Although the term ‘body of Christ’ is my preferred term for ‘church’ due to how the latter word has been colonised I will use the word ‘church’ in these blogs. I am very happy to use the word church as it should carry with it a weight given both the application of the word to the OT people when linked to the purposes of God (normally translating in the Septuagint the Hebrew word ‘qahal’ rather than the less purposeful word ‘edah’ = people), and the Roman context of the political ekklesia in the city. Certainly the Greek word synagogue did not receive any traction when a name was used to describe the NT people. Church then should carry a purposeful sense.
Church then here for God; here for ‘one another’; and here for the world.
In what way would the church be here for God? An obvious error would be to suggest that God needs the church and its worship to ensure his sense of well-being, to make sure that any insecurities were massaged! God does not need our worship, being self-sufficient he has no need for this. (I wondered about using the compound pronoun s/he in these sentences but maybe ‘he’ works better when misrepresenting God, he is not the alpha male in need of affirmation!)
Worship declares the worthiness of God. If there is no worship God is still worthy. Our worship does not change that aspect. It does, however, change us. Some of what we term ‘worship’ or spiritual activities are cultural. I have never been able to meditate. It probably indicates my deep immaturities, having arrived well into the second half of my life I have not yet come close to entering the second half of life. Too much going on to slow down, too much of a belief in my own importance to have things in balance. So with that it is most unlikely I will connect with some very good spiritual disciplines. I can still connect with a good old shout and a holler. Others have disconnected from that as the context of insularity from the world betrays for them whatever the rest of us might be shouting and hollering about. Whatever rights and wrongs are in it all, personalities, stages in life and all the rest comes to bear on the issue of our approach to ‘worship’. Moving on quickly…
Why is the church here for God? It is not here to massage any ego issues, but to align with heaven so that there might be entrance points for heaven on earth. God loves the world, but s/he cannot simply change the world. It is set in a way that reflects the love of God. The ‘uncontrolling love of God’. This is why the term ‘omnipotence’ is purely a philosophical term when we come to the issue God’s activity in relation to humanity. ‘Omnilove’ is the better term.
With the Brexit one person wrote that ‘God is still on the throne’. Nice one. A better comment came from a friend that Gayle and I skyped with yesterday – ‘and true also during the holocaust’. That kind of statement is meaningless if the throne is the throne of omnipotence.
Could God save the world without Jesus? I have to give a resounding ‘no’, and not because of wrath needing to be appeased, but so that all human rebellion (which results in oppression and dehumanisation) could be sucked into the death to end all death. The issues to be dealt with are not issues that deity needs to resolve but that humanity needs to resolve. The incarnation is so key. The ‘continuing incarnation’ is also key.
All that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up
Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
Those three scriptures above identify the body of Christ as Jesus. If we only had those scriptures we might be pushed to say that the church is Jesus. That of course would be a conflation of concepts, but highlights the parallel between the mission of Jesus and that of the church. Jesus himself said:
As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world (Jn. 17:18).
Jesus finished the work the Father gave him to do – that work is finished but the work continues. He unmasked power through the cross and decisively opened the path of life through the resurrection. He showed that sacrifices and offerings were not the desire of God, but a body through which the will of God could be demonstrated (Heb. 10:5-7).
The church – here for God? Indeed, but not as a body that will make God feel better, but to participate with heaven’s transforming agenda. The spiritual disciplines (including meditation!!) will keep us centred in on who this God is so that we do not depart from his omnilove throne. To that extent they are more than helpful. When not calling us to that goal they will prove totally unhelpful.