mission of God

Entangled Theology Part 2: Living w/the Pain of Death and Hope of Life

After Monday’s post, I am realized that my approach to “Part 2” was going to need to change form a bit.  I had numerous people contact me through personal email and social media with their story.  It blows my mind how many have endured the death of a child, yet our Christian culture speaks so little into its reality. We eagerly celebrate the life of a newborn, yet rarely acknowledge the lasting pain of loss in the life of one who didn’t make it.  This deserves a lot more attention, which I will not offer in this series of posts.  For now, if you are looking for a systematic/rational “answer” to the mystery of life/death as presented in Part 1, you might as well stop reading now.  In fact, I have tried to seek that answer over the past couple years and I have found it will continue to leave me wanting.  Further, I believe it strays from the heart of a relational God and the mystery of His ongoing Story.

With that said, I believe there are theological insights that can give us a glimpse into this mystery.  Further, I believe those glimpses are best presented from a variety of voices in conversation.  If you have experienced loss or if you have insight into this mystery, please join the conversation.  We need to hear from you.  Here is a slice (extremely condensed!) of my part of the theological conversation:

Suffering is central to the Story of God.  If we deny the reality of suffering, we deny the very story we have chosen to participate within. In this light, I will highlight three aspects/stages of the Story: Covenant, Prophets and Jesus.

Covenant

YHWH (the LORD) entered a covenant relationship with his people early in the Story.  Beginning with Noah (Gen. 9), building momentum with Abraham (Gen.12-17) and played out time and time again in Moses, YHWH committed to his people and they (although often failing) committed to him.  Each time YHWH’s people would enter exile and suffering, he would remember the covenant and deliver them.  Such a covenant relationship has been extended to all those that choose to be part of His Story today.  The God that remembered his people in the past, remembers his people today.

Prophets

In the midst of exile and suffering, God’s people knew how to weep.  They not only wept on behalf of the people’s tragic situation, they wept on behalf of God’s heartbreak for his people.  The Prophets wept over what could have been and the wept for the hope of the future to be made real now. Thought to have been written by the prophet Jeremiah, Lamentations was set in the 500’s B.C. during a time of Babylonian exile and is made up of 5 poems describing the tragic situation of the Israelites and Jerusalem.  Yes, the book is lined with hope, but it is filled with tears.  In a culture that tells us (directly and indirectly) to “get over it” and move on, we can’t feel ashamed to sit in the pain of suffering and loss.  In fact, it is when we don’t allow ourselves to feel the pain (grieve), that we lose touch with the heart of God.

Jesus: Where God’s solidarity with humanity is revealed

God could have physically overthrown all the powers of oppression, but instead he chose to take the path that would require mourning/sorrow/grief.  It was in Jesus’ weeping and death that God most connected with humanity; such is the sacred nature of pain/sorrow.  We become the most connected with our humanity and God’s standing in solidarity with us in the midst of the pain.

We know the hope is coming, but we can’t force it to come.  We know it was three days for Jesus, but it may be a lot more in our reality.

Some days the pain of losing our child is worse than others, but every day we feel the pain.

We are to be a people, who in both pain and hope, remember that the God that worked in history, is still at work today.

Entangled Theology

I recently listened to Rob Bell use the expression “Entangled Theology.” It can be articulated by arguing that great hope sits side by side with pain.  Such a theology has to live with both doubt and hope.  He went on to say that we often make gods out of certainty, but when destruction comes upon us we have to be able to live and reside within an “Entangled Theology.”

What has been your experience of pain/loss?  How have you dealt with the reality of God existing both in the loss and the hope?  Please join the conversation as it is one that our culture desperately needs to have.

Living Mission

We were about to pray for our Sunday evening community meal when a man walked in the front door looking a bit rattled.  He looked around the living room where we were all gathered in a semi-circle and said, “My car just got stolen in the alley behind your house.  Did any of you see who it may have been?”  Living a neighborhood formerly known as “Heroine Hill,” unfortunate incidents like this don’t seem that uncommon.

Living a life rooted in the Mission of God forces us into meaningful relationships.

Throughout the Biblical Story, God is constantly pursuing a relationship with His people.  He seeks out their restoration and invites them back to Himself.  He is a missional God; a God on mission to redeem the Creation that was fractured early in its story.

Those that have been restored to relationship with God are then sent on mission to represent God to the world (see Abram in Gen. 12) and invite others into the restoration that God is waiting to offer humanity.  There is an expectation that God’s people are to carry on the act that God has exemplified throughout all of history.  There is a rhythm to God’s mission.  God seeks his people; people are restored to their Creator; people seek other people; people are invited into restoration in their Creator.  Repeat.

God is on mission and he calls all his followers to participate in advancing his mission.

As a people on mission, we are to represent the heart of God to all people, in all places, at all times.  I live and serve among a community of people that take seriously God’s vocational call to live on mission.  Whether in half way homes, refugee populations, after school programs, coffee shops, public schools or community basketball courts, we seek to enter the story of the people of our neighborhood with the Good News of Jesus.  In order to invite people into relationship with God, we must establish sincere relationships with each other.

Last night (the same night that started with the man telling us of his stolen car), we (NieuCommunities) opened up our home and invited the neighborhood to come share in a Christmas celebration with us.  It wasn’t a gathering of strangers.  It was a gathering of friends.  In the same neighborhood that offers so many examples its fractured reality, we were able to experience an evening of Shalom/peaceful wholeness.  The culmination of the relationships we have established in this neighborhood, it was a group that included Iranian doctors, women coming out of their house for a cigarette while they listened to Christmas carols, a formerly homeless family, newspaper reporters, etc…

On the eve of God’s culminating act in His mission of restoring humanity –Jesus’ life, death and resurrection-we were able to experience a glimpse of his Kingdom come.  An affirmation that we have joined God’s divine rhythm of redemption and restoration.  A call towards a life of missional discipleship following closely in the footsteps of our Rabbi, Jesus.

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