Monday, March 19, 2007

Amazing Grace: A Story of New Creation

This past Wednesday Yulinda and I were finally able to schedule babysitting and see the film Amazing Grace, the story of how God used William Wilberforce to abolish the slave trade in Great Britain. It was a truly powerful and inspiring movie that reminded me of how Christians how are called to be advocates for the socially oppressed. Wilberforce understood that Jesus did not come to be served but to serve and that he also called those who would associate with him to the same ministry. One scene in the film is particularly powerful and reminiscent of Jesus' ministry. As young Wilberforce endures the pain of serving those who have no advocate, he dreams of those who have refused to come to the aid of slaves because they are too busy attending various societal events such as parties, the ballet, the theater etc. Wilberforce interrupts their evening and slams their food and drink from the tables and they crash to the floor. This event is designed, I believe, to remind the viewer of when Jesus overturned the tables in the temple where the poor were being abused. This film serves as a stark challenge to evangelical Christians to view their position in society with eyes of redemption and not arms of power. In recent elections, evangelical Christians have been referred to as an influential interest group. Instead of thinking of ourselves as those with powerful political influence, we should instead envision our role in society as servants who seek to spread the New Creation. In 2 Cor 5.17, the Apostle Paul declares, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is new creation; the old has gone, the new has come" (NIV)! Paul's words are purposefully similar to the prophecy of a New Creation recorded in Isaiah 65.17. You see, Paul is asserting that on the cross of Christ God began this work of New Creation and those who are in Christ participate in that work. Furthermore, those who are in Christ are called to "the ministry of reconciliation." Because God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, we are called to continue that ministry by spreading the justice, love, and forgiveness that will ultimately characterize the New Creation where "the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard no more" (Isa 65.19).

William Wilberforce and his friend John Newton heard the weeping and crying of slaves who were being disgustingly abused by the British Slave Trade and they fulfilled their call to spread New Creation justice and New Creation peace. Evangelicals, are we thought of as that group of voters who win elections for right-wing-Republicans, or does the culture consider us to be servants who spread a New Creation Ethic? I am voting for the later.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Jesus and God and Israel in John's Gospel

Today we leave with our student ministry for our Spring Retreat. My plan is to encourage the students to spend personal time reading Jesus' High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17. As I did a bit of reading to gain a better understanding of the Prayer's role in John's story, I came across these extraordinary insights from Bishop N.T. Wright in his book, The New Testament and the People of God. Wright understands John's Gospel as designed to demonstrate that what God is doing through the ministry of Jesus serves as the climax to what God has been doing with Israel. Furthermore, John is seeking to demonstrate that what God is doing with Israel has profound implications for the entire cosmos. Therefore, "the question of the creator and the cosmos, the world, becomes the question of Jesus and Israel. And when that question is resolved, with the full paradox and irony of the crucifixion of the King of the Jews, then at once the world can become the beneficiary" (Wright, 412). Insights such as these reveal that too often our reading of the biblical text remains at the superficial (maybe syntactical!) level. How texts in John relate to the grand metanarrative that God is telling through Moses and Abraham and David and Daniel and Jesus and Paul becomes the crucial question for NT interpretation.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007