Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Great and Holy Call

A FB friend recently asked me why I am a peace and justice Charismatic Christian--or a Holy Spirit Activist.  I've pondered that for a few weeks and here is where my heart is.  God's people, right from the beginning, have been given a great and holy call to be agents of God and image God in the earth.  So I will begin where the Bible begins, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

I find in interesting that God did not create humans first and let them float around while he finished the rest of his creation.  But that God was intentional about the sequence of creation.  Before he placed wildlife in the garden, he created all that would sustain his creatures.  Finally, when all was done, he placed the first humans in the garden and asked them to tend it, govern it, produce fruit.  He asked them to create families who would create communities, who would create nations.  Then God asked them to bear his image.

What does all of that mean?  If we look at this creation narrative in light of the creation myths of the day, we notice that this God is unlike the gods of the neighboring world.  This God did not create people as slaves to do the work of the lazy gods.  This God did not create out of a murder or out of strife.  The God of the Hebrews created out of the overflow of his love.  He gave them all that was needed to sustain life.  He gave them food, water, community, and significance.  Most importantly God gave himself as companion and guide.

Do you see the picture?  It is in the heart of God that human beings flourish in his presence and find life.  It is in his heart that we join him in that same work.

As sin infected this good world things changed.  The first couple was removed from the place of flourishing life.  They created families who created communities who created nations affected by sin and fear and anxiety.  Death had truly entered the world.  And the struggle for life began--struggle in tending the land, struggle in bearing life, struggle between human beings.

But God was not finished.  God began a work with a new people--a new couple--Abraham and Sarah.  They would be God's partners creating a new family and a new community and a new nation that would image God.  He created a Covenant with Abraham in which God would keep his end of the bargain in complete faithfulness and invited Abraham into a life of righteousness and justice.  God promised that Abraham's seed would be as vast as the stars of the sky and the sands of the sea.

Through Abraham came a line that would bring forth the Messiah.  This Messiah would fulfill the Covenant and create a new Covenant.  And God came in Christ reconciling the world to himself.  

God's intent through the Hebrew people was to heal the relationship with God and be the kind of people who would bring that same healing to others.

When God's people were in captivity he delivered them, when they were hungry, he fed them, when they were afraid, he protected them.  He said, you are my people, I am your God and he longed for them to worship him in the desert.  But they wandered from his heart forming alliances with other gods.  So God's own arm worked salvation and He sent the promised Messiah.

When Jesus came, he stood up among the people of God and declared this: 

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
    that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free,
19     and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come."

God's mission in Christ was to heal the world and set it back to right.  It involved healing, justice, liberation and deliverance from captivity and oppression, good news for the poor and sight to the blind--both those with physical blindness and spiritual blindness.   Jesus lived fully as God's people had been called to live.  He brought the lost and marginalized back into community, feed the hungry and healed the sick.  He stood up to the system that had defined righteousness for their own power and displayed what true justice looked like.  He brought the kingdom to the most unusual people... Samaritans, lost sons, tax collectors, lepers, sinners and demoniacs.   

It is and always has been in God's heart that human beings would flourish in his Presence, find life and become life-giving agents in the world.  

When the new church began, they received the Holy Spirit and what did they do?  They healed the sick, liberated the oppressed and captives, cared for the widows and took the gospel to the Gentiles.  Paul the great Apostle to the Gentiles said this in Gal:3:26-28: 

"For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children[p] of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you."

This new people would not be of one ethnicity, it would not be of one class, it would not be of one gender.  In Christ, the peoples of the world would be reconciled both to God and to one another radically changing how we see those in our world.  They are brothers and sisters or potential brothers and sisters.  We cannot look at human beings from a worldly perspective but from the eyes of heaven.  
Finally in the end--when Christ returns we notice once again a beautiful picture of healing and flourishing.  God wipes away all tears, the battle ends, the wounds are healed and a beautiful land is once again depicted.  There is a river that flows through the garden giving life and trees that bear a kind of fruit that will heal the nations.  It is a picture of the end of the struggle between peoples--the end of sorrow and suffering--the end of the struggle human beings have had since the intrusion of the snake in the garden.  

From beginning to end, we see an amazing God who longs for the world and the people he created to flourish and find life.  And time and time again, this God seeks to partner with us as his agents.  And he empowers this people with his presence through the Holy Spirit giving gifts, insight, truth, endurance--whatever is needed to accomplish the purposes displayed in the scripture.  

And that is why I am a Holy Spirit Activist.  We--I cannot do it with without a conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit.   I share this burden and great holy call... to be an agent of God's heart, empowered by the Holy Spirit doing the same kind of work Jesus did.  I long to see a world where once again, human beings flourish in the presence of God.  

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