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Posts Tagged ‘kingdom’

The Beatles are in the news today as satellite radio launches a new station all about the Fab Four. I am certain there will be mention of the music invasion that came along with them. I hope to hear them sing “You say you want a revolution… We all want to change the world…”

Recently, another ambassador from across the pond has brought up the idea again. N. T. Wright has caused the word revolution to be used more frequently in church vocabulary. At least he has caused it to be used more by me. I have always been pulled in by the idea of revolution, but my new fondness has me using the word even more. Revolution is not only a great word but a necessary action. Certainly we are beginning to discover that to have faith in government to guide us in a healthy direction is a bit naïve.

It is time for a revolution. N. T. Wright would have us believe it began one Friday afternoon in first century Jerusalem. If we agree with that on any level, why do we remain so interested in solutions proposed by the rest of the world? And why do we often talk as if Washington, D. C. should do something about it?

It is time to shed the artificial labels we are wearing and to begin acting like people who belong to a revolution. If we truly believe that there is a story, one story, that can actually make a difference, why are we hanging onto small time peripheral loyalties?

Our literature tells us about early successes in the revolution. We were intentional about entering space with the peace and love of Jesus. We can find faithful moments of loving neighbor and enemy. We can read accounts about differents becoming one, of enemies becoming friends, of sins being forgiven.

The place this revolution begins is not the capital. The revolution begins in the local church. All other loyalties are too small for the kingdom of God. The kingdom of earth as it is in heaven. We do not have time to be duped into other loyalties. If we truly believe a story exists that can make a difference, it is time to embody that story and stop dabbling in convenient mainstream stories that actually run counter to our story. May we be a people who show the revolutionary love that was demonstrated by our king. “You say you want a revolution…”

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In the New Testament Satan claims to have the authority to hand over the kingdoms of the world. Satan may have thought he could handle Jesus the same way had always handled other situations. So he makes a power play, offering Jesus all kingdoms. Evil converged together in all its might. But God showed up as well, and showed up as Jesus.

Greg Boyd suggests the New Testament contains an emphasis on cosmic warfare. And he goes on to say we are either fighting the powers or we are being played by the powers.

The rulers and powers of the world will still do what they do. But, ever since Jesus showed up announcing that the Father has a different plan about kingdom and power they will not have the normal results. The rulers have been defeated. Jesus has won the victory. A revolution is underway.

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Every Sunday we pray together the Lord’s Prayer. A prayer that reveals the bare bones of Jesus’ teaching. The bare essentials of what we bring to God in prayer.

This prayer reveals what it looks like when heaven comes to earth. When kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven. The reign of God shows itself in things like daily bread, forgiveness and being delivered from evil.

It reveals an emphasis on loving God AND loving others. The first part is what we might pray if we love God. The second part is what we might pray if we love others. The prayer reminds us, we cannot pray one part without the other.

This prayer is prayed with knowledge of a new reality. We cannot pray this as a mere habit or a simple recital from memory. When we utter these words – we pray for nothing less than a revolution.

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I recently picked up N.T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began. Admittedly, I loved it as soon as I read the title. I loved it even more after being pulled into the biblical storyline and enjoying Wright’s ability to pull me into the narrative. Here is an excerpt from the first page; “Another young leader had been brutally liquidated. This was the sort of thing that Rome did best. Caesar was on his throne. Death, as usual, had the last word. Except that in this case it didn’t…” He goes on “Something had happened that afternoon that had changed the world. That by six o’clock on that dark Friday evening the world was a different place.”

Crucifixion was intended to demonstrate who holds the power. And that the powerful were willing to use extreme pain, brutality and shame to make that message clear. Crucifixion was designed to stop a revolution in its tracks. Wright tells us that when Jesus told followers to carry their cross, they would not have heard this as a metaphor. In opposition to the worlds displays of power, the shame and horror became part of the meaning. The biblical storyline became clearer for the followers of Jesus.

The biblical storyline is not the only thing that helped shape the meaning of the crucifixion. There were already existing meanings of the cross as a death instrument that were influential. Wright gives three meanings for crucifixion in the first century. 1) The cross carries social meaning. Simply, we are superior and you are inferior. 2) The cross had political meaning. We are in charge here and you are not. 3) The cross had theological meaning. The gods of Rome and Caesar (son of a god) are more powerful than your gods. As Jesus hung on the cross, these meanings were heard loud and clear and appeared to be true.

Wright spends significant time talking about the themes and narratives that early Christians would have already had in their heads that allowed them to make sense of the crucifixion the way they did. We might ask, alongside Wright, “Why did they not see this as an end of a potential Jesus based revolution?” Instead they saw crucifixion as the beginning. The New Testament insists that when Jesus of Nazareth died, something happened that changed the world.

