Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


The Pope’s Jesus 4

posted by xscot mcknight

What did Jesus mean by the kingdom of God according to Pope Benedict XVI? In my judgment, the whole mission of Jesus is summed up when one clarifies what “kingdom of God” means, and there are many who talk about kingdom but don’t take the time to work through the Gospels to see what Jesus meant by it. Here’s Benedict’s statement:
Notice this: “The question about the Church is not the primary question. The basic question is actually about the relationship between the Kingdom of God and Christ. It is on this that our understanding of the Church will depend” (49).
There are three basic views of kingdom today: the christological view (Jesus is the kingdom himself), the mystical view (the kingdom is in our hearts), and the ecclesiastical one (the kingdom is the society God wills).
He sketches the Liberal view of Harnack (individualism, moral behaviors), the eschatological view of Weiss (imminent and apocalyptic), and the “regno-centric” or secularistic view (justice and peace).
The problem of the last view: God disappears. (And he’s right on this; too often God does disappear.) Kingdom for Jesus is about God — not just peace and justice.
Again, he christologizes: kingdom is found in and through Jesus.



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Greg Laughery

posted May 31, 2007 at 4:13 am


Scot,
Thanks for posting on Pope Benedict XVI’s book and in particular on his views of the KOG. I agree with you that the whole mission of Jesus is summed up in clarifying the KOG. Here’s an attempt.
The parabolic Kingdom of God, seems indeed to be “like” many things, but is this the case, because it is first of all one symbol, that then in turn, functions at a multiplicity of levels? It is entirely possible that Jesus is able to use all the parabolic images he does, precisely because the “sense” of the phrase is both conceptual and imagical, related to and invoking a complex constellation of thoughts, feelings, observations, and imaginary processes that God is King: God “does” something and that something is to reign.
Jesus’ proclamation, anchored in its Jewish background, of the good news of the Kingdom (Mt. 4:23), and that the Kingdom of Heaven (God) was near (Mt. 4:17), and to an even greater extent that it had arrived in his person, mission, deeds, and miracles, at the very least points to the image-concept that God was King, and that this Kingship was manifesting itself in word, deed, and action (Mt.12:22-29), which was to be equated with treasure.



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John Frye

posted May 31, 2007 at 5:46 am


I like the idea that the KOG is “the society that God wills.” It emphasizes the truth that the “gospel of the kingdom” is communal, not individual; that God is calling out *a people*, not just saved individuals. The new community has a purpose in which the individual finds his/her purpose, not the other way around.



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Georges Boujakly

posted May 31, 2007 at 7:02 am


Greg,
I like your focus on the conceptual and imagical. Would you have a problem in saying that both concepts and images related to the KOG are also personified or embodied in Jesus? And therefore, Jesus as the KOG is a reasonable statement.
John, I like your focus on the communal significance in KOG. Do you think the relationship in the trinitarian community (a society of love, perichoresis) is the society God wills (on earth as it is in heaven?).



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John W Frye

posted May 31, 2007 at 7:30 am


Georges,
I do think that the relational realities of the KOG are shaped by and should “mimic” the perichoretic dance of the Trinity.



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nick

posted May 31, 2007 at 7:35 am


Scot,
Doesn’t God disappear from the “regno-centric” view whenever Pentecost does? It seems as though restoring the leading role of the Spirit in the life of the KOG as the seal of (or down payment on) that final, resurrection life would both cause us to remember God’s vital role, as well as starting to see the cosmic extent of God’s justice (and thus, New Creation).
It’s probably obvious that my line of thought on this matter has been heavily influenced by imbibing Wright. My apologies if my thoughts are still rather jumbled.



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Greg Laughery

posted May 31, 2007 at 8:04 am


Georges,
I don’t have a problem in saying the concepts and images that would have already been there, and that were created by Jesus for his hearers, were personified and embodied in his arrival, his mission and ministry. If Jesus mission was to inaugurate the KOG and all that it comprises in the fullness of its already-ness, it seems to me that he was proclaiming something that incorporates who he is, but that also goes beyond it. Another way of trying to formulate this might be to say that Jesus is related to but distinct from the KOG. I find it intriguing that the preferable vehicule for the KOG sayings is parables, which often speak of “like”, not “is.”



