BLOG 4/22/17. RE-CONCEIVING THE CHURCH … AND THE ALL-CONSUMING THEME OF INTERPRETATION
My purpose in these present Blogs is so totally outrageous that it is almost laughable, but then it has been brewing me for decades—even so it is totally intimidating. As if the task of reconceiving the church were not intimidating enough, it might be even more laughable to even begin to define what the cultural context of tomorrow’s children might look like, what with the exponential explosion of information, the globalism, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, … and in an increasingly unrooted nomadic population that seems always temporary. Is that enough? We’re looking for a new pattern, a whole new paradigm for the future.
Yet, in my mind a significant reason for my intimidation before the task is the realization is the awareness that so few who deal with the issue of the church seem to realize how all-consuming is the concept of the Kingdom of God in life and teachings of Jesus and his apostles. Nor do they seem to understand it. Into the realities of human history, and the human community, what with its lost understanding true humanity (in its quest for autonomy), … with all the tragic consequences … God came in person, in Christ, as God had promised he would come, … and he came in order to make all things new, including the human community.
Now watch. John says it beautifully in the explanatory introduction to his account of the life and teachings of Jesus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness … the Word became flesh and dwelt among us … He came … and as many as received him, who believed on his name, he gave the right to become the children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:1ff). Got it? Somehow in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth there is brought into being a whole new humanity, a recreated humanity, and a recreated human community That’s awesome. It is also our clue as to the true nature of the church. But don’t leave yet. Look at how Jesus enters into his public task, and what he does and says. He enters his public ministry with the theme that is consistently at the heart of all his teachings: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe this thrilling news.” Subsequently, after doing many public and miraculous works, he will explain them by saying: “… if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20). The kingdom of God, the inauguration of God’s all things new design, the intrusion of God’s ultimate design into the here and now: his will for his creation and his human community – all this inaugurated and made possible by this Word made flesh: Jesus. (The Kingdom God is variously referred to in the New Testament as: new creation, eternal life, salvation, sometimes as righteousness: all referring to the ‘all things new’ design of God.) Ultimately he will tell his followers that: “When this gospel of the kingdom shall have been heralded into every people-group in the world, then will the end come,” … or in other words, then God’s New Creation, God’s eschatological Kingdom will be consummated. Meanwhile, the task of incarnating it and heralding it in the here and now of human history, … this by the church.
It is in the eclipsing of this all-consuming theme of interpretation, that the church becomes confused about its own identity, form, and mission. To ‘reconceive the church for tomorrow’s children,’ we must be very much focused on this primary theme for such a task. In the incarnation of the Kingdom of God, the church is the communal component of that ‘all things new’ recreation—in the church God incarnates what true humanity is all about. It has nothing to do with the mistaken notion that Jesus came to start a new religion. Stay tuned …