Saturday, April 28, 2007

Every Underdog Will Have Its Day

I have been preaching a series of sermons at Exile Presbyterian Church entitled "Thy Kingdom Come" for the last four months or so, and surprisingly (at least to me), one of the most important of these sermons was the one about Noah and the ark.

The kingdom of God had come to be identified with one man and his family, with the rest of the earth being filled with violence and wickedness. When the cause of God was that dire, and the kingdom that threatened, Noah's hope was placed not in the transformation of "the world that then existed," but in the new creation that would emerge in the postdilluvian world (II Pet. 3:6). In fact, since Peter holds Noah and his generation up as the pattern for us and ours (II Pet. 3:1ff), and since Jesus explicitly points to "the days of Noah" as indicative of the end (Matt. 24:37), it seems rather obvious what this means for our faith:

Christianity will always be an underdog religion. In fact, it works better that way.

But the problem with this hypothesis should be obvious: We Americans are not used to being in the minority, and when it comes to being underdogs, we're just plain bad at it. Hence the American church's desire to craft a faith that is relevant and beneficial to the culture around us (some people actually say, out loud, that if a church is doing its job, the community should thank them for their presence).

Is all of this sentiment the result of actual exegesis, or is it merely an example of our confusing the "power" and "wealth" of the earthly kingdom with that of the heavenly? Or to put it differently, if few bothered to thank Jesus for stopping by, can we expect better without shirking the cross in the process?