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sbryant

posted May 31, 2007 at 8:26 am


Questions: Where do you stand on this issue Scot? Further, someone like Rob Bell and his entire church seem to be headed in a positive direction based on their interpretation (the ecclesiastical or secularistic view). Are you familiar with this? Any comments about it?



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MarkE

posted May 31, 2007 at 9:00 am


Having taken some time to work through the gospels to see what Jesus meant by the KOG, I was struck on how central the message was in his ministry and how “on message” he remained throughout his ministry.
I am puzzled about why I do not hear much of this same message today? The language of kingdom is hard to relate to in our age. Has the church been talking about the KOG all along, just using different language? Or have we lost it? Is it really a “secret” nowadays, as McCLaren would suggest?
If I was to take a stab at defining it based on my reading of the gospels and my own reasoning and biases (minus any theological or historical study of the concept), I would say that it is a “realm” or way of being in the world where one has tapped into the devine resources (a la 2 Peter 1) in such a way that one can “naturally and routinely” love God and others (a la Great Commandment). To me, the interesting question then is how do you do this? Looking around, seems some have figured it out and most have not.



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MattR

posted May 31, 2007 at 11:23 am


I usually talk about it as the ‘realm’ (like MarkE, #8) or reality of God, in and through the life, message, death and resurrection of Christ. And though it includes indiividual and mystical aspects it is more, it is communal and concrete (like both the ecclesiastical and regnocentric views)… the outworking and fulfilment in Christ and his reign of the promise of God’s Shalom for all of creation found in the OT. I guess sort of integrating a few of the views Pope Benedict mentions.



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Mark

posted May 31, 2007 at 11:42 am


Often the KOG gets defined or talked about in ways that include much of what is standard in the Christian culture, like a focus on profession, eternal position, correct doctrine, involvement in the church. Problem is, much of what one observes in the Christian culture is unimpressive, and does not match up with how Jesus described what was at hand. Seems it has to be something more than what we typically talk about or experience. Something radical.
If it is a realm, then it seems it can be entered and exited. It is interesting to think about how one does this.



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Dana Ames

posted May 31, 2007 at 11:50 am


It was renewed study of the Gospels and seeing how much Jesus spoke of the Kingdom that made me move away from the conservative evangelical ordo salutis. Jesus never asked anyone to “pray a sinner’s prayer”. He asked for trust/allegiance, which to me are much more comprehensive and holistic…
Dana



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Tom

posted May 31, 2007 at 2:17 pm


Though brief, I thought the Holy Father’s chapter on the Kingdom of God was worth the price of the book. It was the first chapter I read, after the introduction. I’m now reading the rest.



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Bob Robinson

posted May 31, 2007 at 4:04 pm


I’d like to hear more of the Pope’s ideas about the Kingdom of God as it relates to ecclesiology, especially Roman Catholic ecclesiology.
Protestant offerings on KofG usually focus on an individualistic conception of God’s rule in people’s hearts, not on a visible manifestation of God’s reign in a society of people seeking to be a redemptive force in the world. Perhaps we protestants have reacted too negatively to Roman Catholic ecclesiology, and this is why we have emphasized this mystical view.



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Bob Robinson

posted May 31, 2007 at 4:05 pm


This is what I think the Kingdom of God is:
The society of Christians who love God and love others in order to transform the world.
The gospel I’d like to see Christians sharing is one that says:
God’s purpose is to create a society of Christians who follow Christ’s Lordship in such a way that they prayerfully seek to bring God’s Kingdom rule onto earth as it is in heaven — infiltrating every aspect of this world, transforming it all into what God wills it to be. This transformation process starts when God, through Christ, transforms individuals into a community that will love God and each other and will seek to transform the world around them. This transformation work is manifested when the community of the Kingdom use their gifts to further Christ’s Lordship over all aspects of life on this earth.



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MarkE

posted May 31, 2007 at 4:34 pm


Bob:
Doesn’t it all come down to individual transformation? Isn’t God’s will carried out through the collective of individuals who are or are being transformed?
I would still want to have a discussion about HOW this transformation comes about. I suspect it is not automatic. It certainly is not overly evident, at least in an impressive way in most churches. We are not exactly overwhelming our culture with love.



