Tag Archives: Kingdom

Discipleship and Huddles

These were some of the gems I gleaned from the Mission and Discipleship training day that was run by Central Baptist.  There were many gems here.

First was the tension between covenant and kingdom, and how we love dualisms which separate these, rather than living in the tension between them.

Talked about the different triads that live within Covenant (Father, Identity, Obedience) and Kingdom (King, Actions, Power).

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A lovely little aside that the move from Abram to Abraham and Sari to Sarah means that each one of them of is given part of YHWH’s name. Continue reading

Tributes to Dallas Willard – Part 1

From a couple of articles here and here about Dallas Willard.

Quotes from the first, earlier profile, are here.  Quotes from the second article (a profile by John Ortberg) are here.

On the quest for truth:

“If you could find a better way, Jesus would be the first one to tell you to take it. And if you don’t believe that about him, you don’t have faith in him, because what you’re really saying is that he would encourage you to believe something that is false.”

On scientists and knowledge:
The idea that knowledge—and, of course, reality—is limited to that world is the single most destructive idea on the stage of life today.”

Checking in with God:

“Generally, what I find is that the ordinary people who come to church are basically running their lives on their own, utilizing ‘the arm of the flesh’—their natural abilities—to negotiate their way,” he says. “They believe there is a God and they need to check in with him. But they don’t have any sense that he is an active agent in their lives. As a result, they don’t become disciples of Jesus. They consume his merits and the services of the church. … Discipleship is no essential part of Christianity today.”

Instead of “trying to get people’s papers in order for heaven,” the church began concentrating on helping spiritually hungry people “pursue their life with God.”

In finding sympathy with Willard and John Paul II, it is noted from the Pope, “You are who you are, and not who you would be if the system were different.” (reacting to the hypocrisy required to survive in Communist Poland)

God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are, and if we faithlessly discard situation after situation, moment after moment, as not being ‘right,’ we will simply have no place to receive his kingdom into our life. For those situations and moments are our life.” – Willard


On perceiving heaven

Jesus lived and spoke as if the whole world was a thin place for him, with endless dimensions of the divine infinitesimally close, with every moment and every location simply another experience of the divine reality that is all around us, through us, under and above us all the time.

It’s as if we’re currently trying to play the piano while wearing oven mitts.

Right now we’re trying to embrace our lover, but we’re wearing a hazmat suit.

We’re trying to have a detailed conversation about complex emotions, but we’re underwater.

We’re trying to taste the thirty-two different spices in the curry, but our mouth is filled with gravel. (page 61)

The 100th Monkey

Then something startling took place. In the autumn of 1958, a certain number of Koshima monkeys were washing sweet potatoes — the exact number is not known. Let us suppose that when the sun rose one morning there were 99 monkeys on Koshima Island who had learned to wash their sweet potatoes. Let’s further suppose that later that morning, the hundredth monkey learned to wash potatoes.

THEN IT HAPPENED!

By that evening almost everyone in the tribe was washing sweet potatoes before eating them. The added energy of this hundredth monkey somehow created an ideological breakthrough!

But notice: A most surprising thing observed by these scientists was that the habit of washing sweet potatoes then jumped over the sea…Colonies of monkeys on other islands and the mainland troop of monkeys at Takasakiyama began washing their sweet potatoes.

Thus, when a certain critical number achieves an awareness, this new awareness may be communicated from mind to mind.

Although the exact number may vary, this Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon means that when only a limited number of people know of a new way, it may remain the conscious property of these people.

But there is a point at which if only one more person tunes-in to a new awareness, a field is strengthened so that this awareness is picked up by almost everyone!

In The Company of Jesus

Something has to change and Jesus says that something can change, promising the ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first.’  In a world obsessed with celebrity, sex and superficial appearance, he still chooses the lepers and the AIDS victims, the bullied kids from school and the ‘fools’ of this world to confound the wise with hope and justice.

In the company of Christ, the ugly become beautiful and classroom cowards become the bewildered heroes of his kingdom.  That, after all, is my story and I suspect it is yours too.

Jackie Pullinger used to say “If you want to see revival, plant your church in the gutter.”

Jesus warned us that the upwardly mobile middle classes would always find it extremely hard to receive him.  But among the losers, the freaks and the apparent failures, what one preacher called the ‘shrimps and wimps and those with limps’… that is actually where the gospel spreads quite easily.

Thy Kingdom Come

Jesus took three parts of Isaiah’s kingdom message and set about implementing them.  Release for captive Israel; the defeat of evil; and the return of YHWH to Zion.

Page 30.

Rather think of it like this.  Jesus was the medical genius who discovered penicillin, we are doctors, ourselves being cured by the medicine, now applying it to those who need it.  Jesus is the musical genius who wrote the greatest oratorio of all time, we are the musicians, captivated by his composition ourselves, who now perform it before a world full of muzak and cacophony.

Page 33

There is one important spin-off of this.  Along the unbiblical view of the Kingdom that sees it as the escape from the created order, rather than the redemption of it, there is a view of prayer that sees it as essentially the activity of the mind, the heart, or the soul, leaving the body untouched and irrelevant.  This view has a certain strength: it will never fall into ritualism or magic, or into thinking that we can put on a pretty little outward show which God will then politely applaud.

But that’s actually about all that can be said for it.  They kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven; and we who pray that prayer are ourselves bits of earth, lumps of clay.  If we really want God’s kingdom to come on earth, we should of course expect that the earth in question will include this earth, this clay, this present physical body.  That means, of course, holiness.  It means, of course, sacraments, it means the physical act of prayer.

