the remnant

Cycle 30

Say hello to Cycle 30, the 30th class of interns at Sojourners: an eclectic mix of cultures, personalities and Meyers-Briggs profiles.

One month has passed since I was thrown into community with these nine young women and men. We live together, eat together, play together, work together… and laugh, A LOT, together. Even our next-door neighbor can hear our laughter through the walls at 7 in the morning. From the outset I have been surprised at how easily we get along, at least considering how different we  are from one another.

During our first week together, our director told us:

You are the remnant.

Translation: “You, Cycle 30, are the remnant, the legacy of the Sojourners community that served as the foundation of the organization’s work when it first formed in 1971.” Talk about an ego booster. =)

The Bible speaks of “the remnant” in various places. Isaiah, amidst his proclamations of judgment, tells of God preserving “the remnant of Israel,” who will return to the Lord and experience His favor (7:3; 10:20-23). Micah declares that God will “gather the remnant of Israel” even as they are in exile (2:12). Paul refers to the believing Jews in his day as “a remnant” (Rom 11:5). In each of these instances, the remnant exists when it shouldn’t have. Under normal circumstances the remnant would have been crushed, scattered and diminished alongside the others.

But when does God ever act “normal”? He brews wine out of water. He doodles in the sand in front of a bunch of Pharisees. He speaks from a burning bush, in a low whisper and out of an ass (literally). Materialism, oppression and legalism seek to suffocate, but grace breaks through with an unexpected breath of fresh air. By His grace the remnant lives on.

 

You are the remnant.

I think of the remnant of Israel in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Returning to Jerusalem as exiles and strangers, these Israelites faced a perplexing question: “How do you make yourself at home when you’re not even sure you belong there?” Day after day their enemies reinforced their remnant status with mockery, lies and even death threats.

But the Israelites themselves perpetuated their existential crisis: they took advantage of the poorer individuals in their midst, and even after rebuilding the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, the tasks to which God had called them, they conducted business on the Sabbath and intermarried with peoples who didn’t follow Yahweh, undermining the very structures that were meant to sustain their identity as God’s beloved.

Perhaps the Israelites were forgetful. Perhaps they didn’t understand the significance of the Law or the implications of their decisions. Perhaps they just wanted to have fun. After all, living-in-community-in-distinction-from-mainstream-values-while-seeking-to-make-a-positive-impact-in-society is, well, daunting. The life of the remnant is, in a word, inconvenient. Whatever motivations the Israelites had for disobeying, it’s obvious they’d had enough of the remnant life.

And how often have I, too, arrived at this place?

 

You are the remnant.

I look at the photo above. A bunch of wide-eyed 20-somethings. How is it that we get to be here? How is it that we have entered an organization, a community, a legacy of women and men who have challenged the injustices of this world for over four decades? We can’t even agree on how to spend our food budget, let alone move people to care about the environment, immigration reform and SNAP. What are we doing here?

In the middle of the chaos and awkwardness
the Lord speaks:”You are My people. You have received mercy” (Hos 1:8).

The remnant exists because of grace. We get to be here because of grace. To be the remnant is to embrace everything that comes with it: friendship, responsibility, conflict, inconvenience… and grace. Because grace feels much more real when you have to weigh 10 different opinions for one decision. Because grace is what you give when dishes are left in the sink again, and grace is what you get when you take your stress out on the wrong person.

By His grace the remnant lives on.

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