Tomorrow is the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the next President of the United States. After that, he will begin the installation of policies, plans, and will establish relationships on an international scale.
A flood of emotions and opinions on this event can be found with ease, but that’s not what I’m interested in with this post.
I’m interested in meaning.
Every event, happening, circumstance and conversation is an opportunity for us as human beings to make meaning. It’s what we do - we interpret signs and signals, we listen to words and see the fruit of work - we stare at the widest angle we can manage and say “What does this mean?”
When we lose our job, what does that mean?
When our child gets arrested, what does that mean?
When a long time friend turns on us, what does that mean?
When someone becomes president, with control over vast resources and people, what does that mean?
Tomorrow, a new president comes to office. The person of this president is unique, his character unlike anything we have encountered in this area of politics. The last month has been a whirlwind of cabinet picks, Senate confirmation hearings, outrage on social media and in the news cycle, protests, etc.
It has all happened, and regardless of your position on those happenings - agreement or disagreement - there is a task before every person in America today.
What does all this mean?
As someone who has given their life to follow Jesus, albeit imperfectly, the question of finding meaning is still important but the approach is different. The reality of the president of the United States is a liminal question - it will all change again, whether in four years or eight.
The presidency is temporal - it will not last - it is bound to a time and a place.
Yet the effects will be long-term, especially on those with little power and little voice in our society.
We can’t call it unimportant. We can’t sit and wait for things to change if we disagree, and if we are celebrating this new president we can’t assume that everything will be beautiful and perfect, or even better, in the next four years.
So what does a person who has ultimate allegiance to the Kingdom of God do in this liminal space?
We make meaning. We find meaning. We reach into the world, pull back the clay of reality and shape it under the light that eviscerates darkness. We harvest meaning.
However, we might miss one key piece if we aren’t careful.
The classic scene in the movie A Christmas Story (clip contains language) comes to mind - Ralphie is obsessed with the Little Orphan Annie secret society and the day comes when he finally gets his “secret decoder pin.” The radio blares out a set of numbers, and Ralphie rushes to the privacy of the bathroom to make sense out of the numbers.
He was making meaning, discovering it in the raw numbers floating over the airwaves.
But he needed a decoder pin.
The end result for Ralphie is disappointment - finding out that when you take the raw materials floating around in the world you often find yourself as the subject of a marketing ploy - but the image is helpful for us today.
In the following scenes after tomorrow's inauguration, we’ll have a chance to make meaning. Followers of Jesus will have an opportunity to make meaning.
But we need a decoder - we need a lens, a framework, like subtitles on a non-English speaking film - we need something to through which we make sense of the raw information.
That person is Jesus.
Jesus came to inaugurate the Kingdom of God.
What we see in Him, what is good and durable about HIs life and teaching, are the whispers and poems of a Kingdom yet to come.
Love as you would be loved.
Take the last seat at the table.
Don’t pursue dominance, learn to serve.
Love to the point of death, metaphorical or literal.
Find me, find the Truth, in the midst of the poor and marginalized.
The lens we need to look through, before we question the objectivity of our news outlets or buy into rumors on Twitter, is that of the kingdom Jesus came to set in motion.
Jesus came as the inauguration of God’s Kingdom - we live now for installation.
We’re called back to that place - that place of knowing another kingdom is present that stands aside from the way of personal power and advocates for the powerless, that listens before speaking, that loves first and middle and last and learns how to organize life around the swift and muscular act of loving our own tribe as well as our enemies to the fullest extent of who we are.
We’re called today to look into the events of the last two years, these next 48 hours, and the next four years. We're called to begin to dig around with our hands and mine out the raw materials of all events and circumstances and shape them - through the lens of the reality of Jesus - into meaning, into a way of seeing reality.
Then, when the clay is set: we reflect. We pray. We talk with each other.
And then we respond.
The truth is, I could save this writing and repost it in four or eight years and the same core things would apply. The world will be different then, but not that much different.
The question is this: will the kingdom see further installation in the next four years than ever before? The next eight? That reality is given to us - we are called to partner with the King to make and install that meaning in the world.
May you be launched, with all speed and Spirit, into the stream of meaning-making these next few days. May you read every Tweet, every post, every article - may you watch every newscast and conduct every conversation - through the lens of Jesus who decodes reality and shows us where the Kingdom installation must take place.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus.