God votes: the word ‘with’ tops them all

Relationships… (please remember that I like to think, but thinking is in my head, that I really both know what I write about and incarnate it…)

Incarnate. God with us, you shall call his name Immanuel: so begins Matthews Gospel; ‘I will be with you to the end of the age’: so ends Matthews Gospel, the Gospel that is self-consciously written as the fulfilment of all that has gone before. All of the before was to lead to ‘God being with us’ and it was never to end but simply to increase.

The incarnation was not something done TO us. I have tried to stay clear of that in my relationships. Maybe there is a time when we need to do something TO someone as there is no alternative, but sadly most often the TO aspect is a strong me (powerful) / they (object of my power).

The incarnation did have some element of FOR us. The cross certainly did, and the cross is part of the journey from the incarnation. Jesus, being in the form of God; Jesus because he was rich became poor for us. Yes there is a FOR us element there, and I am thankful for that.

But really the incarnation is a WITH scenario. ‘I am one among you’ so undercuts the Imperial model – that system that claims it is FOR us but really is only doing something TO us in order that we can be there FOR the Imperial system.

WITH is a challenge. I am pondering why I have many who offer friendship but I am not truly friends to anyone. I think there is something here that I am missing. WITH. I guess a WITH scenario opens up all kinds of possibilities. Maybe I should explore that… or if not I could continue to write about it.

God votes: I would like them to learn to compromise

‘No, no and never will I compromise,’ I retort.

I have my ideals; I am sticking to what I know to be right.

Sure Mr. ‘Righteous’ (also known as Mr. ‘Aloof’, and probably a few other titles such as Mr. ‘Arrogant’…), but there is something bigger, better and more wonderful, the land of compromise.

I consider God is quite the compromiser. I think that cos I err on the side of immanence, God with us; not on the side of transcendence, with God sooooo different, a divide, God up there, beyond me. Of course it is an err(or) on my part but give me a break, I am not sure that there has not been a few errs as well in you dear reader!

God compromises – evidence s/he seems to come close to me. If that is not compromise… Jesus ate with ‘sinners’. God does not ride on some high-horse, but chooses the donkey and comes through the east gate while Pilate comes in with all the pomp, ceremony and power through the western gate.

What a compromiser we find in this God, and yet we need to grasp that those compromises are redemptive and therefore eschatological. That is the challenge I need to rise to, to engage with people and situations in such a way that I make a small contribution to those people and situations helping them / opening the door for them to move in a direction that is more in line with the glory of God, and whatever contribution I make or presence I bring is in the direction I want the world to go.

And it should not be too hard for me to compromise. There is no ‘transcendence / immanence’ debate around me! There is no ‘I am so beyond you…’ Even Jesus said he was ‘one among us’.

I guess that God would love us learn how to look at situations, be in / with those contexts, come out with feet dirty and as a result are not able to pat ourselves on the back but the situation was just a little different afterwards.

Mistakes and compromise… going beyond, way beyond law… mistakes – an aspect that defines humanity; compromise – a calling for those who have met the God who compromised to redeem them so that without judgement they engage, and in that engagement something redemptive and eschatological takes place.

God votes: let’s give them a few laws

Don’t… ‘You shall…’ A few laws. I am reading at the moment in the ‘cheeky’ book of Deuteronomy. Cheeky cos it keeps talking about the ‘Place that shall be chosen’. Really? Moses are you sure… or you Babylonian based editors, how did you get that slid in there so that we read it as if Moses had this always in mind, and if he had it in mind then so did God?

Laws to set boundaries and then we can be smacked really hard for straying outside of them, or were they always written in pencil (I know there is something in there about ‘written in tablets of stone’ but just for now let me suggest ‘pencil’) and are pretty helpful as some notes to refer to, but then one day will become unnecessary.

