kingdom


The Lectionary reading for this 3rd Sunday of Lent, begins with Isaiah 55, which has always been one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It comes at a very strategic point in the prophet Isaiah’s message to Israel. Understood in this context which provides the clear reason for Israel’s need of the promised Redeemer, but also one of the most tender invitations for individual repentance in God’s Word.

Ho Everyone that is thirsty!

brushyfork by Mitchell Tolle

 

Christians-and-the-New-CreationBeginning the new year with Paul Minear and his book on metaphors of transitions in the New Testament: chapter 5, From One Covenant to Another.

When you think about it, this is by far the most important transition time in human history and therefore deserving of our best attention, especially at the beginning of another year of life on planet earth.

By examining twelve Scriptural texts from seven different New Testament documents, Minear helps us visualize the contrast between the old age and the new.

I can’t think of a better wish for the new year than to be enriched and encouraged as we read authors such as Minear writing on Scriptural texts that inspire us to discover for ourselves the word of God.

READING the BIBLE with UNDERSTANDING

Have we understood the Gospels in a balanced way? Or have we missed the main messages the original authors had in mind? To answer this is the purpose behind N.T. Wright’s- How God Became King   Wonderful discussion on what we miss if we read the gospels w/o understanding these themes in the Biblical narrative.Final chapter is a marvelous commentary on the Nicene Creed.                                                                                                     Review posted @FirstThingsmag– by James Rogers of Texas A&M of “How God became King” which provides good over-view of N.T.Wright’s helpful contribution toward a balanced reading of the Gospels.

from ACT3 newsletter 2009 “This is NOT the Gospel of the Kingdom“. worth another look in  2013. Keeping the Kingdom theme in the gospels of our New Testament

Gratitude-and-Mission reading what the Bible says about thanksgiving. A classic essay from Paul Minear’s, The Obedience of Faith -excellent primer for Thanksgiving celebrations.

Meditation on the final weeks of the Church year– Pausing before CHRIST, the KING & reflecting on the Blessed Hope of our Faith.

The sacrament of communion

The sacrament of communion

I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; [1] believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? [2] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (Gospel of John, ESV Bible).

Take a fresh look at this text from what we call the “Upper Room Discourse”; the intimate conversation Jesus had with his disciples, following the inauguration of the New Covenant and just before he went out to his enemies to be crucified.

What did Jesus mean when he said,” I go to prepare a place”?

Why was it necessary that he ascend into heaven for the duration of this present age? What is he accomplishing in his new role at the “right hand of the Father?” These are very important questions to meditate on and see what answers you can come up with in the Biblical narrative. You can start by reading Revelation 5 and get the heavenward perspective. Here are some more starters-

  • His office/function as our Mediator between the Father and humankind.(see Hebrews)
  • His perfect communion as the beloved Son on behalf of his followers on earth.
  • His role as carrying out the Father’s Kingdom rule as he told his disciples: “All authority has been given me in heaven & on earth”.
  • His role as the Head of the Church which he actively engages in through His Spirit (see letters to the 7 churches of Asia minor of the Apostle John, and the Ephesian letter of the Apostle Paul).
  • His role of judging the nations (see John 5:16-47).

These consequences, and much much more, directly flow from the victorious Christ above to us here on earth because he did win the decisive victory on planet earth & then ascended into heaven to carry on the battle:  ” Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when he puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet!”

The tragedy is, The Ascension is probably the most neglected event in the Church’s liturgy. Please don’t neglect it on May 9, 2013!

see related post: What is Jesus Doing?

see also the article at Wikipedia

Restoring Unity is what the Christian Message is all about!

Christ's Message to the churches (Revelation)

In the first century churches, the first generation, there was already considerable misunderstanding about the essence of the Church which Christ was building & nurturing- His Kingdom community. Much of the Apostle Paul’s ministry as the Apostle to the Gentiles, had to deal with opposition from the Palestinian churches and their leaders. It should come as no surprise to those who read their Bible that much of his writings include elements of this division and his attempts to heal them. In his letter to the Ephesians it is the major theme- the purpose of God’s pleasure to “unite in Christ all things”; but it is also an integral part of his letter to the house churches of Rome.

In the last century, missional leaders from many diverse church traditions saw that our divisions were directly affecting our task in the world and that the time had come to move the theme of unity to the front burner of our efforts. This effort came to be known as the ecumenical movement and many gains were made by those that participated. But many churches, because of convictions, did not participate. Some condemned the efforts outright, some observed at a distance.

