My apologies for not get back sooner but I’m slowly getting back into the rhythms of home life once again. After spending a good portion of last week travelling along the central coast of Californiawith my wife, I needed a few days to recover from travelling (i.e. driving) but I am now feeling refreshed and renewed by our getaway. Now back to the blog….
A little over three months ago I decided to go underground in relation to the church. I began participating in an organic church to walk the talk of my faith and theological leanings. I have survived and thrived in the process. My creative side has been stirred up once again. My idealism regarding a perfect church has been shattered. Overall, I still love the church because of the love of Christ in me for her. I will remain hopeful that the church, the Body of Christ, will rise up to new levels of expressing the love and ministry of Christ but in ways one might not expect. In light of this, here are a few tentative observations for those seeking organic church life.
The Cross – A great deal of teaching and preaching regarding the cross has gone forth. Most of the teaching reflects and delves into to finished work of Christ on the cross, that is, Christ for us. The often over looked teaching is that of the work of the cross in us. That often painful process of having Christ formed in us, individually and corporately. For the sake of Christian community, embrace the cross, take it up and let die what needs to die so the life of Christ may be revealed.
Be Ready – Organic church life is open and participatory allowing the saints to function together under the headship of Jesus Christ. In such an environment, the responsibility of what happens in a meeting rests on all the brothers and sisters involved. Don’t think you can be involved in such a meeting and not say anything. Although the problem arises of those who speak too much and those who speak too little, when the opportunity is right, you have the privilege of sharing what the Lord is doing. You never know the power of what you share unless you share it.
Listen – This takes patience and time to begin to understand. Hearing the Lord in an organic meeting requires listening to the still small voice of the Spirit. This can range from speaking prophetically because of the fire in your bones to sharing something with a brother or sister that seems like a hunch or just came to mind. Sometimes the voice whispers, other times the voice seems to speak rather loudly. No matter the perceived volume of the speaking of the Spirit, speak when the opportunity arises. This requires a certain wisdom that gains traction in the midst of an open participatory meeting.
I said all that to say this. I’m still not sure when I’ll darken the door of a church building. Do I still love the brothers and sisters who gather in those places? Yes. Do I still have hope for the church in all her expressions? Yes, because her future is glorious. Do I believe institutional churches can change? Yes, because some brave souls embrace the cross and desire nothing more than the Lord Jesus Christ. I may be cynical, jaded and discontented, but I know Christ can work past that and through that. He is my hope and salvation.
For the sake of clarity, one should never condone violence, especially from a Christian perspective. The actions of Osama bin Laden were and will continue to be atrocious. The damage inflicted on American soil left a gaping wound that still needs healing. Yet for the sake of consistency, the actions of the American President cannot be condoned either. When violence begets violence, the world continues to suffer. The cycle never ends. The death of bin Laden has not solved that problem. Violent responses are short term solutions that provide a temporary ‘peace’ and ‘security’ that later gives way to further violence.
The cross of Jesus Christ provides a way beyond the downward spiral of violence. Good Friday was celebrated a few weeks ago remembering that cross. Many may wonder of the good brought about by the death of a Jewish peasant. Violence was inflicted on Jesus by Roman authorities with the approval of the religious establishment. His death was the result of the greatest injustice but by the power of God is transformed into the greatest justice. Only after resurrection was it seen as good. The powers of satan, sin and the world system found an end in the death of Jesus Christ. In the resurrection we see the possibility of new life.
In the Pauline letter to the Colossians 2:15 it states:
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (NIV)
Some view the ‘powers and authorities’ as the beings in the angelic realm, others as the reality of satan and his minions or as other’s see it, the worldly system of power. Whatever these powers may truly be, the cross is the place of their defeat and exposure.
So what does that mean for Christians today and the response to violence? The eternal moment of the cross of Christ is where the powers eventually lose. The cross of Christ exposed the true nature of those powers, that in Revelation are portrayed as beastly. Ultimately, it should provide Christians with the strength and courage to face the monstrous powers of violence and dominance and speak the truth in love.