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Diane

posted May 31, 2007 at 7:05 pm


MarkE,
My sense is that Jesus is all about individual transformation, which is why Paul (to my mind) was always trying to put the lid on social revolution, which is why he tells everybody to stay in their places (slaves obeying masters,etc). I think he understood that the kingdom of God was about changing people from the inside out, such that social relationships like slave and master would be utterly transformed. Again, the question that keeps getting raised is why this is happening so slowly.



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:mic

posted May 31, 2007 at 9:17 pm


As we discuss the kingdom it is important to remember (as does the Pope) that our prayers yoke us to the work of the kingdom. Such an interpretation of prayer is necessarily built upon the idea that all believers are called to work toward the fulfillment of the kingdom which was inaugurated by Jesus. This means (and perhaps directed to MarkE here) that the kingdom is not finally about individual transformation – salvation is not the end, but the means to the end – the kingdom is about transforming creation via the redemptive work of YHWH. The Pope’s comments on this (pg. 57) take the notion of prayer away from an over-individualistic wanting-things-for-my-own-benefit and places them in the servanthood of Christlike character in working toward the kingdom. As his entire book does very well, this shows a great blend of theological inquiry with devotional emphases for each believer.



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Lewis

posted May 31, 2007 at 10:59 pm


I grieve if the Kingdom of God describes something that we can do or choose or that we even remotely have some involvement in making other than being in the Kingdom.
In my understanding, the KOG refers to God’s rule through the entire universe, including Heaven, the Church Militant, and the Church Triumphant. The KOG centers on Jesus Christ, not us, hence His words that the Kingdom of God was near, here, and they’ll be in it (and some already were). (See Matt. 21:32, 21:43; Mark 12:34; Luke 9:27; Luke 10:9). This means that Jesus rules, Jesus reigns, Jesus is the King with or without my participation after He gave it to me.
As a Christian then, to seek the Kingdom is to seek more participation in the grace God gives to us in Jesus Christ, constantly reveling in the blessings God give me, not to seek some heavenly realm that is to come. We already have that as Christians! Willard says that the kingdom promise of God is for now(!) not just the future. Live it now because the Kingdom is here! As an analogy, why would I look for my keys when I already know exactly where they are? I should go out and start the car!
In my understanding of the Scriptures, the Kingdom of God comes upon us in our baptism (a work of the Holy Spirit, not from us, so no one can boast). I’m just glad I can’t do anything about “having” the Kingdom. If I could, I’m sure I would mess the whole thing up.
This is from the Lutheran Confessions, in Luther’s Large Catechism (a group and a man more learned than I):
“51] But what is the kingdom of God? Answer: Nothing else than what we learned in the Creed, that God
sent His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil,
and to bring us to Himself, and to govern us as a King of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin,
death, and an evil conscience, for which end He has also bestowed His Holy Ghost, who is to bring these
things home to us by His holy Word, and to illumine and strengthen us in the faith by His power.
52] Therefore we pray here in the first place that this may become effective with us, and that His name
be so praised through the holy Word of God and a Christian life that both we who have accepted it may
abide and daily grow therein, and that it may gain approbation and adherence among other people and
proceed with power throughout the world, that many may find entrance into the Kingdom of Grace, be
made partakers of redemption, being led thereto by the Holy Ghost, in order that thus we may all together
remain forever in the one kingdom now begun.”
There’s more, of course. The whole can be found through this link



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TDMiekley

posted June 1, 2007 at 1:44 am


Hey Scot –
I just got the book the yesterday. I hope to dig into it in the next couple of weeks. I found it interesting that when I bought the book, the person at the bookstore who had rung me up at the front desk looked at the cover and sighed. I asked if anything was wrong and her response was, ‘Of Pope’s we could have, we get one who is more Evangelical than Catholic.’ I paid for the book and walked out the door. For whatever reason, I believe I am going to find myself agreeing a lot with it eventhough I am not of the Catholic faith.
See you in a couple of weeks!
– Tim



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Bob Robinson

posted June 1, 2007 at 8:03 am


MarkE (#15),
The Kingdom of God is indeed about the transformation of individuals, but I think it goes beyond just creating a “collective of individuals.” It is about true relationship and community. Community is the end, not the individual. In order for people to have right relationships, they must be individually transformed. But the very word “Kingdom” presupposes a multitude of people, as opposed to some other word that would that indicate individuals are the focus.
Not only is community the end, it is also the means to that end. The very transformation process is found in our learning to live for the redemption of relationships. This is why we are called to be agents of reconciliation; this is why sin is mostly about the destruction of Shalom Peace (i.e., the harmony of relationships); and this is why Justice and Shalom are the cornerstones of God’s will.
As we are yield to the power of God’s Spirit to live in right relationship with God, with others, and with the Creation, we experience “Thy Kingdom Come on Earth as it is in Heaven!”