Laws given to Israel, Israel who represents all of us, imperfect, but supposed to set an example to all of us. Laws that are OKish but pencil writing. After all before we come to all those laws that instruct us to make sure that any murderer does not escape and go free… before we read about that… we read that God did not punish the first (the FIRST, hence quite an example here) murderer but looked to protect him – Cain. Now that really does not seem an action that pays much attention to the pencilled in writing. Carry it through and the next time that Cain and Abel come on the scene is when the two ‘sons of the father’ appear in the New Testament. One goes free, the other does not. Barabbas goes free!! [Note to self: and so do you Martin, so don’t complain.]

Laws quickly help us determine what is right and wrong. They then have to work hard when it comes to ‘mistakes’, hence the many exceptions in the OT laws, ‘you are to do this, but if this has happened then do…’

And laws are not too smart about really helping us to choose a path that leads to life.

Yes, let’s give them a few laws, but it sure would be good if they could choose the life path instead of trying to get everything right and fit within those boundaries.

God votes: let’s create mistake-making creatures

A little note about these posts to anyone who drops by. I have often thought should I stop, after all blogging since the late 90s is quite a long time. Two aspects keep me going… I get an email / connection that says keep on going, and I also realise that most of it is for me. I call them ‘perspectives’ but they could well be entitled ‘personal pontifications and half baked thoughts’. They are essentially for me, they are my thoughts out in the public arena. I seldom ever re-read what I wrote, sometimes I have found someone saying to me, ‘your post this week on…’ and I have no idea what is in there. I am thankful for those who comment one way or another, and give me space.

A final comment on these posts is that a reader should not assume I am somehow ‘incarnating’ what I write about. They are thoughts, and some of the thinking is along the lines of ‘maybe when you grow up (mature) you might like to consider this, Martin’. Today’s post is like that.

One of God’s wonderful gifts to humanity is the ability to make mistakes. Yes we are in the image of God, but God is not in our image. What a creative idea – let’s make them like us, but let’s add to them this ability, which will need to become a reality for them, of making mistakes.

Getting it right is not all it’s cracked up to be. Nor is it the goal of Scripture. Even the eschaton (the end) is not the telos (end point, arrival point, like the train destination). End of ‘sin’, but maybe even not the end of ‘mistakes’.

When I was 46… Martin loves to repeat stories to endless boredom… I prayed ‘if you don’t mind I would like to live to 92, as I know I need to make a whole lot of more mistakes to learn something to be of a contribution to others’. Some people probably only need a few years and mature by the time they are mid-20s and then have a resource to give away. Others are slower learners. [Note to self re prayer: you might need to add a few more years to the request, 20 have already gone and not too much has been learnt.]

I really don’t cope well with making mistakes. I overcome that ‘not coping well’ with an unhealthy dose of denial. Hey, no comments please, it has got me thus far and I decided the other day that my closest friend is me, and Gayle overtakes that position every now and then. I think though I probably need to get on my bike and learn to make mistakes, learn a little from them and get on with life.

(If I embraced) the idea of making mistakes as a gift from heaven it would really lighten the load and open the door for an exploration. I could try stuff and then move on.

Mistakes… learning… perfect

The making mistakes gift

‘In the image of God’… perfect? No, but good. Humanity was never ‘created’ perfect (aside: nor ‘given’ an immortal soul). Such ideas are not formed from the earthy theology of the Bible, but the ‘ideal’ world of the Greeks. The theology that looks for a way out; God is always searching for a way in.

The incarnation. Jesus is sinless, but not ‘perfect’. Or, at least, he is not intrinsically perfect in the sense the word is used of humans in Scripture, the sense of ‘mature’. To arrive at maturity is a process. And it was a process also for Jesus.

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings (Heb. 2:10).

Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Heb. 4:8,9).

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour (Luke 2:52).

A growth in wisdom, a path toward maturity. True humanity, that which Jesus exhibited, is not ‘perfection’ as suggested to us from our infected-by-Hellenistic-philosophy theology, but it is one that embraces mistakes, of holding to a position that has to be later abandoned, and moved on from it. We are all influenced by our culture, the wider cultures and the closer culture of the faith we have embraced.

