Week 3, Day 5: Renewal
Christianity marks the spot where, if noble dream joins hands with God-inspired hope and presses with great impatience against the insularities of life, for example, national, cultural, ethnic, economic, sexual, and racial, seeking the deeper ground upon which to seed a new way of belonging and living together, then we will find together not simply a new ground, not simply a new seed, but a life already prepared and offered to us.
- Willie James Jennings
In the Renewal chapter of the gospel story, we learn that of the ongoing mission of God, which he invites his church into by the power of his Spirit.
READ: REVELATION 21:1-5
The story doesn’t end with the work of Jesus and with us being saved. We’re actually saved into something: another way of living and being. James Choung describes it as being “sent together to heal.” Jesus told his disciples that they have been adopted into a new family, drafted into a new mission, and commissioned into a new adventure. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, he said:
I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
God has a mission to redeem and renew all of creation, to rescue it all from the effects and consequences of the Fall, and to restore it to right relationship with himself. We read this about Jesus yesterday:
Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him, and he reconciled all things to himself through him — whether things on earth or in the heavens. He brought peace through the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)
That’s the mission Jesus was on during his time on earth; that’s the mission God’s Spirit is still on. And that’s the mission on which Jesus sends his followers — his church — in the power of the Spirit. In other words, it is not God’s church that has a mission; God has a mission and God calls God’s church to partner in it.
The vision seen by the apostle John in Revelation 21 portrays the world that God is actively working to bring about, a world where the effects of sin and the Fall no longer hold sway. And we have a part to play: we are sent together to heal, both to continue the kingdom work that Jesus did — and that God has been doing since the beginning — and also to live toward the restoration of all things when Christ comes again, to share the good news of Jesus and his kingdom and this coming reality, by what we say and by what we do, and to join with God in setting right all that has been warped and broken—individual lives, relationships, families, communities, and nations; relationships between humanity and creation, God, and one to another. There is a vision of a new shalom laid out in the book of Revelation, and it is like Creation but also noticeably different: instead of a garden, there is a city; instead of a man and a woman, the partnership is between Christ and his Church. It is imperative to note that God’s ultimate vision is not simply a return to the way things were; instead, it is a maturation, a transformation, a work that brings wholeness out of brokenness and makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).
This is the invitation offered to us, the challenge laid down before us. As theologian James Cone wrote in The Cross and the Lynching Tree, his searing analysis of Christianity in light of America’s history of slavery, segregation, lynching, and injustice, “The cross is the most empowering symbol of God’s loving solidarity with the ‘least of these,’ the unwanted in society who suffer daily from great injustice.” We are called to participate with God in seeing more of the kingdom on earth — and its accompanying effects of justice for the marginalized, liberation for the oppressed, and grace for all and love between us all.
There are many different ways we can begin to engage in God’s mission and share God’s heart for his creation. It can take the form of evangelism, a word which comes from the Greek word for ‘gospel’: sharing the message of the good news of Jesus and life in the kingdom with others. But life in the kingdom is not only about what we say but about what we do: thus, not only do we compassionately care for and give to those in need, but we are also called to address the systems, structures, and factors that lead to those situations of need, sometimes through community organizing, nonviolent protest, or political advocacy. It was by such means that William Wilberforce campaigned to abolish slavery in Great Britain and Martin Luther King Jr. fought for civil rights for African-Americans. Empowering people and communities to cultivate the means to care for themselves through community development is another form of kingdom work. And, of course, caring for and responsibly steward our world and its resources was one of the first charges given to humanity in Genesis (1:26-28).
REFLECT & RESPOND
Head: What are some ways you currently participate with God in what he is doing? What are some ways you might not be participating—or even opposing—what God is trying to do?
Heart: We are called to be a renewing presence wherever we are, co-laborers with God in his work. How does that make you feel?
Hands: Take two pictures today of some things that signify new life.
God, open my eyes to the ways you are already present and at work around me, and give me the courage to go where you call me to go and to stay where you call me to stay, to do what you call me to do and to stop doing what you want me to stop doing. Amen.
It is not God's church
that has a mission;
God has a mission and God calls God's church to partner in it.