A conversation with Pastor Josh Pardee
At the Christmas Eve service, Pastor Josh Pardee used the story of the infant Jesus’ presentation in the temple as an introduction to the theme of redemption. We thought a follow-up conversation might be in order.
With this sermon, what were some questions you wanted to help us think about at Christmas?
We talk about how it’s Merry Christmas and how it’s a happy time of year, but yet as we look at our lives, we see brokenness around the world. What enables us to actually say Merry Christmas? Why do we look at this season so differently?
Focusing on Anna is an unusual approach. How does Anna’s portion of the story speak to you?
Anna was widowed after just seven years of marriage. Now in this passage she is 84. She has spent her whole time in the temple praying and fasting and worshipping. And then as soon as she gets a hold of the child, she is declaring to anyone who will listen that he is the redemption of Jerusalem, and how that story extends to the world. And so the reason that we do celebrate, even amid the brokenness, and amid the pain in life, is knowing that there is redemption to come. It’s already and not yet.
In the sermon I mentioned Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem coming. Now we’re going to see the climax of that story . And that’s why we can experience hope. It’s not that pain and brokenness and suffering aren’t a part of our story. They are just no longer the focus of our story. Redemption is the story that’s being written.
What’s the significance of Anna being highlighted like this? Especially as a woman?
Women are way more highlighted in the text than what has been recognized for the past 500 years or so. Women are at the forefront of the entire gospel message. It is part of our story. Jesus is born of a woman. She is the chosen one to carry him. Anna is highlighted as a prophet in the temple. Even Rahab is listed in the genealogy of Jesus. The first person who declares that Jesus has risen from the dead, which is the gospel, is a woman.
The biblical writers were breaking the protocol of patriarchy that had been present up until then. Just in the way they were writing, it was already an alternative to what the rest of the world had seen. These are things that wouldn’t have happened in any other writings of the time.
What message does this give to Christians today?
The kingdom is literally available to anyone who will receive it. It is not just for the movers and shakers, the high and mighty, the elites of society. It is for the outcast, the poor, the downtrodden. Anna’s story is a reminder that women were part of that at the time.
And so there is hope. At its most simple level, it’s just being open and willing to receive what God wants to do in your life. It doesn’t matter where society has positioned you or prescribed you to be. He’ll meet you in that place.
What’s a quick definition of redemption for you?
The idea of making all things new, or bringing things back to the way they should be. The things that are broken or not as they should be, that wasn’t what it was when God looked at it and said it is good. And so, redemption is us arriving back at our origins, at things being good.
What do you take from this story, personally?
If redemption Is a real thing that Jesus brings into the world, then the next logical question is, what is God trying to redeem in my life? Where is he leading me in the brokenness of my family? In my economic and political ideas of what life should look like? In my sexuality? In a million other things? What does redemption look like for me, Josh Pardee, in my family, in my community, in my city? Where is God at work and how can I partner with him?
Redemption is assuming that God actually is already present and at work. If he has already initiated his kingdom and we know he’s coming back to complete his kingdom, then we also know he is working to that end right now. So it’s just a matter of me partnering with the work of redemption. I’m not forcing redemption or controlling it or prescribing it. I’m participating in it.
How can the theme of redemption inform the way we live as Christians?
If God’s plan was a rescue mission for his image bearers, and that plan was activated by Jesus coming, and then he dies and rises again and it’s all culminated by him returning, then I think that the grand story is moving to that end. If that’s where the last chapter is going to end, then what that means is I have to be moving in that direction to be in line with where God is leading all of history.
It brings it to the forefront of my life. If I believe that that’s where we’re headed, then I now have to interact with you at a level that believes that. I don’t get the privilege of removing myself from relationships, from community, from the problems in my life. That approach would say none of it really matters because we’re all going to float away to a disembodied universe somewhere. Actually, the things that I’m doing right now are participating in what is going to be true of all of eternity. So, everything is immensely important.
Jim Killam is a journalist, author, teacher and terminal Cubs fan. He and his wife, Lauren, live in Rockford and work internationally with Wycliffe Bible Translators.