In the new century, much has changed for the churches; or has it? We find ourselves still in the midst of the same world with the same assignment from our King: preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, make disciples of all nations, and above all, live out the new life Christ has inaugurated. Some refer to a “new” ecumenism because it seems that many of those that were not officially a part of the “older” effort want to be distinguished from them. I personally feel this is wrong-headed and counter-productive to the very thing we’re focused on -unity. I love, respect, and esteem some of those who were leaders in bringing into being the World Council of Churches.

I just happen to be reading another book written by W.A.Visser’t Hooft, the first General Secretary, who served the churches with love and dedication for many years. Like another of his books, The Pressure of Our Common Calling, which I posted about earlier, this is a sound theological basis for the Church’s mission, edification, and unity. It is about the perennial importance of renewal grounded in the very character of the Church of God as the new creation in Christ.

I want to quote him at the place where he emphasizes that the whole Church-all the churches, must heed the imperatives addressed to the new creation. To me that means we can never settle for anything less than Biblical unity and diligently work towards that as a goal, knowing that it will come at the consumation of our redemption in Christ.

The need of the whole Church for repentance and renewal is most clearly shown in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation. It has often been pointed out that the seven churches to whom the letters are addressed represented the most flourishing part of the Church at that time. But more important is that according to the symbolic language of the author the seven churches clearly represent the Church as a whole. For seven is the figure of totality.

In these letters the whole Church is addressed. This is underlined by the fact that each letter is concluded by the solemn warning: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”. The warning and promise received by each church is meant to be overheard and passed on by other churches and so to reach the whole Church.

Now it is significant that five of the seven letters are in the nature of calls to repentance. For that means that the Church as such is called to live the life of metanoia, of constant readiness to turn away from the path of this world and to let herself be renewed. And once again it is clear that renewal means living by the power of the new age. In the letter to the Church in Sardis repentance is identified with awakening (3:2,3). To be awake is to be ready for the Day of the Lord. ‘ Lo, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is he who is awake’ (16:15).

The churches are called to remember from what they have fallen (2:5) or what they have received and heard (3:3). That is to say they are to realize again that they represent the new creation. If they do, if they turn resolutely away from the old age, then they will receive the new name (2:17 and 3:12) and be counted as belonging to the new Jerusalem (3:12). Such a metanoia is in this world never a completed process; it is to be actualized and implemented every day anew. – The Renewal of The Church, p.47 (1956)

Restoring or renewing the unity of the Church of Christ is never easy work. Church history for almost 2000 years will tell us that. But progress in recent decades has been made- perhaps more than at any other time. This is what our Lord intends and if we are serious about following Him, we have no other path. Unity is not optional for the Church nor for any indivdual Christian. All of us must make it a part of our prayers and efforts by the grace of God and for His fame on earth. This season of Eastertide is a great time to make this a priority in our spiritual journey of faith.

see “Reasons for Neglecting God’s priority

A Christmas Day Essay

What does Christmas mean to me personally? Actually today is not really more significant as a day in the calendar than any other except for the fact that it allows many Christians to concentrate on one day out of all the others and focus on that day when The Christ actually came into this world in human flesh.

That is what the whole Christmas season means to me this year; a focus on the first Advent of Christ and I have been engaged in that for some time. For me it really is a case of Holy Obsession! Being possessed in my spirit by this great event in world history. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, being astonished in utter awe:

Great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the

flesh…seen by angels, preached

among the nations, believed on in

the world, received up in glory!  

( first letter to Timothy, chapter 3)

By considering what the Biblical narrative tells us about this “great mystery”, including the details of the event itself beginning with the announcements to Mary and Joseph, the journey to Bethlehem, the political context, the ancient promises to Israel fulfilled, and all that follows.

I am still learning the discipline required to not get lost on any of the details, such as the baby and his mother, as important as that is. But by keeping my obsession centered on Jesus Christ and the entire revelation of Him as it unfolds in the Biblical story from beginning to end. Certain selected Christmas music really enhances my obsession at Christmas, another reason why I love the Advent Season. Besides my all time favorite, which is to listen to Handel’s Messiah at this season (at least once), there are certain others that have become very special.

Several years ago my daughter gave us a Christmas album by the Irish Tenors. Of all the wonderful songs on that album, my favorite has become their version of “The Holy City”. I remember my dear Mother singing this song in Church more than once. The text is based on a ‘dream so fair’ that contains three different scenes. The first, is the glad occasion of Jesus riding into Jerusalem as the children sing Hosannah or what is now celebrated as Palm Sunday. The second scene is a very somber one which ends in the “shadow of a cross”. The final vision is of the New Jerusalem, the eternal vision of John’s Revelation, chapters 21 and 22. Listen to the music and see if you can sense the same “holy obsession” that I do on this Christmas day, 2010. And may I wish all those in the weblog family, a very obsessed Christmas!

