We have just returned from the UK… a long 15 hour journey home: a car ride, a train, a plane, a bus, a train, a taxi. Key in door and bed!! Loved our time away. I was with friends in the Black Country with a particular focus on the social enterprise work there. Inspiring. Also had time to catch up with Sam Miller and Justin Abraham. Then Gayle and I were both able to spend a weekend at Silverdale, home / friary for Roger and Sue Mitchell. If you have not linked to Roger’s blog it is so worthwhile. Check it out. Kenarchy is the theme and keep an eye out for a forthcoming book on the fall of the church. Our time there is always stimulating. So this is a spin off from it… discussion about filling a seat and then emptying it out.
Let me try and explain the above short phrase. Jesus model of leadership was leadership by example, by servanthood. He critiqued the model of hierarchy saying that was the model for the ‘lords of the Gentiles’, saying that was not to be the way among his followers, and that he himself was ‘one among them’. He demonstrated this in the extreme through the washing of the disciples’ feet, a task that was beneath that of a Hebrew slave to perform. And of course further demonstrated it through the cross.
So positions of authority can be problematic when they perpetuate inequalities, marginalisation and oppression. (Of course in a wider discussion on authority there is the need to look at the exercise of right authority based on functional issues such as task and gift-set within a given context – I am simply looking at positions that are inherently problematic.)
So before looking at occupying to empty or not (tomorrow) there is a piece I want to clarify. Israel rejects God as king, choosing to have an earthly king ‘as the other nations’ did. Kingship is not in the mind of God for us (nor was priesthood a godly institution). I want to push this one step further though. What kind of king is God? It is true that Israel susbtituted Saul / David / Solomon et al. for God. But there is something more going on that is important and we should not miss it.
Step 1: Substitute human king for God
Step 2: human king is as a king of one of the nations
Step 3: we now have a picture of what a king is – some good some bad
Step 4: God is the same as a good king (only better).
This final step is the challenge. We now have a grid to understand how God is king. WRONG!!! Barth: ‘You cannot say ‘God’ by saying ‘man’ with a loud voice’ comes to mind (sorry about the non-pc terminology in his quote). So we cannot understand kingship that way round, ending up with a sovereign God over us all (which is of course true, but it misses how he is king).
Eschatology is vital and necessary. How things will be is what is to shape us now. We are to live in and from a new creation. In that new creation we do not find a centre. There is no Temple in the city, there is not even a centralised throne – the life of the Lamb and of the Lord God are throughout the city. A radical distribution of Presence – the fulfilment of Pentecost which is the Feast of Firstfruits.
Now all of this Roger has elaborated on in a much more eloquent way in his writings on kenarchy.
God is Sovereign, he is king; but our imagery of king and sovereignty are deeply flawed.
This is an element that has to be born in mind. God does not occupy the throne of king and empty it out in love. He is king among us. He was not sovereign and then decided to pour that out in love. He is love.