Jesus learned.

Perfection is not the measure of true humanness, but learning, adapting, changing is the measure.

We know the classic example of Jesus learning from the Syro-Phoenician woman’s response; or when we consider the ‘who knew better?’ question related to Jesus or his mother in John 2! Or maybe the washing of feet of the disciples (John 13) was provoked by the washing of his feet by Mary of Bethany earlier (John 12).

Did Jesus learn in those situations? I reply with a resounding ‘for sure’. For sure, not simply because I wish to affirm his humanity, but because I wish to affirm his (sinless) true humanness.

This post might only be for me… To learn to embrace mistakes, not to see them as ‘sin’, as ‘failure’ but as the door provided to enable me to mature.

One of God’s good gifts to humanity is the ability to make mistakes.

God is God, and sadly we project on to God our humanity. ‘Anger’, ‘slow to forgive without proper repayment and forgiveness’; we tend to make God in our image, or the ‘idealised’ image of humanity (with all our imperfections). The two above examples are classic: wrath, but never are the anger of humans and the anger of God compared… and forgiveness… hence we end up with a transactional cross and a divided Trinity. Then we tend to make Jesus, as human, into ‘our’ God as human, so true humanness becomes something that provokes us to become even less human than we are! As if!!!

In the Garden we were tempted to become ‘as God’… the problem has always been a desire to become like the ‘God’ we perceive! Hence the purification we go through to act with power. The theology that sanctifies getting to the ‘top’.

It is all cut down when God becomes like us, the incarnation. Here is the image of God; here indeed is God.

(And the get to the top ideology is somewhat mocked in the tower of Babel story. The tower will reach heaven… God in heaven has to come ‘down’ to see it. Not so high after all. Hence, all the centres of power are not what they seem, they will all be unfinished, they will not reach the heights they proclaim. The small stone is always more effective than the great image that is created.)

The incarnation. And God in human form learns.

Long live mistakes. (Again written for me.) I guess it is not likely I hit the bulls eye today.

Re-populating Earth

Heaven's vision

In writing an email this morning in response to a question I mentioned that the work of the demonic is to dehumanise people. It is part of a bigger framework of seeing that the heart of sin is to act in a not-truly human way (to fall short of the glory of God); then I wrote that Jesus (truly human) and his redemptive work is to re-populate the earth with those who are truly human. It provoked to come up with the phrase that I have put in the title:

Re-populating the earth.
I think it has mileage (kilometrage?).

Future…

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure (1 John 3:2,3).

I guess the more we see the true Jesus (not simply ‘my’ Jesus that I construct) the more we become truly human – like him, changed from glory to glory (failing short of the glory of God being ‘sin’; glory revealed in and through the human Jesus). So there is a future element that awaits the parousia – the one that will happen or maybe even one of our speculative ones!!! At that time God will be with humanity – in line with all the movement in Scripture being heaven to earth, the other direction being temporary, until.

But we cannot simply push everything away to the future. There is a present element… Acts being a record of what Jesus is continuing to do and to teach (Acts 1:1,2); ekklesia being the representative company of those on earth to be the means by which heaven is to come to earth; the apostolic life that fills up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24); etc. Jesus is present now.

Re-populating earth! That is a mission that we can be concerned about. We are never going to be the ones that can decide eternal destinies… we can though, and are instructed to, live in a way that represents heaven, that opens ‘channels’ from that dimension to this one.

