God’s Shalom and a Christian America

__Would Americans vote for Jesus for President?__

_Stories of God’s Shalom:_ __Matthew 13:31-33, 44.__ Pentecost 10, July 24, 2005. First Congregational United Church of Christ, Santa Rosa, California. The Rev. Robert F. Cramer, Eucharistic Minister.

“God’s Shalom is like a mustard seed,” Jesus said as he held the tiny seed in his hand. “See how tiny it is?”

“You think a mustard seed can only grow into a small plant? Well, pretend that it can grow as big as a tree. Pretend that birds will come and make nests in its branches.”

Everyone laughed. “A mustard plant as big as a tree?”

“Yes,” Jesus laughed too. “God’s Shalom is like that.”

Then Jesus told an even funnier story.

“You know the yeast people use to make bread? You can’t see how the yeast works. It just bubbles around inside the bread.”

“Well suppose a woman took a tiny bit of yeast. Suppose she mixed it with a lot of flour and water. The yeast would work inside the dough. After a while she would have enough bread to feed a hundred people!”

“You mean one tiny bit of yeast could make all that flour into bread?” someone asked.

“That’s right,” Jesus smiled. “God’s Shalom is like that. You can’t see it working. But it’s there, all the time, working in you and working in me.”

“Here is another way to think about God’s Shalom,” said Jesus.

“God’s Shalom is like a treasure hidden in a field. If you knew about that treasure, you would go and sell all the things you had. Then you would take the money and buy the whole field. You would want the treasure to be yours.”

“Should we want God’s Shalom that much?” the people asked.

“Yes,” said Jesus. “That much!”

[From _The Family Story Bible_ by Ralph Milton, Westminster John Knox, 1996.]

__Could Jesus be elected to the U.S. presidency?__

Tim Stafford and Philip Yancey, in _Student Bible, NIV,_ ask if we can imagine Jesus leading our nation today.

It’s an exceedingly provocative question, not meant, I think, to be cute or clever. Jesus could make us _think._ But would his ideas about the Realm of God make it through the Electoral College?

There seems to be much citizen support nowadays for a “return” to a “Christian” America. One president whose vision seemed compatible with _shalom_ (wholeness, justice-love, peace) — for everyone, including those we call enemies — was denied a second term. Some think his Sunday-school integrity didn’t make sense to pragmatic, and insecure, folks in America. I’ve heard Jimmy Carter called “soft.”

I myself think those who look for “Christian values” in government do not really want the Shalom of God that Jesus taught about, either. I’d like to be wrong about that, of course.

The question of what a “savior” should do for a troubled society, and what in fact such a savior should be like, seems pretty important. How much like Jesus, and his vision, would we want our leader to be?

Jesus talked about signs of the real Shalom of God that can be seen already. The scholars I study with believe Jesus wasn’t one to promise pie in the sky bye and bye. He was a “now” visionary. This seems to be quite different from the short-term fixes that politicians offer, and which we seem to expect. The “fix” Jesus was interested in was a change in how we perceive things, and how hope can grow from despair.

Those whose eyes and ears were opened by Jesus’ teaching seemed mostly to come from the margins. They needed signs of hope now, not “later.”
And we may too often forget that in the first three hundred years of the Christian faith, the churches were marginal in many ways. Many sought, taught, and practiced pacifism, following Jesus into death (and new life) if they openly resisted Roman rule. They believed Jesus was right about who is truly strong, and who, weak: their God trumped Caesar and they bravely resisted being drawn into the illusory trappings of princely power.

In the Eucharist, Jesus is here, now. We welcome the gift — the gift of God’s Shalom now. Is ours a private welcome, or would we follow Jesus to Washington? Would anyone come with us? What is the nature of our faith? I pray we might not easily shrug off God’s Shalom as impractical or impossible. _Amen._