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JACK

posted June 1, 2007 at 9:06 am


“I asked if anything was wrong and her response was, ‘Of Pope’s we could have, we get one who is more Evangelical than Catholic.’”
Ugh, what a statement. And funny in that tragic sort of way. Anyone seriously familiar with Ratzinger/Benedict would never question his Catholicism and would also maybe shed the wrong notion that the Catholic faith isn’t evangelical.



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MarkE

posted June 1, 2007 at 10:13 am


To cut to the chase, if entering the kingdom is just a matter of passively receiving it at our baptism, then the KOG is not very impressive. The idea certainly fits theologically, but it falls short where the boots hit the ground.
Jesus seemed to hammer the idea of having ears to hear and being doers of the word not just hearers. He seemed to move through life with a remarkable mindfulness and, on a semi-regular basis, he slipped away for periods of time for prayer in solitude “as was his custom.” He seemed very intentional about it all.
Contrast that with most of us who live distracted lives, missing most of life as it is unfolding around us and not having much of a clue about what to do when we are alone and quiet.
Willard talks about well-directed, intentional effort as being critical in spiritual formation. The idea that there is nothing we can do, it just happens to us, does not play out well in real life. Just look around.
(Being direct and provocative for your enjoyment!)



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Paul Johnston

posted June 1, 2007 at 10:48 am


Notice this: “The question about the Church is not the primary question. The basic question is actually about the relationship between the Kingdom of God and Christ. It is on this that our understanding of the Church will depend” (49)….
Thanks for observing and presenting this context, Scot. Hopefully such an understanding allows all Christians an opportunity to share in the discerning process, unencumbered by “tribal prejudices”.



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Lewis

posted June 1, 2007 at 11:02 am


I certainly wouldn’t say that receiving the KOG in baptism is a passive thing. It’s like being knighted by a king. In this, you are recognized as a knight of the kingdom, He, being the king, bestowing the honor on you (you couldn’t do it yourself, could you?). Then, as a knight, you are expected to present the kingdom’s values in you all the time.
Are we not expected to strive for righteousness? Are we not expected to be like Jesus? Of course we are. Thankfully, being righteous or good of our own merit is no requirement to be in the Kingdom. Instead, God has given you the gift of the Kingdom through your baptism. You didn’t do anything good to earn it, nor could you. Yet, God gives it freely. Interesting thoughts.
I hope you don’t think of baptism as a passive act. It involves nothing of ourselves and yet brings us to completeness. What a wonderful God we have!



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Paul Johnston

posted June 1, 2007 at 2:56 pm


Hey Lewis, given the context, MarkE might be referring to the sacrament of infant baptism within Catholic traditions.
If so, while it is fair to regard a baby’s obvious inability to cognitively appreciate and affirm the activity,( thus regarding the child’s participation as passive) to do so, is to misunderstand the fullness of the sacrament.
“Where infant baptism has become the form in which this sacrament is usually celebrated, it has become a single act encapsulating the prepatory stages of Christian initiation in a very abridged way. By it’s very nature infant baptism requires post baptismal catechumenate. Not only is there need for instruction after baptism but also for the neccessary flowering of baptismal grace in personal growth.” (Cn. 1231 CCCB)



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Lewis

posted June 1, 2007 at 3:03 pm


Ah, Paul. You may be right. Certainly, the choice of baptism for an infant is non-negotiable. I couldn’t have fought it, even though I wouldn’t have, when I was baptized as an infant. It does then require instruction through the life of the child. What I love about infant baptism though is that it places the onus of the child’s faith on the parents, sponsors, and the congregation. What a wonderful committment of the child by its parents to God. It’s a beautiful statement of community at the same time it is a sacrament imparting forgiveness of sins and welcoming the child into the Church on earth. Praise God for these wonderful blessings!