In virtually all of Paul’s letters we have theology in the first part and then ethics in the latter part. This is what has been done, this is what has taken place in your life, now here is the path. And I do not think the ethics are tied to rights and wrongs, but to a relational and eschatological pathway. Relational – ‘do good to all (especially to the household of faith)’ for we are ‘members of one another’ etc. How we relate to the others of faith is important, for they are family and this family is called (as per the family of Abraham, and of course we are the family of Abraham) for the sake of the world. When we meet those that we share faith with (the root of the word koinonia, fellowship) we have a strong obligation to be there for them, not simply to pat them on the back and sing a song together, but to provoke them to live out their part of the story related to this re-population process. When we meet those that do not share that same faith, but with whom we are family by creation, we have an obligation to reveal as far as possible how heaven has touched us, how they are valued, loved etc. And to encourage them on the path also of re-population… Not sure on some things (I hear you say ‘most’ but I quickly deny that) but it is clear Paul had friends who had not experienced that personal shift to faith in Jesus; the New Jerusalem’s gates are always open with people outside of the gates(!) – that being imagery apparently related to post ‘new heavens and new earth’ – so prior to that the open gate imagery has to kick in also, maybe in a greater way! (There are more wonderful ‘grey’ lines – Jesus the Saviour of all, especially those who believe… Especially, does not exclude, but does not obliterate a distinction.)

Eschatological, because the time has changed now. The future has arrived, there are two time-zones running concurrently. In the new time-zone the light is different, sight as a result is different.

Anyway enough for now. Is my space being repopulated… which is the overriding time zone that manifests here?

Life… but not as we know it?

I was never a great Star Trek viewer but I do remember the line that was woven into a song:

It’s life Jim… but not as we know it.

Humanising the Divine. The Incarnation does just that. The resurrection makes it permanent. God was and is eternally humanised. Humble and accessible.

Then we come to the life of Jesus – fully human, but the temptation is to respond with ‘He’s human [Jim], but not as we know it’. And that is where it stops for many. An affirmation that Jesus is fully God and fully human but with a huge advantage. Once we understand the miracles are not performed through his divinity, but by the anointing of the Spirit that closes the gap a little, but I think the aspect I am pursuing at the moment closes the gap further.

He is the GREAT LEARNER, breaking out beyond his contextually induced prejudices through his encounters with those he would not have been able to see (naturally) as fully human. Gentiles, Samaritans and women (maybe also children?).

Jesus gives God a human face, a human life; the great learner then humanises Jesus (I think Hebrews is the book that pushes this aspect, further than Paul for example does in his letters).

Maybe Jesus has an advantage over us. I certainly was not filled from my mother’s womb with the Spirit. But living life from then on? We are both on the same track. Through our encounters with those who our tradition / culture conditions us not to fully see, we can grow toward true humanness. (And maybe from a Christian perspective, those we have been able to label as ‘unclean’, and so are unable to see them with different eyes?)

And perhaps Jesus had an advantage. I am sure that I could not make it to becoming truly human, without sin along the way, and thus become a source of eternal salvation to all! Anointed by the Spirit, but always with a choice to follow the path of the Spirit or not. I am glad that he rescued us.

  • Jesus fully human – not an infusion mixture of divine and human. Like us.(Also fully God.)
  • Jesus, human anointed by the Spirit, in ways that we are not by nature, but in order to rescue us so that we can be anointed by the same Spirit.
  • Jesus, without sin, but not mature, going through the natural process of growth and development, with provocative encounters that confronted his environmentally induced perspectives that he stepped beyond. Thus becomes mature, becomes truly human.

I have often quoted the remarkable response of Jesus in the dialogue of Luke 13: 27, 28.

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

The woman’s worldview was one shared by and deeply imprinted on her mind by her culture. A woman started at the bottom, but could rise, provided: she was married, she was a mother, she gave birth to a son, and if the son could be a rabbi like Jesus then she would indeed be blessed.

Jesus’ reply completely transformed that worldview. With a ‘no… you are human, in the image of the divine… not in any way lesser than anyone else… gender does not enter into any assessment of value.’

Now I wonder did Jesus carry that transformative worldview with him, or did it come to him in that moment. Like us, most revelation of where we need to adopt a different worldview comes when we encounter something / someone that means we can no longer live with authenticity from the former box.

