journey alone. We go with one another, and with the power of Christ, who overcame death in the power of resurrection. We fully inhabit our liberation/salvation and spread freedom to the ends of the earth.

Sarah Chivington-Buck is master of divinity student at the San Francisco Theological Seminary.

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