I enjoy woodworking. I’m fortunate to have a little woodworking shop and I make shelves and picnic Tables and Adirondack chairs and the like. But as a friend of mine suggested, I’m much more an “enthusiast” than a craftsman. So, you can appreciate my amazement when I worked alongside a real craftsman who had an heirloom dresser brought to him that was in quite the state of disrepair and was asked to bring it back to its original look. I hardly thought it possible to do. Yet, this craftsman received the piece and applying his gifts and talents, repaired it so well one could not find where the damage had been! It looked brand new again!
As I admired the dresser, was reminded of the Hebrew saying Tikkun Olam (pronounced tee-KOON oh-LUHM). It means repairing the world. It’s understood as an invitation from God to join God in the repairing and healing of the world. This ties perfectly into Jesus’ ministry and his invitation to his disciples to “follow me”. Jesus says that if anyone wishes to do so “they must pick up their cross”.
Too often in the church (and sadly, sometimes from pulpits) this is explained as some burden or tragedy in our lives. I do not minimize hardships, handicaps, and tragedies in our lives. Those are real and tough, but that’s not what Jesus is speaking of when he tells us to take up our crosses. Jesus invites us to participate in the work of re- storing the world and people’s lives. Jesus goes to the cross to take on the sin in the world: Yours, mine, each and all’s. To take up our cross (note, Jesus doesn’t say “my” cross) is for us to step into the brokenness of the world and participate in the healing/restoring of it. To be willing to join in and carry the pain of and for others. How amazing that Jesus would invite us to be a part of his work in the world! We are called to join Christ in the continual redemptive work in this world.
Jesus is actively about the work of Tikkun Olam even today; and we who seek to follow Jesus (Christians) are called by our Lord to join with him. We are not to sit back to encourage and cheer Jesus on. No, we are his disciples, we are the body of Christ, we are filled by the very Spirit of Resurrection! We need to be about resurrective work. This looks like loving our neighbors, welcoming the stranger, loving the unloved, embracing the broken, reaching out to the least, the lost, and the left-out!
A Hebrew word much akin to Tikkun Olam is Tzedakah which means “Making the world a fair and just place.” Jews understand this as an ethical obligation. Do we, as Christians, feel an ethical obligation to “make this world a fair and just place”? God so loved and loves this world – this imperfect, broken, needful world – that God gave God’s full self!! And this self-giving was/is done so that this world not be condemned but rather saved/restored/ redeemed/healed! And we get to help! In fact, it is to be a moral/ethical obligation for those who call themselves Christians: followers of the One named Jesus! To follow demands we “pick up our crosses and follow.”
That dresser was restored. The damage that had been done to it was healed. It was made new again. The Master Craftsman restores us and all. In and through God’s grace (unconditional love) the world is and is being healed and restored. May we all, as a community, be seeking the best for one another and attending to the needs of each and all, especially the least, the lost, and the left-out amongst us. Let us work toward “making the world a fair and just place”. May we be neighbors to one another in the best sense of the word. And let us all work toward healing – especially here, in this corner of the world, but also beyond, where we have the resources and abilities to do so.