Sadly for those who like everything tidy there are no rules at this point…

The ideal posture they would tell us is relaxed but not slumped; poised but not tense; alert but not fidgety; above all, humble but happy in the presence of the Creator whom you are learning to call ‘Father’.  Find the posture that does all that for you, find the gestures that express and symbolise the life and love of Jesus for youl and you will be teaching your body to pray – which to the surprise of many modern persons, is no bad way to teach your mind, heart and soul to pray as well.

The Gospel According To Moulin Rouge

 

(page 78)

The proximity to Sacre-Coeur almost invites us to look for parallels and comparisons between the bohemian artists and the mendicant friars, the decadent painters and the celibate priests, both of whom reject a life of moneymaking for the sake of very different visions of the kingdom, of the good life.  But if both the bohemian and the friar desire a kingdom that rejects the pursuit of comfort and wealth, could it be that there are some covert similarities between their visions of the kingdom?  Does the Moulin Rouge already point up the hill toward the Basilica?  What at the end of the day is Christian after? Emotion

 

(page 78-79)

“Never knew I could feel like this, like I’ve never seen the sky before.” Sings Christian.  The world is “seen” differently because of love.  By the end of the film we learn that all of this has constituted a kind of education: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.”

 

(page 79)

The kingdom might look more like the passionate world of the Moulin Rouge than the staid, buttoned-down, talking head world of the 700 club.  The end of learning is love: the path of discipleship is romantic.

 

(page 79)

I think a philosophical anthropology centred around affectivity, love, or desire, might also be an occasion to somewhat re-evaluate our criticisms of “mushy” worship choruses that seem to confuse God with our boyfriend.  While we might be rightly critical of the self-centred grammar of such choruses (which, when parsed, often turn out to be more about “me” than God, and “I” more than us), I don’t think we should so quickly write off their “romantic” or even “erotic” elements (the Song of Songs comes to mind in this context).  This too is testimony to why and how so many are deeply moved in worship by such singing.  While this can slide into an emotionalism and a certain kind of domestication of God’s transcendence, there remains a kernel of “fittingness” about such worship.  While opening such doors is dangerous, I’m not sure that the primary goal of worship or discipleship is safety.

Desiring the Kingdom – Part 1

More specifically, I want to distinguish liturgies as rituals of ultimate concern: rituals that are formative for identity, that inculcate particular visions of the good life, and do so in a way that means to trump other ritual formations.  Admittedly this might include rituals not associated with traditional religions (e.g. rituals of Nazi facism or other rituals of totalising nationalism); indeed, expanding our conception of what counts as “worship” is precisely the point.  Our thickest practices – which are not necessarily linked to institutional religion – have a liturgical function insofar as they are a certain species of ritual practice that aim to do nothing less than shape our identity by shaping our desire for what we envision as the kingdom – the ideal of human flourishing. (page 87)

 

So one of the most important aspects of this theology of culture is first a moment of recognition: recognising cultural practices and rituals as liturgies.  We need to recognise that these practices are neutral or benign, but rather intentionally loaded to form us into certain kinds of people – to unwittingly make us disciples of rival kings and patriotic citizens of rival kingdoms. (page 91)

 

On apocalyptic literatures capacity to unmask rival kingdoms: (page 92)

Revelation’s readers in the great cities of the province of Asia were constantly confronted with powerful images of the Roman vision of the world.  Civic and religious architecture, iconography, statues, rituals and festivals, even the visual wonder of the cleverly engineered “miracles” (cf. Rev. 13:13-14) in the temples – all provided powerful visual impressions of Roman imperial power and of the splendour of pagan religion.  In the context, Revelation provides a set of Christian prophetic counter-images which impress on its readers a different vision of the world: how it looks from the heaven to which John is caught up in chapter 4.  The visual power of the book effects a kind of purging of the Christian imagination, refurbishing it with alternative visions of how the world is and will be.  (from Richard Bauckham)

A Bet Was Made

A Bet Was Made

Page 147

A bet was made with posterity that, by keeping the Church from directing the state, or the state from compromising theology, religion might actually flourish rather than wither, since it could depend only on its own intrinsic persuasiveness.

Much of American history has been the vindication of that original gamble.  The implications of the First Amendment have been inadvertently or not backed America into the great question on which the peace of the whole world, not just the United States, will turn.  And it is a question that secular Europe with is donnish bafflement that any properly , rationally wired human being could ever believe this guff, disqualifies itself from addressing if it invariably talks of the religious as though they were all visitors from Planet Loopy.  A double standard not infrequently operates here, partly generated by British Romanticism about Islam.  American evangelicals who – so far – are obstructed from imposing law, are mad men, but the ayatollahs who are not are merely misunderstood traditionalist.  Sometimes liberal secularism does itself a disservice by deferring to intolerance, rather than debating how those claiming a monopoly of wisdom can be prevented from imposing it on others.

Pragmatic Realism

The reason such knowingly limited realpolitik will never win my backing is because I believe that the followers of Christ should always be good news for the poor.  We don’t suddenly stop trying for justice the minute we enter the corridors of power, we try there as well; because I believe that under Lloyd-George, under Attlee, under Roosevelt, hopefully under Obama, and yes – even under Brown – the effort was worth it.  The edifice was flawed and expensive, but it was better than never having tried.