Allow me to take you on a bit of a circuitous journey. The future is a very real threat to a whole lot of people, as we are watching their response in the world today. At the same time the future is always inevitable and irresistible, no matter how much one might want to return to the imaginary security of the past. This is a difficult reality for most people—as we will see, even those who pertain to be the church

I thought of that this past week watching Congressman John Lewis and his colleagues do  their ‘sit-in’ on the floor of the House of Representatives. It reminded me that when John Lewis and his young friends initiated the many protests against racial injustice those decades ago in the South, and formed the Southern Christian Leadership Council—they were futurists, and at the same time a sizeable portion of the African-American community, while wanting the end of segregation, at the same time prized the security of their African-Communities where they were the dominant majority and could practice their own customs and have their own leadership. They were torn, but the idea of a future where they had to compete in an integrated society was not popular with many of them. They wanted a just future, but were not quite willing to forsake the security of their own existing communities.

It is also true of the current Islamic phenomenon known as ISIS/ISIL. The Islamic Middle East got arbitrarily carved up by the colonial powers early in the 20th century, cutting across ethnic, religious, and traditional boundaries and in so doing tending to obliterate what had once been a very dominant and culture-creating Islamic empire, that encompassed a large part of the Middle East, North Africa, Spain and Europe up to the gates of Vienna. It is not surprising then that there has emerged a group of radical Islamic people who want to re-establish the Islamic Caliphate and culture of almost a millennium ago so that they can return to that hegemony of the past.

We saw this in the Brexit vote in the UK this past week. Those opting to leave the European Union were demographically primarily the aging and rural Boomers who want to return to the day when “Britannia Rules the Waves” –which day of British dominance and autonomy from the rest of the world economy will never return.

And, sadly, I watch it in the church. In the city in which I live (Atlanta) I watch venerable old church institutions diminishing, closing their doors, selling their property and ceasing to be as their congregations age, their endowments run dry, and their whole sense of mission was only preserving the former days of their prestige. Here were magnificent sanctuaries, vested clergy, awesome performances of liturgical services, all the while assuming their permanence. But in so doing they lost their contagiousness with the gospel of Jesus Christ. They lost their sense of mission and of the future and of Christ’s passion to seek and to save the very real persons of new generations. Their future was in the past. They became, sadly, only stagnant pools of religious Christianity, and are being totally ignored by the emerging generation.

The Christian faith, and God’s people, however, have God’s future written deeply into their DNA. They pray: “Thy kingdom come (be coming), and Thy will be done,” with an urgent sense of the invasion of God’s future into our present. Jesus’ mandate throbs with this passion: “When this gospel of the kingdom shall have been preached to every ethic group / every nation, then shall the end come.” –the inevitable and irresistible future. God’s New Creation/Kingdom is where our security lies and it is full of change and challenges. But it is this world and its persons and its future that God so loves. Irresistible and inevitable. We should be on tip-toe!

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About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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