I think it's fair to say that in our culture of hurry, technology, and multi-sensory stimulation on a constant basis, we glide through life locked in our own world of concern and agenda. We wear our headphones, while texting on our cell phones. We spend copious amounts of time tending to our carefully crafted identities on social sites. We rush to make our multitude of commitments that are only possible as a result of our mobility. We are hemmed into our agendas with few margins for spontaneity or a shift in plans. As a result we have been carefully and well trained to ignore anything outside of the scope of our own agendas. We miss the broken ones hungry on the street because we're too busy. We fail to see injustice unfold before us in subtle ways. We are uncomfortable when someone doesn't respond with “I'm fine.” to our “How are you?” We are self centred.
In many ways, we followers of Jesus have managed to structure our faith into the pattern above. We've attempted to follow a very radical, spontaneous and responsive-to-the-Spirit Jesus in a way that is clean, neat and free of surprises. Outside of the occasional “internal” insight about self betterment or “feelings” of warmth about our idea of security in the world to come, we are largely neutered in our ability to follow Jesus appropriately. This frustrates me because it makes no sense considering we follow a God that is free and uncontrollable. The pattern of control in which we fashion our faith does not mesh with the pattern of God.
A very unique aspect about Jesus' ministry is his willingness to be interrupted by the Holy Spirit. There are constant examples of encounters that were spontaneous and interruptive to his Journey. The gospel of Mark is riddled with interruptive-type ministry beginning in the first chapter. Jesus had an eye on how the hearts of those around him were being stirred in curiosity or need. He responded in distinct action that blended into his agenda of demonstrating who God is and what God was doing on the road to his ultimate example on the cross. This is largely because Jesus' entire purpose and being is summed up in participating in the mission of God to reconcile the world. I'm suggesting that our crafted and controlled life above lies in stark contradiction to the pattern of Jesus' life, yet we try to make it work… uninterrupted by anything new or surprising from God. In a unique way, the interruptions are the ministry, yet we go out of our way to avoid them.
At the centre of this issue lies two problems. The first is an issue of purpose and obedience (or discipleship). The second is an issue of vision as it relates to our inability to see and understand how we are being pulled into ways of disengagement with God's Kingdom action. We are scripted into ways of self-centredness and self-focus and this leads to the development of both issues above. Our discipleship is private and tends to focus on the self, while our blindness to how we are scripted leads to our miasma. It is a catch twenty-two and part of the solution is a radical shake up of how fragile our self constructed world really is. We need to be jolted out of the pathology of private faith and startled away from the script of our empire that lulls us into our own uninterruptible worlds.
In times long ago, it was God that acted decisively to jolt and startle his people by allowing their enemies to carry them off into Babylonian exile. This made them reorient their lives around God and come to terms with their need for Him. Hopefully we can wake ourselves up on our own rather than suffer the alternative of being led into a new type of Babylon as slaves. Or maybe we're already there?
I saw Heaven and earth new-created. Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea.
I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband.
I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”
The finale of the entire biblical story, poetically summed up in Revelation 21, is the vision and destiny of all creation. This great “Patmos dream” of the Apostle John is a haunting picture. When people are caught by the scent of a new heaven and earth and fix the pieces of that colourful destiny around the central figure of Jesus, lives are changed. This is nothing less than haunting, for the possibility alone of an un corrupt existence in eternity is beyond the scope of our own efforts. It is God's effort and our imaginations, rooted in Him, help us see to it. Our hearts salivate for this future because it represents the fulfillment of every human desire… if we are honest. The only way it can be described is through sketches inspired from tomorrow about how today may be transformed. Like the author, John, we need poetry for this as we proclaim it.
