It is no easy task to maintain the status quo. It is hard work to keep a two hundred year old political system in place; one designed by men we never knew, in a time we never lived, and shaped by values we’ve never understood. Celebrating such an ancient system is much easier than living it.
This is what America does each July 4th. Independence Day is a collective celebration, a reminder that we have maintained the status quo for one more year. We do this by engaging in ludicrously expensive displays of fireworks, whose pretty explosions and loud bangs never remind us of how war has become the status quo in post 9/11 America. We put the status quo on parade. Sometimes sober, sometimes drunk; we march to a microcosm of our own America, a snapshot of the status quo we’ve grown to know and love, down the main streets of our souls to remind us that we’ve never had it so good, like we do in this time, in this place.
We like to put a lot of energy into maintaining the status quo and you know what? It doesn’t look like we’re any further down the road than we were last year, despite all that time and effort. We’re still at war, broke, drunk on power, hating each other, and coming apart at the seams. I’m not sure that’s a status quo worth celebrating. Perhaps breaking the parade up and moving down side streets to make a new plan, a “runaway American dream” like Bruce Springsteen describes in Born to Run is a better idea.
Springsteen says, “I want to know if love is wild, I want to know if love is real.” There’s something better than our version of the status quo. I’m with Bruce. Here’s what I want to tell you: the Good News of the Kingdom of God breaks apart our carefully crafted, stage managed, well-maintained status quos; even the status quo called the Fourth of July. Each time we come to celebrate the Fourth of July, we are engaging in the maintenance of the most powerful status quo the world has ever seen. This is why the church is so important. The church says, “There is a new way to see the world and those who live in it.” It’s love. If we’re not challenging the powerful status quo of our culture, with a message of love, instead of being co-opted by it, then what good are we? No good at all. We will look nothing at all like the movement Jesus created. “We might as well get out while we young,” to quote Bruce again.
When we gather in church we are not maintaining an illusion of God’s past or a memory of how things were years ago. We are doing something entirely new. The beauty of the Eucharistic liturgy is that out of our broken memories, the words of institution weave a pattern of unrevealed newness. Out of the broken status quo of death, from the maintenance of malaise; we have received a simple new promise. This new promise asks we remember: you can kill the dreamer but you cannot kill the dream. What is this dream? For love you do not deserve and life you have not earned; all things will be made right. We’re going to try and put the pieces back together. It’s the irony of the broken bread. By retelling the story of Christ’s broken body, we proclaim the mystery of faith: we are prepared to be glue in a world determined to tear itself apart. This is God’s promise, God’s risk, the dream worth dying for. Sometimes we will fail and at other times succeed. Our risk is that we try. In action isn’t an option.
When we gather as God’s people, God is not demanding we take a risk to recall the past but to act decisively and bust open the future. Of course that’s what we’re supposed to do; it’s much easier said than done. The status quo has a powerful inertia pulling us back to our assigned spots to carry out our responsibilities. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can muck up the status quo. Throw a wrench in the machine. Start by listening to God’s dream instead of watching the nightmares of the recycled status quo.