Continuing in train of thought in these Blogs, about the church has the communal component of God’s New Creation being made flesh and blood in this present world scene, of ‘God’s tomorrow’ invading our ‘today’, … one needs to admit that this stretches our credulity a bit. To suggest that God’s new humanity finds its communal expression in the church, given the existential reality of so much that labels itself as ‘the church,’ is, indeed, a stretch. It might mean that we either misunderstand what God’s kingdom is all about, … or that we don’t understand what the true church is intended to be in the eschatological design of God.

Maybe as we look forward to the first Sunday of advent, in a couple of days, it is worth remembering how humanly impossible the whole event God’s messiah, of Jesus and all that he came to be and to do, is humanly impossible. When the angel came to Mary and greeted her as the one who would bear a son who would be the long-awaited messiah, she protested that it was not humanly possible in that she had never yet had sex with a man. Ah! but the angel explained to her that the one in her womb would be conceived by the holy spirit and would sit on the throne of his father David, and of his kingdom there would be no end. Humanly impossible, yes, but not divinely.

As the story unfolds, even those who had been anticipating the arrival of the promised messiah, the anointed one of God, … did not understand that in this one, who was called Jesus, ‘God’s tomorrow world’ would be invading this present world. It was such an overwhelming concept, that even his intimates were continually seeking to conceive of it in ‘merely human’ terms. When Jesus announced that in his role as the promised messiah, he would be building his church, he would be invading human history, and the human community, with God’s tomorrow, his disciples were still trying to understand that in merely human terms. They could not conceive of the creation of a whole new humanity, the human community as God intends it to be. It was because of that that we need to look at the church’s being something of a counterpart to the virgin birth of Jesus.

Jesus would insist that his disciples must wait until the holy spirit came upon them as the creator spirit, and ‘birthed in them’ the very life of God, empowering them to live out the divine image and purpose in God’s mission to reconcile the world to himself. The holy spirit would give them all that was needed to be the communal incarnation of the life of God, and of the mission of God. At the heart of this new humanity would be the totally transformed and transformational lives of God’s kingdom people. It would actually be formed and focused on the ultimate reality of the kingdom of God.

Yes, and this is what gets forgotten as the church continually reverts to a merely human religious community, rather than “the dwelling place of God by the holy spirit.” It is not buildings, or institutions, or ecclesiastical politics, … no! rather it is the communal expression of the Kingdom of God, of God’s New Creation, which is only possible as each participant embraces Jesus and his Kingdom by a total new framework, and a new way of living. Such an understanding also gives us understanding of the apostolic word, that “…in Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled with him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:9). This means that the church is supernaturally empowered to think like Jesus, to behave like Jesus, to worship like Jesus, and to engage in his mission to seek and to save the lost.  It also means that such a community is always in ‘missionary confrontation” with is existential context. It is in this light that the church must always be examining itself.

Stay tuned …

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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