I often wonder what the world to come will be like and my mind wanders to a different land altogether as if my context doesn't exist there. I think this is an error. I find it more beautiful and helpful to envision the incorruptible tomorrow though the lens of the street I live on today. Properly, the tomorrow we long for does not break in to today unless the economy of tomorrow's constitution is demonstrated in the here and now. Tomorrow's economy is love and its constitution is true justice…with the loving God present in tangible terms. Even though there will be a final, miraculous, event that completely ushers in the future at Jesus' return, the ones haunted by this future – the ones that have thrown their lot in with the Jesus way – are compelled to act as if its happening now. And it is. On your street and mine. God has already begun saving it. We need to see it; we need to sketch it out.
We see only a glimmer, or a sketch of the final destination, but these sketches that we have been given the gift of dreaming will lead us home. In the mean time we should enact tomorrow's economy of love and constitution of justice as we look and listen for how our street will reflect the Patmos dream of a world put right.
“You could not perceive,
how to be
Just rest in this and I will
give you eyes to see
In dust is hope,
just so you know
And I will pull you through
if you let go…
Dust and dreams….”
There is a frail and fine line that separates our dreams from dust. Although we would like to think they are worlds apart, in reality it is quite the opposite. In fact, we tend to believe things are just fine and we fight to hold on to our dreams, even when our realities are crumbling. Coming to terms with the reality of dust is too overwhelming for us, so we create illusions and get in bed with denial to maintain our dreams.
What is dust? Is it shattered dreams, a failing marriage? Death? I think it's all of those and ultimately we spend our lives building castles in the sand that we think will stand the test of time free from dust, but they don't. Although we long to live forever, our lives, it seems, are fashioned toward eventual dust. Many realize a foretaste of dust in the shattering of dreams along the way. Suffering, in this sense, is part of the human experience. Lament and loss are realities that we need to learn to live with. This is hard to bear and in the thick of it, dust is a substance that wont let us see past it. Dust is disorienting.
In a cloud of dust, if you try and clear it by flailing, you will fail and go mad. With every attempt to escape dust, we stir up more and cause increased suffering for ourselves. Our impulse is to fight it, to plan an escape, to find an answer for why we are in it, or how we will get out. It's futile. The dust has a way of razing our wills along with our lives. Dust demands we wait… until it settles, until the smoke clears, until we are transformed by it. Waiting in the dust gives hope a chance to work its way in.
Most people fear the dust because it represents the greatest loss of the hope we had. Dust is death. Fortunately there is a rumour circulating out there about a God that conquered dust and death. Rumour has it that the way out is through waiting in the dust and calling on the one that saves – calling in agony and despair – for this lament is honest and real. In the right time, new hope enters our dust in the form of a loving God to reveal new possibilities. Whether its the dust of broken dreams or death itself, God is the one who takes the dust and fashions new hope that leads to joy and a restored future. This is the power of the resurrection of Jesus. Be hopeful, even if its dusty where you are.
Have a listen to a song called “Dust” by Hope and Social that has gripped me this last week. http://music.hopeandsocial.com/track/dust-3
There are many things I want to teach you about life. Although I am hardly the expert, some understanding has grabbed me through my experiences that I long to impart to you for your benefit. Today you are still young, but tomorrow, I hope you will see things with clarity and a keen mind nurtured from a trust in God and a desire to understand the truth beneath the surface of things.
Don’t stare at the ads! That’s right, I said don’t stare at the ads. I am talking about the advertisements that constantly bombard you with their visual arrows through television commercials, public billboards, the radio, internet, and junk mail. They are harmful. They seem harmless, but in reality, millions of dollars are spent on constructing them in a way that will tap into your deepest desires in order to shape them. They are designed to make you feel incomplete without the product that they are trying to sell. They will offer you the world if you pledge allegiance to their brands. Popularity, beauty, power, wisdom, satisfaction…I tell you, it’s all rubbish!
When you peel back the surface, you will see that corporations are trying to create a religious experience in you to make you their disciple. They want you to believe that you were made to buy their products. In other words, they want your self-identity to be deeply rooted in consumption, and as long as it is, you will always be longing for more and more without being truly satisfied. This is not who you are.
