Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Bible In Miniature: The Marriage of Heaven and Earth

In the beginning, heaven and earth were the same place. In the garden of Genesis 1 and 2, soil and spirit were one. There was no sacred-secular divide. God dwelled with his people.

Then came disconnection, division, disruption. Heaven and Earth separated. They became incompatible.

Centuries later one man, God in human flesh, material and spiritual as one, bridged the divide. By fully engaging with, and triumphing over, disconnection, division and disruption, Jesus made heaven and earth compatible again. And instigated the Bible's grand finale: the marriage of heaven and earth.

'Prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband', heaven will come down to earth. The two will become one again.
And in a glorious, climactic crescendo, a thunderous voice will declare, 'Now the dwelling of God is with his people.'

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See the thing is, for many the purpose of Christianity is to get into heaven.
For many this future destination will be spiritual.
Disembodied.
Think floaty.
Think clouds.
Other than the mission of rescuing souls, for many today's life and today's world have no purpose. A few years ago, I even heard one preacher totally disregard 2005's efforts to 'Make Poverty History'. Because the point is to escape elsewhere.
I just couldn't believe my ears.

Thankfully, Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, presents an alternative view. In 'Surprised by Hope,' he writes, 'What you do in the present - by painting, teaching, digging wells, writing poems, caring, etc - all these things will last into God's future'.

And in a recent podcast (16/8/09) Rob Bell said, 'Our hope is not in evacuation from earth, but in engagement with it.'

We engage with earth, we pursue the end of poverty, because heaven and earth are engaged for marriage.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

When Worlds Collide

Isn’t it surprising when something suddenly makes sense. Like something really important to you. Something that you’ve heard so much about. Something you’ve investigated, researched, and really pondered. Something you’ve decided is true and maybe even committed to. Something you’ve centred other ideas around.

When something is so deeply rooted in you, isn’t it surprising when it suddenly makes logical sense. When you have the light bulb moment, the Eureka, the ‘oh, of course’.

This happened for me recently when I was reading ‘Mere Christianity’ by C.S. Lewis, a book published in 1952 which aims to present complex concepts, the depths of theology, in a straight-forward accessible way, without losing any of the depth. This achievement would have made Lewis groundbreaking for his day and has since made him one of the most quoted authors across the whole church spectrum. Author of Narnia, and Science Fiction too, what a fascinating guy!

Anyway, sorry to leave you hanging in suspense. Back to my ‘wow’ revelation:

In my last blog post I claimed that the heart cry of God to humans is, ‘Choose Life.
But hold up right there you crazy blogger, if there’s one thing humans can be certain of it’s that we will die. To 'choose life' seems like a rather limited opportunity.
In fact, let's ramp this up a notch: the very notion of a being who lives forever, creating objects that don't live forever, well it's a contradiction, isn’t it? Utter nonsense. Particularly if the ‘Artist’ claims to have ‘painted’ in his own image.

Conclusion: There is no Artist ....

Unless ...

Unless the two worlds collide.
Unless life becomes death.

Cos that’s what ‘Christians’ believe: God, who cannot die, became man, who can.

And here comes my light bulb flash:

If Jesus was fully human then of course he would die – it was inevitable.
But if Jesus was also fully God (and that’s a big ‘if’) then of course he would live forever. Of course he wouldn’t remain dead – the resurrection at the very heart of Christianity becomes inevitable.

'Christians' believe, to quote C.S. Lewis, ‘By dying this Godman disabled death itself.’
And because of that success, we can truly, fully ‘Choose Life.'