Wednesday, June 9, 2010


This past Sunday at St. Jude’s Mission we were treated to a quasi-pastoral visit from the AMiA’s regional network leader, Alan Hawkins. Alan is the pastor of the Church of the Redeemer in Greensboro, NC. Boasting over 90 regular members, Redeemer is a veritable “mega-church” for AMiA circles.

Alan preached on Ephesians 1:9-10 and 2:11-22 (St. Jude’s is in the midst of an intensive study of this epistle on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings). The uniting of “all things in Him, in heaven and on earth” was presented in a way that differed somewhat from the old dualism I was taught years ago. Hawkins’ exposition of the passages was in line with more recent scholarship: that God is uniting in Christ Jew and Gentile, law-keeper and law-breaker, and – eventually – heaven and earth (Douglas Moo, who sees in Rom. 11:23-27 a large-scale conversion of Jews to Christ at the end of this age, has done some exciting biblical study on the physical renovation of the earth to take place in the ages to come).

That is not to say that Alan’s sermon was deeply theological. His focus was on what kind of local church our fledgling mission would want to be. “Do you want to be a ‘New Testament’ church?” he asked. “Do you really want to be a New Testament church? Which one? Corinth, with its incest, pride, and divisions?”

His point was not lost on his hearers. Heresy and trouble began in the churches long before the apostles left the scene. The point is not to look back exclusively to the churches of antiquity for a pattern, but to look squarely at God’s revelation of His purpose in the Church for the ages. The propitiatory, expiatory and efficacious death and resurrection of Christ not only answered how sinners can be made right with a holy God, but paved the way for the new community that God has created for His habitation. Among other things, the Church is the vanguard of the union of all things in Christ, the risen and ascended victor. The local church must aim at upholding that purpose and displaying, even now in abject weakness (1 Cor. 1:26-31), the wisdom of God. It should continue to do so until God’s salvation is finally revealed at the end (1 Peter 1:4-7; Col. 3:3-4; Rom. 8:18-23).

Afterwards during lunch Alan reminded us that the profile for the typical Christian in the world today is “a 26 year-old black African female.” The white man’s Christianity of Britain and America is a drop in the bucket. That’s a sobering perspective.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Faithful Presence Demonstrated

What professing Christian could be opposed to a “healed creation” and “holy community”? What’s not to like about “loving God and neighbor”? This is nothing more than re-packaged and warmed-over Social Gospel liberalism of the sort advocated by Walter Rauschenbusch in the late 1800s. In this view, Jesus is not so much a divine savior as a powerful exemplar, one whose holy life of love and concern for the poor and sick and outcast inspires his followers to work for justice and peace until, gradually, the Kingdom of God is ushered in and all people dwell in freedom and love. It was predicated on the notion of constant incremental improvement in human social behavior. The cataclysm of World War I, of course, pretty much destroyed this thesis, and World War II drove the point home.

What’s missing from the Social Gospel is a connection to the Paschal Mystery, and the practices (including the Eucharist) that flow from it, rooted in the incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, and the sending of the Holy Spirit as the Church is constituted, all seen as God’s definitive saving and redeeming intervention in the human predicament. It is God who brings about his own Kingdom, in his way and in his time. The Church’s vocation is to announce that Kingdom and model it, but not to take responsibility for making it happen. Yes, God has a “mission” of reconciliation, and, yes, the Church’s mission is congruent with God’s own mission. But the Church’s mission has a finer point on it. We take our place within the missio dei not by reforming society…but by being an alternative society, a sign that says to the world, “Things can and will be different.” We live out that semiotic vocation in a number of ways, all of which, by the way, spring from and lead back to the Eucharist. (emphases added)

Dan Martins, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Warsaw, IN

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Faithful Presence

The challenge of practicing a faithful presence in the world...and the power-grabbing shortcuts taken by many movements within American Christendom.

Faithful Presence | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction