For those of you who experienced the conference this past Saturday, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that all of the speakers were insightful and helpful – and probably raised some questions in your mind.
One of the things that Dr. Juan Oliver raised was that we are living in God’s kingdom. Both he and Bishop Todd pointed out that the gathering of the body of Christ (a.k.a the Church) is the presence of the kingdom. How is this possible? Here is what Bishop Lesslie Newbigin tells us:
“It is in Jesus that God’s kingdom is present in the life of the world, and this presence is continued – under the sign of the cross – in the community that confesses Jesus as Lord and belongs to him as his body.”
We learn this, for example, in Paul. “Paul’s correspondence with his Christian friends is filled with phrases that express the experience of a life that is the continuing, the carrying forward of the life of the crucified and risen Jesus. We are ‘always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies’ (II Cor. 4:10). Our baptism is an identification with the dying of Jesus, so that we may walk in the new risen life that is his (Rom. 6:3-4). We died with Christ, we were raised with him, and our life is hidden in his (Col. 2:20-3:4). We are the members of the ‘body of Christ’ (I Cor. 12). All this language bears witness to the fact that there is a society in which the life of the crucified and risen Jesus lives on and his mission continues, not only as the proclamation of the kingdom but as the presence of the kingdom in the form of death and resurrection. It is not simply the continuance of a teaching.”
(Lesslie Newbigin. The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission (Kindle Locations 720-725,1656-1657). Kindle Edition.)
If we already live in the kingdom and, in fact, bear the presence of the kingdom within us, then where do we “go” when we die? Perhaps you recall the repentant thief next to Jesus on the cross? He says to Jesus, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus’ answer is “Truly I tell you, this day you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). Yes, we will exist with God when we die (we don’t know how, where, or in what form but we will be with God when we die). This is not the end of the story though. Whether we are dead or alive, we all await the general resurrection – the coming of God’s kingdom in all of its fullness “on earth as in heaven.” We will have life together, on earth, in the perfection of God’s kingdom. As Bishop N.T Wright says, Christians believe in life after life after death. This is knowledge that many Christians have lost in the noise of prevalent societal beliefs.
Okay, that’s enough “head-spinning” stuff for now. Here is a prayer for you for the quickly approaching day of Thanksgiving (it would make a great table grace):
God of heaven and earth, we sing of your bounty and your goodness in the abundant harvest, in the changing seasons, and in the wonder of nature. With generous hearts, may we share what we have received with those who have little, so that none may hunger or thirst and all may know your wide justice; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I Almost Forgot: Here are the two books written by The Rev. Dr. Juan Oliver that you may want to read for yourself:
A House of Meanings: Christian Worship in Plain Language Church Publishing Incorporated (available on Amazon).
Shaped by Worship: Liturgy and Formation. Also published by Church Publishing Incorporated. Part of a series called “Little Books on Liturgy” – it’s just 60 to 80 pages depending on what form you buy and it’s less than $10 on Kindle.
Below you will find Archbishop Anne’s presentation on her time at the Lambeth Conference this past summer.
For Your Devotions:
October 4th is the memorial of Francis of Assisi, a friar who died in 1226. Francis gave up a life of luxury (you must read about him throwing money out a window and standing naked in front of his astonished father and Bishop) to found the Franciscan Order as well as The Poor Clares for women. To think of Francis only as an animal lover is to do him a serious injustice. His goal in life was to become like Christ by conforming completely in mind and heart to the teachings of Jesus (and remember, this is what Paul tells us that all of us must do [Philippians 2:4-5]). After experiencing a vision of a crucified seraph, witnesses say Francis was marked by the five wounds of the crucified Christ. Apparently, this was the first recorded case of stigmata. To read about this and the other fascinating details of his life, please go here: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Francis-of-Assisi