The constant struggle for us in this life is to remain true to who we are. You know where you come from. We’ve told you the stories about the God who created you in dignity, love, and respect. You know how God rescues you and offers you a fulfilling life as a contributing artist in his restoration masterpiece. Each of you are gifted to be blessings in God’s project to heal this world with a love that puts an end to manipulation and violence. Sharing in the life and love of God….this is where real purpose and fulfillment come from. Not from the consumption of products that leave your souls thirsty and anxious in the end.
If you stare at the ads and let them invade your imagination, they will shape who you are. And let me tell you, if the heart of your identity is found in being a consumer, you will always be in a place of unfulfilled longing. Don’t be a slave to filling an empty void with “things” that can only be filled by God.
The Winter has a way of bringing us to a place of deep reflection. Curious inquisitiveness and a longing for home; the home our hearts desire past our mortal years. That’s what Winter does to me. It is my favorite time of year in all it’s coldness and warm celebrations of incarnation. Winter has a way of stripping the veneer that builds up like brooding thicket around our hearts. Winter is desperate and violent in it’s chill. A time of death for creation and a time of reckoning for the soul. Winter a tool used to lovingly whittle us to utter dependence on the one who holds us up. In Winter, death is as near as the hope of Spring.
“But it’s one thing to say that the Church at large is involved in the Missio Dei; it’s another to use the term “Missional” as a kind of advanced concept of Church, or as a thing you have to do to qualify for Church.”
Maggie Dawn helps our understanding of this oft misused/misunderstood term. From back in 2007
The other day we had a discussion in our mission group about Exodus 33. If you recall, this is “post-golden-calf” idolatry and God wants to send Moses and the Israelites into the promised land without His presence (v 1-3) for fear he might kill them. What we see is that the covenant relationship between God and the Israelites is seriously strained and the affects are visible in both God’s disappointment and anger, and Israel’s distress at the fear of losing His provision. Moses has none of it and what ensues in the dialogue between them is nothing short of a passionate, very personal exchange. This passage illuminates the very personhood of God and is rife with emotion. What is more, we see in God an initiative to love, and in Israel and opportunity to reciprocate with faithfulness. Verse 11 mentions that “the Lord would speak with Moses face to face, as a man speak with his friend.”
That the very personal nature of God would stick out in this tumultuous passage is rather curious. Even in God’s anger he still offers an angel to go with Israel to the promised land, but not His presence. Surely they deserved less than that! Moses pleads with God (v12-13) by reminding Him of His covenant and faithfulness and it is God’s mercy, because of his fondness of Moses, that prevails and changes His mind. Rather than extracting justice and (by His right) revoking the covenant, His unconditional love is extended. The magnitude of this mercy I think escapes us in the familiarity of the passage. Consider a man who loves a woman and continues to protect her and provide for her. Consider his infatuation with her beauty and the words of commitment she utters to him. Consider this emotion and then imagine walking in on her with another man…ad she does this often. Such is idolatry and such is a vague glimpse of the situation that illuminates the magnitude of the mercy extended.
The way God and Moses interact also reveals a problem with many of us Christians these days. As we are wrapped tight in the blanket of consumerist culture, it is sadly to be expected that much of our experience of God would follow in similar fashion. How Many times am I guilty of a wandering heart, not considering the hurt and disappointment I cause God. Worse yet, how many times do I/we flippantly come to God as our need arises and fail to relate to him in a manner that doesn’t resemble a vending machine? We (in evangelical circles) shy away from rituals that make vivid the seriousness of relating to the living God and therefore our relationship with God suffers from a casual attitude and antinomian like behaviour. Not all, but many. What if we had symbols and deeper rituals that remind us that our whole beings belong to God? What if our life together made room for God to reveal His emotion, personhood, and humanness in a way that makes us consider our actions before we wander away into idolatrous pursuits? Perhaps our spirituality would resemble more the Moses/God pattern; a pattern that would allow God to be His free self.