Saturday, December 04, 2004

Please Remind Me of This

I have been a Christian for almost a decade (I find it hard to even think in those terms!) and I've had providential opportunity to reflect on my time in the Kingdom and hopefully where it is going. The sovereignty of God is a strange, strange thing...

There has been one thing that has had me hang on for this long and for the indefinite future: the gospel. Yes, I know that sounds trite, but it is true--I don't usually speak Christianese anyway. It is the promises of the gospel that keep me going, all exemplified in the weirdest place: the raising to life of an insignificant Jewish peasant political 'rebel'.

The gospel, by which I mean the summing up of the Israel story in Jesus and the progressive application through the Spirit to a hurting world, had to me--even (and especially!) as a Christian--remained largely hidden. The 'powers' and 'principalities' exerted massive control over the Israel-Church (not the nation Israel, but the Church as Israel--think Meredith Kline use of hyphens). Salvation was about me--my justification, my sanctification, my glorification. I remember asking questions about whether I would recognize loved ones in heaven and thinking heaven was whatever I wanted to do most (how post-modern!).

The proclamation of Jesus as King broke those bonds. Now I no longer had to feel pessimistic about life (worse and worse till AntiChrist) or optimistic (world is getting better, sin is getting less); instead I could have legitimate hope that wrong would be righted, even if I couldn't at first see it: Psalm 73 made true sense for once. The gospel wasn't just for me and to hell with the rest of the world; it bred compassion for a lost world that had once included me. I admit, I've not yet reached the goal of maturity in Christ--being able tolay down my own life for the restoration of the world--but I'm now striving for it, not against it.The gospel also makes some parts of Calvinism more palatable, so to speak. God is saving not just a few elect here and there and (once again) to hell with the rest of the world, but he is saving the elect here and there so that the world as a whole won't have to go to hell! Election with purpose; foreknowledge with promise! Life isn't about me anymore, but God in Christ restoring the world to Himself!

Now the Church can gain a clear sense of itself: the training up of believer-elder-priests to 'rule' the world by God's love and restorative cross. Worship takes on a new meaning because it is no longer about abstract, mystical communion or abstract, timeless ethical principles, but about concrete community (through the symbol, importantly, of communion) and worship--the, so to speak, putting of God in His place (the Throne) and listening to His Inscripturated Word for marching orders. The Church isn't this narrow, exclusivist body, but a welcoming body inviting others to stop fighting, stop running, stop rebelling against the living One and come join our cosmic renewal party. This also sharpens the Church's prophetic critique of the world and itself--it must make the terms of refusal known--destruction--but woe over it (Bruggeman makes the excellent point that the prophetic 'woe' oracles aren't anger, they are lament--"The Prophetic Imagination"). All of this orchestrated and empower by the Spirit of God itself, the Breath that hovered over the waters and created man in the first place.


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