Friday, November 26, 2010

Hope - Some Thoughts on 1 Peter 1:1-12

We commonly use the word “hope” in at least two senses. Some times we speak of “hoping against hope.” In this sense we use “hope” to indicate a kind of doggedness of will, but it is a sheer doggedness without real expectation of fulfillment. Hope thus experienced is more desperate than it is, well, hopeful. At other times we speak of “hope” more in terms of confident expectation, of trust that something will occur or be fulfilled. Hope thus experienced is not desperate but, well, truly hopeful.

Peter, a disciple of and witness to Jesus, wrote this letter to followers of Jesus scattered around Asia Minor in the early 60s A.D. He wrote to encourage and foster hope and faithfulness in those dispersed Christian communities. The hope of which he spoke was hope of the latter kind – expectant and confident of fulfillment of God’s purposes in the world and in the lives of his beloved people.

Peter wrote of hope not because he was naïve. He had seen the worst, from his own failure before Jesus to Jesus’ horrible death. Yet he knew also the great mercy of God leading to new birth, to new life in the risen Jesus. In a sense, after all he had been through with Jesus, Peter knew this mercy better than he knew his own failure or any other failures in life. God – loving, good, and powerful – thus gave him hope in Jesus.

Nor were Peter’s readers naïve. They knew trouble, discomfort, and adverse circumstances. Though they lived in it, they were “strangers in the world.” This was a period of increasing persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. They suffered or expected to suffer. Yet they also experienced God’s mercy and new life in Jesus. God thus gave them hope in Jesus.

We may look at the world around us, and at our own life, and we may ask what hope there is. Is there only hope against hope? Or is there true hope – expectant, trusting, confident? There is hope, declared Peter, not by ignoring trouble and adversity, but amid trouble and adversity, in that God in mercy gives us new life in Jesus. Through worship, Scripture, prayer, fellowship, and faithful living, we experience Jesus, and God fashions hope in us, more each day. And so in turn we become agents of hope in a world in desperate need of it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Few Glorious Moments

A few glorious moments this morning just as the sun emerged above the horizon, after overnight rains, with high remnants of clouds dark gray above, but brightly illuminated underneath with stunningly pink-to-red-to-orange trailers toward the earth. A sky saturated with creation's splendor.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Church: First Fruit of Re-Creation

In To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (p. 158), James Davison Hunter remarks that ecclesiology is, for what he terms the neo-Anabaptist perspective, the form of engagement with the world. This stems from the significance of the communal aspect of Christian faith in this view. The individual is of course significant, but Christ formed a community of believers or followers: the church. Christian ethics is not solely or even primarily individual. It is corporate; it is ecclesiological.

Hunter is right about this in a certain sense. However -- and I am not necessarily reacting to Hunter or to any person in this so-called neo-Anabaptist perspective -- I contend that the reason for the existence of the church is not to engage the world. To employ Hunter's terms, the reason for Christ forming the community of believers is not in order to have a form or means of engagement with the world. The church is not utilitarian in the divine economy. The church is essential in the divine economy. The purpose in the divine formation of the church is the re-creation of the cosmos. The coming-into-being of the church is fundamentally an act of redemption or salvation, first and last, not ethic or mission. Ethic and mission derive from that redemption which is the divine formation of the church. Ecclesiology gives rise to ethic and mission. Or perhaps a more nuanced way of putting this is to say that a comprehensive ecclesiology seeks to understand and explicate both the essential being of the church (redemption, re-creation of the cosmos, the vanguard of the new humanity) and the necessary acts of the church in manifesting that being (ethic, mission). In the end the church is not a divine tool to engage the world outside of the church through ethic and mission. Were that the case, the church would cease to exist in the age to come. Rather, the church is the first fruit of the divine re-creation of the cosmos. In the age to come, when all of time and space are made new, beyond sin and death, in God's grace and power, the church will be the last fruit of that re-creation. Outside of the church will be nothing, for the church will be all, as God will be all in all. With and in God, the church will humbly and joyfully persist in God's good re-creation.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Mystery of Coming-Into-Being

The mystery of the involuntary coming-into-being of anything, including you and me, must continue to astonish us, inducing wonder and humility.