The difficulty of walking in such a way is the violent nature of our own hearts. The natural desire to strike back is deeply ingrained in us. The good news is that that nature died on the cross too. The way of Jesus is now a possibility. It is only by the grace of God one can go this way. May we always keep the cross before us even in the midst of a violent world.
“…theUnited States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden” -President Obama
I thought I would react to hearing such news in a different way. I thought I would be happy, but I’m not. Sure, Osama was an architect of mass murder that put Manson to shame. Thousands of American troops have been and still are in harms way in response to his actions. I respect the work they do. Thousands have died both military and civilian. I mourn such loss. Was this an act of justice or an act of national vengeance? I tend to think the latter.
So now America rejoices. I get it. I just cannot and will not participate in it. This has solved nothing. Osama reaped what he sowed. Will the violence end with his death? I doubt it. He was considered the head of the snake; destroy the head and terrorism dies. But what if it is a hydra and not a snake? Could this action by America make things worse? Possibly…We just made a martyr.
Now I would like to be a martyr not in the sense of me dying right now for my faith, but rather to be a witness to the living God. Any notion of divine justice must go back to the cross of Christ. Any evil, human or demonic; any suffering, personal or massive must be seen in the light of the cross. The power of satan was defeated at the cross, Jesus Christ exposed the powers that be for what they are, the monstrous system and actions that seek to dehumanize and destroy humanity. This is why I cannot rejoice over Osama’s death. The power that is America was subjected to the cross just as much as Al Quaeda. So as a Christian, where does your loyalty lie?
I hear the reports of chanting in the streets. This is the sound of Empire. America is in a dangerous place and the church in America even more so. Many an American church has co-opted to politics to justify certain political agendas. This has occurred on the Right and the Left. If the church is to be an expression of the Kingdom of God in the earth, she should reflect the values and attitudes of God’s Kingdom. Don’t get me wrong, I love and pray for the American people. I also love and pray for the people of Venezuela,Iran,China,Sudanand so many others. My ultimate allegiance lies with the Kingdom of God. The kingdoms of this world will eventually fade, includingAmerica. When? No one but God knows. In the meantime, I will seek God’s Kingdom and yield to the peaceful and suffering Lord who has called me to it.
May the peace of Christ be with you,
Easter Sunday is here and with it the Easter egg hunts, chocolate bunnies and baskets filled with sugary treats. Yet even in the midst of the sugar high most children will be under, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ will occur worldwide. This one day the global church remembers the raising from the dead of the crucified Christ. The celebrations will take many forms from the solemn ritual of the Mass in Catholic churches to the exuberant worship in Pentecostal churches. Others will wake early to worship as the sun rises on a new day. Nevertheless, why limit the celebration to just one day?
This is not to downplay the importance of Easter. The point for Christians is everyday can be a celebration by remembering resurrection daily. Within the Evangelical tradition, the greatest symbol of death and resurrection is baptism. Usually, this is a matter of full immersion or a dunking as some refer to it. Going under the water represents death and coming up from the water represents resurrection. Carried further, the death is that of one’s old life, broken and disconnected from God and the resurrection is the newness of life as a new creation.
The symbolism of death and resurrection reveals itself in another place that is more mundane but the figurative parallels remain. That symbol is the simple act of sleeping and waking. Sleep represents death and waking resurrection. Various places in scripture mention those who are dead as sleeping. Therefore, with our sleep at night, we shadow the reality of death. With our waking, we embrace the resurrected reality of a new day and new possibilities.
The difficulty of remembering the death and resurrection of Christ in this way is its happening everyday. The daily occurrence of it leads to a taking for granted of this mundane aspect of life. Developing such remembrance on a daily basis will take time like any habit. Pick a few days or a week to start. Meditate on the cross of Christ before sleeping and consider the resurrected Christ upon waking. Over time, every day can become a celebration of Easter.
Grace and peace,