An honest reflection on what I read
It has been a long day.
I am very tired.
Yet I am excited too.
Deeply disappointed (you will understand later)
but at the same time, being filled with hope for this generation.
We are reading a book for Module 5.
Every module has come with it challenges
but between 1 and 5
something deep shifted inside of me.
I cannot say what.
I cannot even say how.
Perhaps it is a book like the one I read today
that has a way
like a gardener, to dig deep with purpose
with shuffle and fork
while calluses from under pressure
unearth whats beneath layers of hiddenness.
I remember being like a stubborn rock beneath the sharp fork
refusing the gardener passage
because I had right and I was right
I had ways and highways of theology
standing 'my ground' quite literally.
I remember the first crack when a simple definition
"becoming more human" started to dawn on me:
... I was wrong all this time.
I listened to a very well known Gospel singer's song a week ago
This is why I did not want to "be more human"
In my entire life, my culture told me that I would be free from "the sinful human" once Jesus returns.
Needless to say, escaping to heaven seemed bliss.
"...ek gaan mooier klink as my wildste wens
(one day I will sing nicer than my wildest dreams)
as my liggaam vry word van die mens
(when my body is free from being human)
as Hy weer kom..."
(when He comes)
Not that it is about right and wrong.
To the stark contrary of how I perceived theology
and today that book... that brilliant book
perhaps became the fork in the hand of the gardener
to break me
so that he can dig deeper and deeper and deeper still.
The book Futureville by Skye Jethani
was the shuffle before the fork came.
I remember the shocking question to my South African church-mind
that once was asked by amazing Uncle Tom Hallas while I was in Perth Australia.
He had me thinking for days on end.
"What would you and I do if Jesus did not return for another 3000 years?"
His question was perhaps the soft rain on the soil years ago. (Thanks Uncle Tom)
Rain does not remove stones.
Then God brings out the shuffle
and starts digging in his garden.
(Thanks Skye Jethani)
Then for some stubborn people like me He brings out the fork!
That was the book today: A Community Called Atonement.
(I have not met you but thanks Scot McKnight)
Of course someone needs to hold the fork (God use human beings)
Perhaps the hands of my M. Course Leader ( I will say thanks when I survive ;-)
It leaves one vulnerable!
One is generally vulnerable if your do not have black and white answers.
One is vulnerable if you cannot back-up your theology with "clear as crystal scripture"
and super vulnerable if penal-substitution
and the atonement theory suddenly gets broken down to pieces.
Forget the fork, I think that is a bulldozer in my case.
Did I say God was touching a stone or a mountain?
Do I have a Bible Degree?
It surely does not feel like that.
Then again, I have to remind myself that
I felt like someone who finished Gr 1 with years of study left over when I was done with my Biblical Studies.
I was right.
The book 'A Community Called Atonement' (Scot McKnight)
left me tired and drained
In my mind I can see The Gardener
sitting down in the last rays of the sun
exhausted yet thrilled
because the rock is breaking
and the rock is splintering
and the rock is finally giving way
The fact that I have an outward vision for missions
for impacting communities wider than my own
is a miracle seeing that my theology is so narrow
I am this selfish generation
As M. Luther said: 'Incurvatus in se' - Curved inward on oneself'
My life is often lived "inward" for myself rather than "outward" for God and others first.
Having lost the fact that atonement should be communal
Having lost that it ought to extend beyond the personal quiet time with God
and Sunday church, that is today so big I don't even have to talk to anyone let alone
repent of my sin publicly... Oh, we have lost so much.
For a moment I feel numb.
How poor I am and I don't know it
How poor this generation and we don't know it.
I see it now and only a glimpse of it.
It does something in my heart and mind today.
It reminds me of when my parents,
out of one poor choice
ultimately lost it all and was declared bankrupted. (right when I joined YWAM ;-)
I always, always tell them:
THAT was your saving grace in this life!
NOW you can see.
When you had money, you were as blind as a bat.
