Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The kingdom of Jesus

One of my favourite passages in the Bible was the gospel reading for Sunday, Mark 1:14-20.

Pithy, direct, active. Jesus preaches (a very short sermon!) and calls without preamble or ceremony his first disciples.

In the brief message is everything Jesus will do and say (all about the kingdom of God).

In the call is the call to all who hear the message: Follow Jesus.

The "me" in "Follow me" is illuminating. Jesus has no ego yet calls people to follow him alone, even giving up, as the fishermen do, everything that has been their life and livelihood.

Connecting the "me" with the "time is fulfilled" and have a very Jesus-centred kingdom.

When Jesus comes, the kingdom has come.

What Jesus does is the kingdom breaking into the world as Jesus takes charge of the world.

Jesus is the king.

The kingdom of God is the kingdom of Jesus.

Followers of Jesus join with Jesus in kingdom of Jesus work.

As servants of Jesus we obey Jesus' rule and thus do the things which assist the growth of the kingdom.

As servants of Jesus we may be tempted to think the kingdom's future growth depends on us and is exclusive to our good obedience to the king. 

No, the kingdom is greater than us and God in Jesus continues to do kingdom work in the world with servants we may know nothing of (and who may not realise they are serving the kingdom!).

While we can never know all that God is doing in the world - providence - we can be confident, because of passages such as Mark 1:14-20, that God is doing those things in the world which fit with what we see of Jesus' words and deeds in the gospels, including those things which Jesus-centred disciples say and do in obedience to Jesus.

So, yes, the kingdom is greater than the church but never less than the church.

The church, in the long run and for the most part, because of promises of God concerning the Spirit-led, Spirit-gifted body of Christ, will visibly demonstrate the kingdom in the world today.

But errors in teaching and in behaviour do occur in the life of the church and thus the church can frustrate the growth of the kingdom.

If we want to not be frustrating then we do well to read and re-read and respond and re-respond to Mark 1:14-20.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Better 2021 or worse 2021?

The heading for my last post of 2020 raised the question whether 2021 might be better than 2020.

Cue, of course, the question of how we define the good, better or worse of one year compared to another.

The first six days of this new year were a bewildering global storm of worsening news about the Pandemic combined with unheard of political disruptions in the USA (note: the last storming of the US Capitol were by the British in 1812).*

On the other hand the first 18 days of 2021 in NZ have been a brilliant mix of superb summer sunshine, excellent cricket, cracking America's Cup challenger racing and holding the Pandemic at bay (just ... we all recognise that we may yet be overrun by new variants of the virus). The following photos are snaps from part of our holiday - water and sunshine, always a winning combo!

In the wider Anglican world I see news about a female bishop for Kenya.

In 2021 I hope (at the very least) re Trumpianism that Christians really, really address the question Who is Lord? This article is a timely and apt comment on the Jesus-less-ness of Trumpianism.

I read some great books while on holiday - all of which in their own way reinforced the absurdity of ever, ever ascribing to any national leader some kind of exalted status - and took quite a few notes towards possible talks later this year.

Let me not burden you with all my notes. Here is one notable passage from an author not always given star rating on "orthodox Christian" charts, Rob Bell:

"The first Christians had a way of talking about this massive movement, bigger than any one of us, that's sweeping across human history: they wrote that God is in the process of moving everything forward so that God will be over all and through all and in all and in another passage in the Bible it is written that God does what God does so that God may be all in all.

For God to be recognised as all in all then, we will become more and more aware of the uniting of all the depth and dimensions of being - from the physical to the spiritual, from the seen to the unseen, from matter to spirit and everything in betweeen - as we see more and more of the universe in the single, seamless reality it's always been."**

That is, a little bit of Colossians and Ephesians could go a long way to helping Christians around the world make appropriate "course corrections" in 2021 - corrections needed if we are not to be the laughing stock of the world.

I also read Andrew Shanks, Hegel and Religious Faith: Divided Brain, Atoning Spirit, London/New York: T & T Clark, 2011. This book hurt my brain because I am not a rocket scientist. I do not profess to understand much about Hegel. Possibly Shanks has made me think more favourably of this enigmatic thinker. 

Probably Hegel and Bell would get along fine! 

Certainly Christians need to think very big in our conception of God and what God is up to in the world and through time.

See you next week ...!

*See, by the way, helpful comments in the comment thread to the previous post, from Bowman Walton who lives in the States, on the whole situation re Trump, Trumpians and Trumpianism, including Christian allegiance to Trump.

** p. 187, Rob Bell, What we talk about when we talk about God, New York: Harper, 2013.