Letter from the Editor: A Constant Change

Time hounds each one of us. We look at the day ahead, all of us holding the same 24 hours to spend as we will. We work. We worship. We play. We learn. We rest. We invest these pieces of time for some desired end. And what do we reap for our labor? Wages are nice (and needful). Accolades and criticism come in tandem. Joy? Maybe. Anxiety seems much more common.

For all our contingency planning and strategic efforts, one thing we cannot do is bend time to our will. The one thing we all lose is time. We cannot save it or store it up for later. The clock ticks on.

If we reap what we sow, shouldn’t we pay more careful attention to where we invest our time and efforts? Let’s look at that together in this issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine.

But we can savor the time and even sow into our lives things that will reap good things to come. Knowing how to sow for a future harvest that isn’t guaranteed is the hard work we do in this moment. It takes fair measure of faith to sow and wait for reaping time to come. We have to trust in promises and in providence. We need to rest in God’s good graces, trusting that He has designed the sowing and reaping to work together for our good—even when it takes time… literally. We exchange the time we’ve been given for the chance to sow and reap something more in the future. This is the way of life lived by faith. Life takes faith.

In this issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine, the feature essays and support articles point to the notions of reaping and sowing and how time takes us through seasons of both.

Chris Nye speaks of what we reap from music in his feature, “Soul Music and the Obviousness of God”:

“Soul music sees God everywhere no matter the season. To Bradley or Fields, Sam Cooke or Aretha, God’s presence permeates our world—there is nowhere He is not. There is no soul music without the Black church. The relationship between the two is inseparable and it comes through the music.

“For gospel and soul artists, God is pervasive, expansive, even obvious to all of life. Marginalized communities understand this in a way majority cultures do not. Those of us in majority cultures have trouble understanding how the meek could be blessed, how being poor in spirit might be an advantage. It’s our brothers and sisters in the gospel tradition that pull the curtain back on life: God is both pain and joy, sorrow and spectacle, cross and empty tomb. There is nowhere he is not.”

Continuing to faithfully sow even when reaping is scarce or delayed is something that’s hard for everyone. We get weary of the way things are. We want change, blessing, abundant life. But for now, most of us are in the Not Yet—reaping is a season for the future or even the future age to come. Alex Sosler says this in his feature, “What Do We Owe Each Other While We Wait for The Good Place?”:

“There’s one way to analyze The Good Place in a type of Jesus-juke way. (“Heaven and hell are not about a points system. Jesus came to erase the negative points and give you his positive points, both justifying and sanctifying you! You have your sins erased and the imparted righteousness of Christ. You get what Christ deserves, not what you deserve, etc., etc.”) Which is true enough. But as my personal theological education can attest to, goodness played a type of lip service but what mattered most was being right. For my training, it was about theological precision. For Chidi, it was philosophical theory. He knew the ways to be moral but failed to live up to what he knew. The choice to be moral will never make us moral—only the affections can do that. If knowledge sits in the intellect, it doesn’t do much good. Goodness needs to be embodied. For much of American Christianity, maturity consists of theological knowledge. If we have all the theological training in the world, but have not affection, we are like banging cymbals and gain nothing.”

We may know much about sowing and reaping, of God’s providence, of our call to be faithful even when the blessing is still long coming. But the practice of it? Being people of faith, in this season? That’s hard work. And it requires keeping one eye on the task at hand, another on the horizon—both eyes fixed in faith on bringing about the abundance of God’s Kingdom right where we are in the meanwhile. Jamie Lapeyrolerie presents this idea in her feature, “Out of Many, One: What Jane the Virgin Can Teach Us about Immigration”:

“But, if the Church in America were to be honest and take a hard look, much of the Church would see where it had failed. Seeing children locked in cages made that glaringly obvious. Instead of seeing people, the humanity, the Imago Dei, behind the story, the political stance has become more important for some. But seeing a person over a party line is one of the most loving things we can do as Christians. It’s not about agreeing with everything they stand for, but when we don’t take that time to see the person, we begin to care more about being right in our stance than loving people. Jesus’ time on earth taught us the direct opposite of that.”

And as we work in these days to sow and reap, may we be laboring in love, just as Jesus showed us.

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