Now you can see where money cannot
You can feel, where money cannot
You can listen and hear where money cannot
and experience riches in Christ, where money cannot.
and it is the same if one grow up in the beautiful richness of tradition & theology (I love both dearly)
but if never challenged with the outside view of others
including our theology
our very richness can become our poverty.
I experience a poverty in myself like never before.
I experience a poverty in the church
and it is emphasized by the fact that so many asked me on my return to SA
"which church denomination are you now going to attend?"
Have we lost the plot?
Have a read with me
It is the two final paragraphs
that has me thinking deep
giving me courage
to commence with my Capstone for South Africa
God came through this book
Sarah, your on the right track..
and that I should not fear
when I will get to the part
“not counting their trespasses against them.”
Quotes from his book:
"Now more than ever in the history of mankind, the fullness of atonement is needed. Why? Never has tension between cultures and continents been so high, and never has the reconciling work of atonement been more of an urgent need. Do we offer such reconciliation in our understanding of atonement?"
"Could it be that we are not reconciled more in this world—among Christians, within our own country and between countries—because we have shaped our atonement theories to keep our group the same and others out? I believe the answer to that question is unambiguously yes. There is no reason to pretend otherwise; it is inescapable. We are shaped by the texts of our sacred tradition but we also shape what we read and hear in those sacred texts." (Sarah: I call this cultural glasses that I desperately need to lift from my nose to see the bigger picture.)
The kingdom of God, in short compass, is the society in which the will of God is established to transform all of life. The kingdom of God is more than what God is doing “within you” and more than God's personal “dynamic presence”; it is what God is doing in this world through the community of faith for the redemptive plans of God—including what God is doing in you and me. It transforms relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the world.
The astounding element of being an Eikon, a human representing God in this world, is not that humans are different from animals and the land and the sky and the stars, but that they, and they alone, are like God somehow.
To be an Eikon means, first of all, to be in union with God as Eikons; second, it means to be in communion with other Eikons; and third, it means to participate with God in his creating, his ruling, his speaking, his naming, his ordering, his variety and beauty, his location, his partnering, and his resting, and to oblige God in his obligating of us. Thus, an Eikon is God-oriented, self-oriented, other-oriented, and cosmos-oriented.
To be an Eikon is to be a missional being—one designed to love God, self, and others and to represent God by participating in God's rule in this world. To be an Eikon means to be summoned to participate in God's overflowing love—both within the Trinity and in the missio Dei with respect to the cosmos God has created. When we participate in this missio Dei we become Eikonic. To be an Eikon means to be in relationship.
Now, what about atonement and the Eikon?
The atonement is designed by God
to restore cracked Eikons
into glory-producing Eikons
by participation in the perfect Eikon, Jesus Christ,
who redeems the cosmos.
To be an Eikon,
is to be charged
with a theocentric
and missional life.
...Now Adam's relations (after Eve is created) are complete because he has an equal, someone just like him. He now has relations in four directions: Godward, selfward, other-ward, and world-ward. Sin is the hyper-relational distortion and corruption of the Eikon's relationship with God and therefore with self, with others, and with the world.
“…atonement theories that focus exclusively on sins against others fall short of a full biblical perspective on atonement, just as those that focus exclusively on God will fall short in equal measure. It won’t do to get one relationship right and not the others."
What could be clearer than the Lord's Prayer? “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Here is a statement by Jesus that few can contest. Jesus connects our forgiveness from God and our forgiveness of others—and they are so connected that if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us. However one wants to clarify this text, and it begs for some clarification, the connection of God's work and our work is unavoidable. The atoning God creates a community of atonement.
(Matt. 16:19)—so the follower of Jesus is an agent of atonement. Notice these words of the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 5:18-20): All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
God reconciles us to himself and he does this “through Christ.” And then that reconciliation is given to us so we can have a “ministry” (ten diakonian) of “reconciliation.” And this is done by being an “ambassador” (presbuomenon) of Christ—that is, as his personal agent of representation. “Ambassadors” are Eikons of Christ in this world. As ambassadors, they are extending the reconciling/atoning work of God to others. That work involves “not counting their trespasses against them.”