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Paul Johnston

posted June 1, 2007 at 3:46 pm


Beautifully said, Lewis.
For those friends in evangelical churches concerned with infant baptism traditions, consider Mary and Joseph’s presentation of our infant Lord at the temple, within the context of comment #25. It might allow you to appreciate, if not agree, with the practice.
Infant baptisms are recorded to have occurred as early as the 2nd century AD. A tradition our forefathers and mothers all once embraced for well over a 1,400 years.



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Paul Johnston

posted June 1, 2007 at 3:50 pm


Sorry, last comment (paragraph 2) should read…”within the context of comment #26″…



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Diane

posted June 1, 2007 at 8:29 pm


It’s difficult to divide the individual inward transformation from the community. Community makes the transformation possible and once it begins to happen, we become more aware of the community all around us that before we were blind to. At least, this is my experience.



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MarkE

posted June 1, 2007 at 10:37 pm


What I am somewhat objecting to is the idea that being in the KOG is something that happens to us, even in the person of faith that has been baptized. Lots and lots of professing believers live self-absorbed lives where their will, and thus their actions, is being influenced primarily their own desires. If this is the case, then it is hard to see them as living in the KOG and contributing to God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
I am assuming the KOG needs to be entered through some active contribution of the person, however, you want to word it, such as tapping into the divine power at the level of our spirit/heart through some sort of contemplative prayer activity and learning to let the Spirit guide our will and actions. Similarly, I also assume the KOG is exited once we let aspects of our self rule our will.
In my experience, this is a very active process. The passivity I was referring to is to assume that just because I was baptized or “saved” I am now always living in the KOG. Empirically, that just ain’t happening.



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Lewis

posted June 1, 2007 at 11:19 pm


MarkE, how many times do you enter and exit the Kingdom of God on a daily basis? Based on your argument then, as I’m reading it, and maybe I’m wrong, every time we willfully sin or fall away from God, we exit the Kingdom, a la an incomplete understanding of what Romans 8 is talking about.
See, I think we’re talking about two different things. You seem to be talking about sanctification, the process of becoming righteous. I’m talking about justification, the imputing of righteousness, which we cannot gain on our own. Remember Romans 11:5-6.
We are justified as Christians and we cannot grow in justification. You’re either justified or not. This is what is received through baptism. Once saved, always saved doesn’t fly for me, nor does the argument that if you die unsaved, you were never saved to begin with. My understanding is that by the power of the Holy Spirit we are justified by grace through faith (which comes on us in baptism) allowing us to confess Jesus as Lord. We may then choose at any moment to deny our God and go as we please. Through repeated willful sinning (acts of rebellion), even a baptized Christian can reject that justification. We all must be wary of this happening to us.
On the other hand, and at the same time as our Lordship declaration, we are sanctified as Christians, and being sanctified. We also receive this as a gift through baptism. I think this is what you are trying to point out (maybe). Correct me if I’m wrong. As Christ has declared us holy, thus meriting eternal life through Him by his act on the Cross, we then strive to mold our lives after His to become holy now. And yet, in our frail flesh, we have a hard time doing this as we are still sinful in the flesh. Through willful obedience, we grow, just as through willful disobedience, we fail.
Anyway, as I said, this is only a response to what I think you’re talking about, and I fully admit I could be completely off the mark. Please correct me if I’m getting you wrong.



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MarkE

posted June 2, 2007 at 8:36 am


I was not necessarily equating the KOG with either of those concepts. I am just trying to understand the KOG as Jesus taught it and modeled it.
He said that he only did and said what the Father told him. This must mean that he was sensitive enough to the Father’s “voice” or guidance and then willed to do it. I take it that this happens at the level of the heart or spirit. How did he do this? His pattern seemed to be to slip away on a semi-regular basis to spend a chunk of time in solitude and prayer. He probably did not go into those times with a list, but rather to get a list, which would require lots of listening and discernment. He then reengaged with the world with an incredible mindfulness, undistracted.
Maybe that is kingdom living and the good news is that we can do the same. Maybe that is how we are able to bring His will on earth.
Again, if there is any validity to any of this, then we need to be discipled in how to live the way Jesus lived. I don’t see lots of this kind of discipleship going on. Consequently, we often observe an unimpressive, impotent institutional church.
Seems the real impressive work of Christ’s church happens with that group of people that have learned to live in the kingdom like Jesus did. But, the birds tend to nest in the trees, the goats mix with the sheep, and the weeds grow alongside the wheat.



