Saturday, November 19, 2011

Signs of the Reign of God?


Do you believe in the reign of God?  Tomorrow many Churches will celebrate Christ the King Sunday.  Maybe they will sing a hymn such as "Jesus Shall Reign"  Consider the opening lines of this Isaac Watts hymn:
Jesus shall reign where 'er the sun

does its successive journeys run;

his love shall spread from shore to shore

till moons shall wax no more.
The hymn holds out the promise of Jesus' ultimate reign, a view that is underlined in Ephesians 1, the text I shall use for tomorrow's sermon.

20 God’s power was at work in Christ when God raised him from the dead and sat him at God’s right side in the heavens, 21 far above every ruler and authority and power and angelic power, any power that might be named not only now but in the future. 22 God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, 23 which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.  (Eph. 1:20-21 CEB)

But the question before us is this:  Must we wait for "Judgment Day" to see signs of the reign of God in our world?  As I contemplate this question I'm in the midst of reading another book on Missional Christianity.  This time I'm reading Michael Frost's Road to Missional, The: Journey to the Center of the Church (Shapevine)  (Baker, 2011).  I'm not finished reading the book, so I'm not ready to write a review, but I'd like to use something from the book to get the conversation going.

Frost writes:

The reign of God through Christ is a present reality but also an unfolding one.  Heaven overlaps with earth.  God's reign is complete. Jesus is Lord.  These are irrefutable, nonnegotiable, universal truths, but they are truths we perceive only partially.  Their full reality is still mysterious to us.   (Frost, p. 103).
One might find some discomfort with the certainty expressed about the truths declared, but the point being made is that the reign of God is present here and now, and elsewhere Frost asserts that the missional calling is to alert the world to this fact.  But, then the question is -- what does this look like?  And Frost suggests that following N.T. Wright, we should see several things occurring -- 1) restoration of relationships; 2) reestablishment of justice; 3)  rediscovery of beauty.   The point he makes is that God is already at work bringing this to pass, and we are invited to participate in this work.  The question thus is not -- is God on our side, but are we on God's side?   

So, as we move toward the observance of Christ the King Sunday, where do we see signs of God's reign in Christ in the hear and now?  Where do we see relationships being restored?  Where do we see justice being established?  Where do we see beauty being discovered or created?  





6 comments:

Brian said...

"So, as we move toward the observance of Christ the King Sunday, where do we see signs of God's reign in Christ in the hear and now? Where do we see relationships being restored? Where do we see justice being established? Where do we see beauty being discovered or created?"

Since we're all standing in different locations, our views will differ. Below is where I see the Hand of God.

- Relationships restored in hospital rooms as family gather to have final words with a dying parent.

- Justice being established when young mothers with no income/insurance are treated to state of the art health care in comfortable surroundings as if they were well to do.

- Beauty discovered when the eyes light up as a woman with severe dementia sings "The Old Rugged Cross" and recites the King James Version of the 23rd Psalm.

- Holy gifts beyond my clumsy explanation occur within my heart when I talk to Jesus like I did as a small child.

Another term for Christ the King Sunday is Christ the Cosmic Ruler Sunday. While I don't use this with my faith communities, it resonates with me. I find the deepest sense of wonder when I venture into the country as far from artificial light as possible to meditate upon the night sky. It brings me back to deep faith as I wonder if the star I'm looking at ceased to exist before King David was born, yet the light is just now reaching my eye.

Blessings to all this Sunday. I'm starting to come out of a bad cold/virus. When I am made weak, I tend to "feel it" more. This is nice as I'm more of a mental guy most of the time.

Robert Cornwall said...

Thanks Brian for sharing these reflections!

David said...

I hate to wish weakness on you Brian, but I like the state you were in when writing this. I doubt you were delirious when seeing these things.

I also see the hand of God when my grand-daughter says. YES, I would LIKE to visit great-grandma today!

Brian said...

David - The people who experience my ministry face to face experience me this way. When I come to this forum it is mostly to engage in theological discussion of the sort that I deeply miss from seminary. Bob is a scholar and professor. While I like to poke fun of Fuller and Barth, that is how we talked around the lunch tables at CTS. The profs were very accessible that way. For those of us who actually enjoyed seminary, we miss it when it is gone.

Just to make sure people are clear, Fuller is one of the most highly respected seminaries in the world. I wouldn't poke fun if it were not. Now Barth on the other hand.....

David said...

"When I come to this forum it is mostly to engage in theological discussion"

That's understood. You just have to put up with us uneducated interlopers.

I come to see how Christian sausages are made, and where they're headed!

Brian said...

Please don't think of yourself as uneducated. We are all educated in different things. Some formal education. Others through life experience. When I was a kid I was labeled slow. It wasn't until college that I discovered I'm kind of smart. I think that is partly why I'm so sensitive about reaching out to the undereducated in my personal writings.

I've contacted Bob in private in the past to ask him to please contact me if my posts are ever harmful to his goals for this forum. Each forum has its own goals.

But yeah, I miss the good conversations that were part of every day life at seminary. This is a place I can come to scratch that itch. I just wish Clark Williamson had a blog. Then I wouldn't be such a pain in the arse over here!