Jesus… When we look there we can say – there’s life and just as I know and experience it. His responses, his willingness to learn and adapt – now there’s a gap.

Destroying or making history?

The seven last words of the Unarmed

If you don’t get time to watch it right through try 16:00 to the end.

A statue that honoured a slave trader being pulled down in Bristol was commented on very astutely in the Guardian that this was not an act of destroying history but of making history. I note that tonight there is a possibility of action targeted on the statue of Cecil Rhodes – an interesting one as Gayle was born in Zimbabwe and we have inevitably focused prayer into the effects of his life into the ‘soul’ of Africa.

Some days I pinch myself. What era are we living through? Is this simply a pause and all goes back to where it was? Or are we really living in one of the of the greatest resets in all of history? There are some incredible momentous epochs, and for believers in the resurrection of Jesus, we should anticipate that. Time moves forward a day at a time, a tick of the clock, and when that happens little seems to change, but the resurrection distorted the time line (Matt. 27: 51-54).

‘All lives matter’ is a retort at this time. Yes but only once ‘black lives matter’.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…’

(I quote from the USA declaration for two reasons, it is easier to find a good quote there and the USA is the child of Europe, if any schisms become visible there be assured they are present in our soil. I am not quoting it as a criticism of ‘there’. My critiques are of here and of ‘me’.) In the era when that was written ‘all men’ were all ‘men’ of the male variety, and of the white European descent. We can look back to criticise, but the gift of looking back is to slowly help give us present (time and place) sight. There are truths that are so self-evident, but are totally obscured to our sight because of where we stand. The gift of the moment is not simply that voices are being heard that have been silenced but we could possibly have our ears unblocked and our sight unveiled.

I have written that many might never come closer to seeing God than to see someone… really see them. To see humanity. That for me primarily is why this could be one of the greatest moments in history. To see Jesus was (is) to see the Father. To ‘see’ and really see humanity… that is the path for many to see Jesus.

Human

Fully and Truly Human

The second chapter in the awesome first volume is going head on with a view on humanity. (I am on zoom with a small group Sunday and we will be gradually working through this booklet. The full booklet I will publish here in due course.)

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
your hand-made sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way? (Ps. 8).

Many views of post-fall have humanity as basically evil, totally depraved. Better forms might suggest that totally depraved means affected in every area, but the final result is whatever good is done it is but ‘as filthy rags’. Having no value before God. It is easy to pull together Scriptures that prove a point (I would never do this!). filthy rags has a context, and it the context is not – regardless of who you are it is all rubbish whatever you do. The context was concerning religious behaviour.

Jesus is fully human, not semi-human. Although never ceasing to be God he becomes full human, sharing in our humanity (for those interested I am pretty much in the kenotic camp that he does not draw on his divinity while on earth). Beyond that, and unlike all of us, Jesus is also TRULY human. Coming to faith is a journey toward being truly human, final transformation will be ‘we will be like him’.

In this chapter I am seeking to establish (from my bias) that humanity is not evil but fallen. What is fallen can be redeemed, what is evil needs to be judged. Hence all behaviour that humanises is ‘Godly’ behaviour. dehumanisation is the work of the demonic. So sadly we can do ‘Christian’ things in a way that dehumanises and therefore does not resonate with godly behaviour. And by way of contrast, even someone who expresses no faith, can do genuine good, godly acts.

Where this is going is not in a therefore ‘all are saved’ direction. I want to take it in a value of human life; and beyond that the ‘ekklesia’ (this will be volume 2) is responsible to create a shape where the good that is in people comes through and the bad held back. Of course if we have a Gospel that is but if people are bad they need salvation and we don’t reach those who are ‘good’. For me that is a challenge to the gospel we believe and present.

This chapter is to bridge us into the next ones – Judas comes first, the disciple who is very like us, but whose human weakness was exploited. Then to Peter and with both of those disciples how their view of the Messiah is what messed them up. Our tendency is to be always on hand to be there to help Jesus out. Good motivation!! However, gets us in trouble every time. Passion + (our) vision of the kingdom = trouble.

