On Earth As It Is In Heaven: A Brief Theological Reflection

“…on earth as it is in heaven…” While we might consider this from the trajectory of the revelation of the God to Israel preceding Jesus’ statement (which would be a fitting approach), we might also consider this statement as embodied in the one leading the prayer: Jesus the Christ. Such a reflection (drawing from the New Testament) offers several hearings of this text leading to praying and doing.
We might understand by “heaven” not an ethereal disembodied sphere of existence “out there” or even “above here”, but as wherever the kingdom of God is present. Wherever God reigns is most properly to be regarded as “heaven”. While God’s reign is not fully experienced “on earth” it is coming to bear “on earth” even as it has from the beginning of creation and the planting of the garden.
Considering such a view of “heaven” we might define “on earth” as that sphere of existence wherein God’s reign is less fully yet being realized.
There is a strange movement that occurs here. It is never as if “earth” is not where God reigns, nor is “heaven” to be regarded as itself such bliss that nothing more could be added to it. No. The kingdom of God is yet more realized in both heaven and earth by the two becoming the kingdom of our God and His Christ. This is not to suggest something essential lacking to the reign “in heaven,” but to appeal to the grace of God towards, in, and for us in his self-giving love embodied in Christ Jesus.
Christ Jesus brings heaven to bear on earth. Or more properly first, the Holy Spirit brings heaven to bear on earth in the virgin Mary. This is “God with us”. God being toward us, heaven toward earth (even in the earth).
Christ Jesus bears heaven on earth as the light burdens being given in place of earth’s heavy burdens. He seeks and saves that which is lost as a light blazing in the darkness. Earth cannot be regarded as wholly other to heaven. Unclean spirits are cast out. Disease and even death itself is demonstrably overcome on earth as it is in heaven. And these are all laid to bear on the cross as one raised up from the earth and lifted up into heaven in shamefulness. Yet the Father sees fit to not leave his Son buried in the earth, but raises him up to ascend into heaven to His right hand as King Jesus. And from there the Father pours out Jesus’ Spirit upon all flesh to fill the hearts and mouths of the saints with heaven on earth until the earth should be filled with the fullness of the glory of God.
And heaven shall be opened and the Christ descend bearing heaven to the earth. At last the kingdom shall come in fullness as his reign continues without end. His throne (the throne of God and of the Lamb) established in His city now come down from heaven and established upon the new heavens and the new earth. It is here, in the two joining, that we are praying toward as Jesus taught us to. It is here, in the two joining, that we are working toward as the Spirit compels and empowers us to. It is here that we (and all of creation with us) are moving toward: the day when the Father in heaven’s name is holified, His kingdom come, and His will done “on earth as it is in heaven”.

Bonhoeffer on God in the Gaps

Bonhoeffer on Gaps
This quote speaks (in part) to Bonhoeffer’s notion of the world “come of age” and a “religionless Christianity” that has only spoken to God where human knowledge is at its limits. Such cannot be the case. He wrestled with the notion of a positive Christology over and against a simply negative Christology in his lectures while at Finkenwald. In this later development of his thought, he seems yet further arguing for the need to positively construct our theology based on what is known (eg, revealed).
This becomes all the more significant in a world that presses the boundaries of our knowledge yet further and seems to find less need of providing any “theological” explanation for existence and experience (a world which Bonhoeffer found himself wrestling with). Theology cannot be a “stop-gap” to fill the holes of our knowledge. Theology must be located as such in the very concrete (objective and yet subjective) person and work of God in Christ Jesus.

I Can Almost See Jesus

BenHur2I recently bought the blue-ray edition of Ben-Hur (1959) and we had a family movie night last night enjoying it. One thing, however, kept coming up. Cambria (8) kept commenting how badly she wanted to see Jesus’ face. If you have ever watched the film you will know that you NEVER directly see his face (or hear his voice).
We watch as shepherds and wise men arrive, but we never quite get a glimpse of the baby Jesus. We see him from a distance walking the countryside of Galilee. We hear about him from a neighbor that is bothered enough to confront Joseph about his son not working sufficiently as a carpenter. We get a peek from over his shoulder as he gives a drink of water to the recently enslaved Judah ben Hur and then face down a Roman centurion. We hear some of his teachings, acts and sayings in the mouths of others. We follow behind him on a hillside while thousands wait upon him attentively. He is hidden behind a Roman cross as he traverses the Via Dolorosa and as Judah takes opportunity to try to assist Jesus in carrying the cross. We even scan the onlooking crowds from behind him as he hangs on the cross and Judah looks on. Even his last words are only heard in the voice of Judah ben Hur. Not a glimpse of his face and no sound of his voice.
This seemed to particularly disturb Cambria (though my other children were also bothered). She wanted to “see” (and hear) Jesus. But that is not the story of Ben-Hur. It is entirely an oblique story of Jesus. One in which a faithful affluent Jew suffers the evils of empire and broken friendship, is miraculously preserved and restored, only to discover life is more than all of this. Life is found in the man he encounters only obliquely, yet who transforms his entire world. And this is our story. We do not (yet) see him or hear his voice directly. Now, we see in part and hear in part. We hear his voice in the voice of others. We see him only in passing even as we seek the more intently to gaze on him. We see his hands at work, we see the lives of others changed. We hear his words repeated by others. But we do not yet see him face to face.
And so it is with this wonderful classic film adaptation of Lew Wallace‘s novel which is rather fittingly subtitled “A Tale of the Christ” because ultimately the story of Ben-Hur is not really about him, but about Jesus.
And, from my perspective, this is the way our stories of redemption flow. Until that day when we will know him fully even as he knows us…

Am I Really Pentecostal?

ImageAm I  really Pentecostal? I’m thinking of this in several ways because recently I have been attacked by some for (1) being too Pentecostal, and by others for (2) not being Pentecostal enough. So which is it? Or is neither accusation correct? Maybe I’m the perfect Pentecostal (whatever that might look like 🙂 ).
What does it even mean to be “Pentecostal”? Does it just mean I speak in tongues? That would be a pretty lame interpretation that would leave aside the entire Pentecostal conceptualization of the Gospel message (Jesus is Savior/Sanctifier, Baptizer, Healer, and Soon Coming King) or ethos (empowered participants of the life of the Spirit).
Can I be “Pentecostal” and not speak in tongues? Think William Seymour as he began his ministry. Can I speak in tongues and still not be “Pentecostal”? Think Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Does it really hinge on tongues? Should it?
Is it to be a person of the Spirit (whatever that means)? Or is that too individualistic and to generally broad? Is it to be a vibrant member of the people of the Spirit? Or is that broader still even while encompassing the wider movement of God’s presence and work in the world?
And shouldn’t I already have all this figured out because I’m not only a self-describing “Pentecostal”, but even a pastor of a “Pentecostal” Fellowship (and among the regional leadership of said wider Fellowship)? Worse still, I’m a “Pentecostal” scholar working on a PhD in Pentecostal Studies. But does that mean I happen to be a Pentecostal who is a scholar or that I am a scholar of things Pentecostal? And does that mean I really have it figured out?
One would really think a person like myself should have a lot more answers. The problem is that with every answer, I find more questions begging to be answered.
So what kind of Pentecostal am I anyways? I would like to think I am the kind that loves the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loves my neighbor as myself. I would like to think I am the kind that does this in the vivifying power of the Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who was sent by the Father, who is the Spirit of Christ Jesus.
Oh, and I also speak in tongues.
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