Sunday 15 April 2018

Jesus is already ruling the world

I have been pondering a lot recently on how I think the world works.  I think I have overly bought in to the idea that how things look is how they are: that the people who govern bits of the world are the people truly in charge, that things will only change if people change them etc.  These things have a truth, but they miss the fact that God is on the throne!

The sermon below has been particularly influential in this.  It's part of a series on the Book of Revelation from First Baptist Church in Vancouver, entitled Things are not (only) as they seem.  The preacher is Darrell Johnson, who was lecturing at Regent College in the time Martin studied there.  I discovered him a couple of years back whilst working my way through all the plenary sessions of IFES World Assembly at Mexico, and have listened to one of his sermons most Sundays over the last year or two (his YouTube channel is here).

In it he makes the point that Christ is already on the throne and we are already reigning with him (in particular, via. our prayers).

I have been pondering that a lot since.  I thought of it again yesterday when I listened to this episode of This American Life.  In it, Zoe Chace follows US Republican Senator Jeff Flake as he fails to get a bill through congress.  It is clearly important to him, but he is also remarkably unflappable through it all, even as it goes badly.  Zoe notes several times that he is a devout Mormon and asks him if it is something about his faith that enables him to have that attitude.  He responds with one of his favourite stories from the Book of Mormon and explains how that has shaped how he sees people.  Am I similarly shaped by the perspectives given to me in Revelation?

I was also thinking of this a few days ago when I did my lectio divina reading.  It was Acts 5:34-42.  This takes place after Jesus has died, risen again and returned to heaven.  Various of his disciples have been enthusiastically preaching about him (and about the role of the Jewish leaders in his death) and the Jewish leaders have arrested them for this.  The reading is from their trial.
But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. Then he said to them, “Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared.  After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered.  So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!”
Acts 5:34-39a

Gamaliel is confident that God is reigning: ultimately, what God wants will succeed and what God doesn't want will fail.

As I prayed about Gamaliel's words, I realised I just don't have that confidence: on the one hand, I slip so easily into trying to control things myself; on the other, I slip into assuming bad things will never change.

The Greek name for the Biblical book of Revelation is Apocalypse: however, unlike the English word apocalypse, it doesn't mean 'disaster' it means 'unveiling'.  A pulling aside of the curtain to show what's really going on.  And I'm praying that my perspective will be changed by what I have seen in that 'apocalypse' and that I will more and more assume that Jesus really is in charge.

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