Digging down

With this post I finish the material we sought to share in Brazil and the earlier part will also summarise some of what I have already written about. Hope it is not too long to read right through. Tomorrow I will copy a writing from around 150AD – who said I was not a traditionalist?

We are not sure exactly how different the focus ‘up’ to limit hostile powers differs from digging down to the depths as the two have to be related. The spiritual powers gain authority from what has been sown (history affecting geography, down establishes up) and likewise the hostile powers shape what can grow and multiply (up solidifies what is down). They both affect each other. The dimension of digging down though has a very earthy element to it and it is necessary to hear the cry of the land to respond, even if that cry is at times twisted or inarticulate. The response to the cry has to be through us seeing a new way of freedom, proclaiming it and relating to what is around us as far as is possible as if the new way is the reality. This emphasis of digging down coincided with a dream we were sent for our work in Spain about finding the shape that held up false structures. That shape was like an arch and in the dream the person had Gayle said the shape reminded her of a boomerang. The challenge with the boomerang is that one can throw it away and it returns. This has been our experience of late, when we have had a verifiable significant shift witnessed reflected by a news item, but only for it to be replaced by something perhaps even stronger. This pushed us to consider how we need to go deeper.

We consider that this is becoming very necessary in the context that many of us are finding ourselves. We are to be pressing in for a ‘whole new creation’ and at the same time we are experiencing that being challenged as we are in danger of losing the good that has brought us thus far. Democracy is not sacrosanct but the shift to control and silence the voice of the people is a huge danger sign. The use of the term ‘fake news’ does alert us to manipulative elements and biases in news reports, but when it is used now in a popular way so that it becomes a blanket term to silence criticism and control the work of the free press, we should recall that this was one of the ploys of the Nazi movement in the 1930’s with their term ‘Lügenpresse’ (=fake news) to attack journalists who were trying to report the facts.

In the previous post I wrote of Paul’s apostolic message and how we need to get to the starting line with respect to his message. Paul’s summary sentence about the result of the community of God in Christ is very informative when it comes to the shapes that are deep in the land that hold up false structures:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).

It is this that has pushed us to look again at a deeper level on the issue of gender: neither male and female. Interestingly Paul changes the language from neither… nor to nor… and. A clear reference back to Genesis (God created them, male and female) suggesting that the destiny of humanity is not through going back but forward. We cannot underestimate how deep the gender issue is for the release and fulfilment of God’s future vision. We have to go deeper than simply ‘can a woman teach / have authority’ etc. Thank God for the work done on that to show the reading of Scripture (the ‘difficult texts’) do not need to be read at all in a limiting way. But pressing deeper to something very insidious, to the foundations of patriarchy takes us to another level, and opens up that Scripture is not simply written in a historic context (it is written, for example, pre-science as we know it) but also it is written an underlying patriarchal context – the context of the Fall. Scripture is God’s word to us but contextualised; it is a narrative that means we have to read it in context. If not, there would be a very strong argument to revert back to days of slavery and to defend that position, as did evangelicals at the time, on the basis of the clarity of Scripture. We do not have the right to change Scripture but we are compelled to free Scripture to be the word from God.

Likewise class issues (neither slave nor free) means we have to change how we see people. They cannot be seen according to the labels society put on them. Seeing people according to their destiny also necessitates relating to them in that way. The ‘fear’ narrative dehumanises people and what dehumanises is rooted in the spirit of antiChrist. I consider that perhaps dehumanising even leads to demonising, not simply in the figurative sense of the word, but by releasing demons to their work in that context… and certainly those who dehumanise open themselves up to demonic blindness and oppression, for there is in some measure an alignment with the spirit of antiChrist in the dehumanising response. More is being required of us, and given the wonderful outpourings of the Spirit and the release of gifts within the body this should not surprise us. The level is going up and so we are to go deeper, and our prayers for the glory of God to be revealed means how we relate to the ‘other’ will determine the level of glory seen. When glory comes it will come full of grace and truth with the evidence it has been manifest will be that the person we are relating will find their head has been lifted up (‘You are my glory and the lifter of my head’).