My favorite interpretation of Mary’s Magnificat.

Gospel of Saint Luke, Chapter 1

44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be [1] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Related post: Read the First Encyclical Letter of Pope Benedict XVI, 25 Dec. 2005

The Jewish Festival of Lights begins tonight at sundown and as I wish my Jewish friends a very Happy Hanukkah, I can’t help from thinking that here too is a perfect remembrance of the first Christmas.

Similar to my last post, in appreciating another faith tradition, I have little trouble in having my own Christian faith strengthened. For what was the Messianic Hope looked for when the darkness of sin and the Roman occupation seemed so hopeless? Was it not the faith that what God Himself had promised His people, He would one day give?

And then it happened-The Light of The World became human flesh and was announced by a brilliant light in the East. As I listened to a wonderful explanation of the Festival of Lights this a.m. on NPR, I was transported back in the Biblical narrative to that moment.

The word ‘anamnesis‘ perfectly describes for me now, not only the “Sacraments” of the Church that are so important to the Christian faith, but also the Advent season with all it’s expectation and joy. In fact, I happen to have a book out on my desk called, “Ecumenical Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry” (1983 edition) and what I find in the description of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, pretty well sums up what I am remembering (recollecting, reminiscing) as I celebrate Advent.

” Christ instituted the Eucharist, sacrament of His body and blood with its focus on the cross and resurrection, as the anamnesis of the whole of God’s reconciling action in Him. Christ Himself with all He has accomplished for us and for all creation…is present in this anamnesis as is  also the foretaste of His Parousia and the consumation of the Kingdom.

The anamnesis in which Christ acts through the joyful celebration of His Church thus includes this representation and anticipation. It is not only a calling to mind of what is past, or its significance. It is the Church’s effective proclamation of God’s mighty acts. By this communion with Christ the Church participates in that reality.” (page 205)

 

2012 UPDATE the Festival of Lights began on December, 8, 2012.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2: 9-11)

The Reign of the Lord’s Anointed- Psalms 2

2:1″ Why do the nations rage [1]
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break [2] them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

See also John’s Revelation, 5: 9-12

Read the Prayer of Saint Paul for enlightenment.

Rare because most college students don’t get many letters these days; they get e-mails and tweets. Rare because what’s being advocated in this letter by Stanley Hauerwas  is the disciplined use of the mind for the Christian college student.

Christ’s call on you as a student is a calling to meet the needs of the Church, both for its own life and the life of the world. The Resurrection of Jesus, Wilken suggests, is not only the central fact of Christian worship but also the ground of all Christian thinking “about God, about human beings, about the world and history.” Somebody needs to do that thinking—and that means you.

Don’t underestimate how much the Church needs your mind. Remember your Bible-study class? Christians read Isaiah’s prophecy of a suffering servant as pointing to Christ. That seems obvious, but it’s not; or at least it wasn’t obvious to the Ethiopian eunuch to whom the Lord sent Philip to explain things. Christ is written everywhere, not only in the prophecies of the Old Testament but also in the pages of history and in the book of nature. The Church has been explaining, interpreting, and illuminating ever since it began. It takes an educated mind to do the Church’s work of thinking about and interpreting the world in light of Christ. Physics, sociology, French literary theory: All these and more—in fact, everything you study in college—is bathed in the light of Christ. It takes the eyes of faith to see that light, and it takes an educated mind to understand and articulate it. ( from First Things, November issue)

Surveys have been telling the Christian Church for years, that they are losing large numbers of their young people during the college years. Could it be that many have not been prepared to use their minds about the really big issues of life?

I now have three of fifteen grandchildren in College and University and I can personally tell you they are more than capable of thinking about serious issues. Why don’t we treat them more like rational beings instead of entertaining them with games and food? Read the entire letter by Stanley Hauerwas, a long-time professor at Duke and formerly of Notre Dame. This is exactly the challenge that the Church and Christian parents should be preparing their young disciples for in addition to everything else.

Purdue University

Thinking of recent posts, this is the call to college students to be “radical disciples” in the context of American universities.

Read the entire letter and the quote from Robert Lewis Wilken’s “The Spirit of Early Christian Thought“.

Related post (2009) “Seize the moment

For an in-depth understanding of Hauerwas’s application of this to preaching that is theological, read the introduction to his (2009) book, A Cross-Shattered Church: Reclaiming the theological heart of preaching.

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