The emerging generation (GenZ) has the proclivity of being incorrigible in its questioning of past patterns and paradigms, and awesomely innovative in creating unimaginably fresh and encouraging solutions, paradigms, and patterns. So, it may be an appropriate time to look at the very essence of the church as it is apparent in the New Testament documents. Let’s start with the statement that the church is the dwelling place of God by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). That, right away puts it beyond any community that is explainable in merely human terms. We simply must look at the church in its ultimate (eschatological) purpose in the plan of God. So, let’s go back to God’s invasion of his creation in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ.

We looked, in our last Blog (4/25), at the creation of the human community which was to live in total harmony both within itself, and in intimate company with their Creator. Then at the very end of scripture there is that mind-boggling statement that “the dwelling-place of God is with men and he will dwell with them.”  So, how then, does God deal with the tragedy of the human rebellion, and create a community in which to delight to dwell in total shalom? The answer: God doesn’t deal with humankind in the abstract, or in theory, or by creating some new religion, or building some new temple—rather, God actually comes and identifies himself with it, and he does that on the margins of society, not in the places of prestige or power. He comes to his covenant people, the Jews, who reside in a marginal nation with a decadent religious establishment, and occupied by a world empire, … but he doesn’t appear in their courts. He comes to that strata on the margins of society, that huge majority, who are marginal, living always in challenging ways and with uncontrollable circumstances. He becomes one of them. Watch!

First of all, God comes to a godly young Jewish peasant girl by his angelic messenger, and tells her that she is to be the mother of the long-awaited of promise: the Messiah, who kingdom and reign will know end. This amazing young lady responds: “How can these things be in that I am not even married, nor have ever had sex with a man?” The angel responds: “The Spirit of God will come upon you, and you shall conceive a son …” To my readers, Note: these responses are appropriate for what follows about Jesus and the creation of the church: “How can these things be?” And the answer: “The Spirit will create a New Humanity, i.e., the church.” By the descriptions and explanations that follow, the true church is not explainable in merely human terms. It’s awesome.

When Jesus begins his walk in the marginal parts of Palestine, and begins his teaching, he will say things like: “He who has seen me has seen the Father;” or “I and the Father are one;” or “the works that I do are not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” The apostle John explains that Jesus was the very revelation of God, i.e., the Word, and though many will reject him, those who receive him as who he is, to them he will give the authority to become the sons of God. He later explains that as he lives in the Father, so he will live in them by the Spirit—a new community in which God dwells by the Spirit. Jesus will say in his prayer (John 17:23) that he is in them, and the Father is in him, … Note: We are looking at a whole new human community that is recreated to be what it is supposed to be, both within itself, and in its intimacy with God the Father. No ‘twilight and unreality’ religion here, but the human community recreated by the Spirit—the dwelling-place of God by the Spirit, which is being always recreated into the image of the Son of God in its thinking, its behavior, and its intimacy with God … right in the midst of the realities of this confusing world. A community that is reconciled and reconciling, a community that is loved and so loves, a community whose whole way of life is visibly expressive of that of Jesus, and so it the radiant display of the divine nature. Nothing miserly here. To my young friends in the emerging generation: Run with that! Create  those fresh new innovative communities that are unexplainable in merely human (or religious) terms, but not so  by the Spirit. Whee!  [If you find the Blogs provocative, recommend them to your friends.]

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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