Early Christians started talking as if this shocking, scandalous execution launched a revolution.  They began to see this as the pivotal event in the story of God. In fact, this was the vital moment in all of human history. God had put his plan in operation – his plan to rescue the world. They saw the crucifixion as the inauguration of God’s plan. The early Christians insisted that followers of King Jesus became part of the difference. The New Testament, with the cross at its center, is about God’s kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. According to Wright, the first sign the revolution was underway was the resurrection.

Wright wants us to recognize the cross as more than allowing for personal salvation, more than a ticket to heaven. He does not deny personal meaning for individuals, but wants to be clear that the cross carries significant meaning for the wider world. Wright wants us to know that Jesus died so that we could become part of God’s plan to put the world right. Welcome to the revolution.

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There is a lot of energy spent trying to convince us that we are dependent on politicians. This is not a new phenomenon. Even Luke the historian from the first century knows this. I can’t help but notice how political Luke gets when writing his Gospel. Chapter three begins by making certain we know who the Caesar is (Tiberius), who the governor of Judea is (Pontius Pilate), who the tetrarch of Galilee is (Herod). We are also told that Philip is tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitus. That Lysanius is tetrarch of Abilene. That Annas and Caiaphas were high priests.

Yet, these are not the politics Luke is primarily interested in. What he really wants us to know is that during this time “The word of God came to John.” Luke is reminded of someone else who preached in politically charged times by the name of Isaiah. Isaiah preached to kings. Isaiah watched kings go to war. He watched kings rise and kings fall and new kings take their place. I think Luke is interested that in the day of Isaiah – God intervened.

This reminds us of another politically charged message, John’s. After he spoke the crowd asked “What are your politics John?” And John replied “share with one another. Be generous. Be aware of those in need.” The tax collectors asked “What are your politics?” And John replied “do not steal from others. Stop taking what does not belong to you.” The soldiers asked “John what are your politics?” And John replied “do not coerce others or use force to get them to do what you want. Do not accuse others falsely. Be content with your wages.” Some wanted him to run for office. He declined but did confront the tetrarch about his politics.

This is the way history goes according to the bible. Politicians appear to rule. They look so in charge. But repeatedly, God intervenes. It is of interest to us that in the days of politicians, God intervenes. In the seasons where kings and Caesar’s rule and governors govern, and tetrarchs do whatever tetrarchs do – God intervenes. Every time, anytime we look at history, politicians will seem to be in charge. Hopefully we will be reminded of John the Baptist and be reminded that our politics are different.

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The Way of God

Our story begins “In the beginning” with a God created world that was declared to be “good.” Not too far into the story we find this good world was broken. God continued to care deeply about the world and formed a relationship with Abraham and his descendants. These people were to be a blessing to the world by demonstrating the way of God to the world.

While the world was still broken, Jesus came to inaugurate the way of God that he called the Kingdom of God. The people of God were to represent the way of God in this broken world by following King Jesus as citizens of this Kingdom.

Other attempts to make the world a better place are incomplete. They are inadequate and often arrogant and doomed to failure. They are, however, often convincing and even the people of God become tempted by the ways of the world. In contrast, the way of God is to follow Jesus. This is a radical way that will take you to the difficult terrain of humility and self-denial and the way of the cross.

This is not a way we can travel ourselves or by our own strength. Jesus is not ever the private Lord of well-meaning individuals who want to live right and do good. Never. The way of God has always been, and still is, the way of Jesus made visible in the people of God. It is not even possible to seek first the Kingdom without joining the people who embrace the Kingdom.

Anything less is just another worldly attempt to make the world a better place by offering security, health, and happiness and adding the name of Jesus. The way of God calls people into a fellowship that demonstrates the Kingdom to a watching world.

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Now that the conventions are over, I have some thoughts. First, no one should be surprised that this is all about marketing. Two different brands trying to get you to buy their own version of the same product. Week long commercials is what political conventions have become. Costume parties where people strut around like kings and queens pretending to have power and offer solutions.

That is exactly why I was looking forward to the time Mark Burns came onto the stage to offer a benediction. I expected him to remind us that government was not God. I expected him to remind us that we cannot baptize the king’s agenda and pretend it is God’s agenda. I wanted him to come out like John the Baptist talking to politicians “Hello Herod” and talking politics “The Kingdom is at hand.” But on that evening Mark Burns seemed to have his eyes set on a different kingdom. I just wish someone would have reminded us that no matter what happens in November – this is not the kingdom we seek.

My favorite part was when Mike Pence came out to join Tim Kaine and they greeted one another by passing the peace. And then stood united as Christians and assured the rest of us that their allegiance to Jesus was priority for them over any party loyalties. And then promised to demonstrate how this family talks with one another even when they disagree about philosophy of government. And this unity would be evident in any future debates. But then, this didn’t happen either.

Instead it appears that many people remain focused on moving ahead with a status quo kingdom. Now that I think of it, I don’t really have any thoughts about what happened at the conventions.

 

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