There still is something very deep to be worked through on Paul (a Jew) who says ‘neither Jew nor Gentile’ both in the specific context of how Israel is viewed and related to and the wider issue of nations and borders. We must always hold out, as Paul did, for those who are Jew by race to come to true faith. He saw that coming through a jealousy of what was taking place in the body of Christ. Jealousy is the fear or realisation that one is losing one’s place. Is there sufficient evidence that the church is marked by the presence of God? That is the pathway: through provoking jealousy to salvation, and so ‘in this way all Israel will be saved’ (καὶ οὕτως – ‘in this way’, not a temporal clause as sometimes translated ‘and then’, thus Paul is looking for a continual process not a one off end time event). ‘All Israel’ of course is a challenging phrase, but we have to remember that the debate in Israel was who was Israel, and it was defined by those who had true faith not had proven genealogy. How many of genealogical Israel can be part of ‘all Israel’ was a burden for Paul so he worked hard among the Gentiles to be an answer to his own burden.

A blanket support for Israel will I think blind us. After all they were not to be a nation as the other nations were, and so maybe we should be careful in simply wanting to help them become that. We should anticipate some very creative ways for the borders for the peoples being resolved there. And I consider that the body of Christ should be at the forefront of praying and working for those creative, reconciling paths. (I am aware that life in and or Israel is not easy with many who wish their annihilation. I am not suggesting an easy solution. If ever there is a geography that needs deep digging then that land is the place.)

Beyond Israel and the Gentiles though lie something for most of us much closer to hand. The deep nationalism that many of us have been taught to embrace has to give way to understanding the unity of all humanity. We are all from one source and within that God has given boundaries and times for the peoples to live:

From one person he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17: 26,27).

Yes there are boundaries but they are not fixed for all time. They are fluid and are the place where angels are often encountered in Scripture. We are living at a fluid time in history, perhaps the time of greatest change. A time when many people can find God, and find him in a new geography. We cannot simply respond with fear to what we see nor with an appeal to sovereignty lest we find ourselves opposing what God is at work doing. The challenge is when God is at work there is also a great presence of the demonic seeking to pervert and suffocate what God is doing. There are no easy answers to the many challenging global and national crises but we have to be careful as the body of Christ that we do not fall quickly into the trap of finding the quick solution. If we lift our eyes we see him, then we see others in the context of a new world.

The body of Christ… What a call. Thank God there is variety within the body, but there also has to be an increasing connection to the world beyond. This leads me to the final aspect we shared:

We are not to resort to God is in control

I overstate things somewhat but in order to bring in a corrective perspective. We sing God is sovereign, but he gave that responsibility to us. He reigns in the heavens and one day his reign will be complete throughout all creation. The question is how is that accomplished? We can consider the commission in the Garden and from that understand that the responsibility was given to humanity. God was freely available for review and advice at the end of each phase of work – he came in the evening time. That commission came to rest on Israel’s shoulders, to be a light to the nations, and a priest before God on their behalf. At the fullness of time, the time of great darkness, the Light came into the world and the darkness could not overpower it. He, as the Second Adam, showed us the pathway, with the disciples saying ‘what manner of human is this?’. Raised as the eschatological human he becomes something for the body. Having gone down to the deepest place and risen to the highest place he filled all things.

The world is not out of control and God is deeply involved, but the key issue is that there is a major role for the body of Christ. Stewards taking responsibility. Maybe one day people will say, ‘we did not recognise you we thought you were the Gardeners working to restore all things.’ We await the parousia for the fullness of that, but can live now as a prophetic sign that is visibly pointing to that great day.

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