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Paul Johnston

posted June 2, 2007 at 11:21 am


I think you’re on to the truth of sharing in the KOG on earth, MarkE. If we agree that the Holy Spirit is the medium then it would logically follow that, prayer and fasting are the means. Certainly, as you point out, it was the method employed by Jesus.
Does this suggest a radical seperation from modernity. Should Christians consider seperate communities devoted to a more contemplative prayer and worship relationship with the Almighty? Can we still engage with the “Great Commission” being in the world, but not of the world? What do we really have to offer when, who we are and what we do is no different, more or less, than those who have not received Jesus Christ into their lives.
Speaking for myself, I am sometimes angry with and sad about what passes for “Christian Community”. For the most part I see us as the young man in scripture; knowledgable, faithful and compassionate but only willing up to the point where our material/worldly selves aren’t compromised.
In an external examination of my community I see reason for others to conclude that we are not who we say we are. In the interior examination of myself, sadly this same condition persists.



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fr'nklin

posted June 3, 2007 at 2:47 pm


I throughly enjoyed reading all the comments…so much good stuff. I couldn’t help but stop though, and laugh a bit at how complicated Jesus’ message seems to be. The whole KOG thing has thrown me for years. The more I think about it the more ignorant I become;). Great comments and post…thanks for helping me think about this some more!



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MarkE

posted June 3, 2007 at 9:47 pm


Paul (#33):
Using Jesus as a model, I would say no, we should not cloister. He did slip away on a semi-regular basis. All we know about these times is that they were often in solitude, of several hours in duration, and he prayed. I somehow doubt all he did was intercessory or petitionary prayer during time. On the contrary. Perhaps lots of contemplative prayer. Other than those times, he was very busy and engaged in the world. However, it was the way he was engaged that seems so impressive. He seemed totally focused on the present moment, attentive to life as it was unfolding (e.g., Mark 5:30).
How about the church providing training in contemplative practices and mindfulness from a Christian perspective? Seems entirely consistent with what Jesus did.



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Paul Johnston

posted June 4, 2007 at 10:48 am


..”How about the church providing training in contemplative practices and mindfulness from a Christian perspective? Seems entirely consistent with what Jesus did…”
A big heartfelt Amen! to that idea, brother. Thanks.
As for your response to #33, I agree with it as it pertains to Jesus, but does it neccessarily stand as the best instruction for our human communities and how they should be configured? Bluntly put, we are of sin and Jesus was not. His ability to withstand the exposures of corrupted forms of culture were/are a lot greater than ours. Do you not feel yourself and your community in open defiance of our Lord as a consequence of a culturally inspired self interest?
So much of what western Christianity speaks to today seems to intrinsicly mollify our personal/ democratic/cultural perogatives before it speaks of the Gospel truths. Jesus was strong enough in of himself to withstand the tide of cultural perogative. Fragmented as we are, I don’t think we have the same power.
If our communal sunday services are in any way spiritually productive, how much more productive would we be if we worshipped together daily? If we lived together, worked together, played together and “broke bread” together, in His name?
MarkE, please don’t understand me to be advancing some kind of self serving(speaking communally) ascetic seperation from the rest of mankind, I’m certainly not. What I broadly envisage and am advocating is a less fragmented, culturally defined, Christianity and replacing it with what our best understanding of what a true Christian community should look like.
I don’t pretend to know what that looks like, but in the end, if it is of truth, the communities we create would offer ongoing re-affirmation and support to all our citizens while at the same time offering to those weary of human political structures a discernably tangible alternative; A real “Jesus community”.
I believe this much for sure; about 2000 years ago a small, impoverished Jewish sect, not unlike many others at the time, were part of a provincial messianic movement. Rather than being quashed, reabsorbed and relagated to the annals of esoteric study, they shaped the future destiny of mankind.
Something about the way this group co-operated wholly with the Spirit of God changed the world.
Can the vast millions of people, with all their material wealth, who preport to be the living legacy of this little community make the same claim? I think not.
Something is really, really wrong.



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