Friday, April 29, 2011

A Society of Justice & Peace!

“Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
And righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
The effect of righteousness will be peace, (Shalom)
And the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
In secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.”
(Isaiah 32: 16-18)

“When God reigns, when the kingdom comes, then society will be put to rights. The emphasis of Isaiah, not to mention every other prophet is not on the personal revival of millions in their relationship with God but on the establishment of a society in which justice is done and established – done by all because the powerful oppressors will be disestablished and the true people of God will be reestablished. There is no reason here to heap up more references, for the point is clear: the vision of Isaiah is for a society of justice and peace.” From the book A Community Called Atonement by Scot McKnight

What is the heart of God? What does God care about?

• God formed a nation through Abraham that was intended to be “a blessing to the nations.” (Genesis 12:2&3)
• God is full of compassion and desires justice for every person.
• Deuteronomy 10:17-19 - “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing”
• Deuteronomy 15:11 – “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land”
• Job 29:11-13 – “I rescued the poor…the fatherless…the man who was dying; I made the widow’s heart sing”
• Psalm 68:5 – “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling”
• Proverbs 14:31 – “Whoever is kind to the needy honors God”
• Proverbs 31:8-9 – “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute”
• Isaiah 1:17 – “Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
• Isaiah 58:1-12
• Jeremiah 22:15&16 – “He defended the cause of the poor and needy…Is that not what it means to know me?”
• Amos 5:23,24 – “Away with the noise of your songs…but let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
• Micah 6:8 – “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God.”

God Cares & Wants Us to Care. He invites us to join him in his mission of restoring wholeness. Restoring wholeness is our responsibility.

“The disestablishment of injustice and systemic injustices as well as the establishment of justice and systemic justice are in their own way atoning acts, for thorough these acts the floodgates of relationship open for humans to be restored to God, to one another, to self, and to the world.” Scot McKnight

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Restored Wholeness!

I have come to believe that God’s mission is to restore wholeness to all of creation. God’s dream is that Shalom be restored here on earth just as it is in heaven.

“Shalom is derived from a root that conveys the image of wholeness, unity, and harmony – something that is complete and sound.” From the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words by Lawrence O. Richards

Shalom is an announcement of how the world should be & is not yet. It is a world that is safe, free, whole, secure, prosperous, just & complete. (See: Leviticus 26:4-6, Isaiah 32: 16-17, Ezekiel 34: 25-29, Luke 4: 16-21 & Ephesians 2:14)

Theologian and author Walter Brureggemann speaks to this idea in his book; Living Toward a Vision: Biblical Reflections on Shalom.

“The central vision of world history in the Bible is that all of creation is one, every creature in community with every other, living in harmony and security toward the joy and well-being of every other creature.”

“The most staggering expression of the vision is that all persons are children of a single family, members of a single tribe, heirs of a single hope, and bearers of a single destiny, namely, the care and management of all of God’s creation.”

“That persistent vision of joy, well-being, harmony, and prosperity is not captured in any single word or idea in the Bible, and a cluster of words is required to express its many dimensions and subtle nuances: love, loyalty, truth, grace, salvation, justice, blessing, righteousness. But a term that in recent discussions has been used to summarize that controlling vision is shalom. Both in current discussion and in the Bible itself, it bears tremendous freight – the freight of a dream of God that resists all our tendencies to division, hostility, fear, drivenness, and misery.” “Shalom is the substance of the biblical vision of one community embracing all creation.”

“The consequence of justice & righteousness is shalom – an enduring sabbath of joy and well-being. But the alternative is injustice and oppression, which lead inevitably to turmoil and anxiety with no chance of well-being.”

“Jesus’ ministry to the excluded was the same, the establishment of community between those who were excluded and those who had excluded them. His acts of healing the sick, forgiving the guilty, raising the dead, and feeding the hungry are all actions of reestablishing God’s will for shalom in a world gone chaotic by callous self-seeking.”

Calvin Theological Seminary President Cornelius Plantinga Jr. writes about this topic in his book Not the Way It’s Supposed To Be.

“Central in the classic Christian understanding of the world is a concept of the way things are supposed to be. They ought to be as designed and intended by God, both in creation and in graceful restoration of creation. They are supposed to include peace that adorns and completes justice, mutual respect, and deliberate and widespread attention to public good.”

“The Prophets kept dreaming of a time when God would put things right again.”

“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”

“God hates sin not just because it violates his law but, more substantively, because it violates shalom, because it breaks the peace, because it interferes with the way things are supposed to be. God is for shalom and therefore against sin.”

“In short, sin is …shalom-breaking.”

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What is the mission of God?

"Mission is understood as being derived from the very nature of God. The classical doctrine of the Missio Dei as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit is expanded to include yet another “movement”: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sending the church into the world." David Bosch in Transforming Mission

As we have used the tools of biblical scholarship carefully, we have begun to learn that the biblical message is more radical, more inclusive, more transforming than we have allowed it to be. In particular, we have begun to see that the church of Jesus Christ is not the purpose or goal of the gospel, but rather its instrument and witness. God’s mission embraces all of creation. “God so love the world” is the emphasis of the beloved gospel summary in John 3:16. This does not mean that the church is not essential to God’s work of salvation – it is. But it is essential as God’s chosen people “who are blessed to be a blessing to the nations” (Genesis 12).
Missional Church edited by Darrell Guder

Mission is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purposes to restore and heal creation. “God’s mission is to set things right in a broken, sinful world, to redeem it, and to restore it to what God has always intended for the world.” Treasure in Clay Jars by Lois Y. Barrett et al.

I've come to believe that God's mission is to restore all of creation back to Shalom (wholeness, completeness, soundness). Luke indicates in his Gospel that restored wholeness has at least six dimensions: spiritual, physical, psychological, social, economic, and political. (I would add environmental as a seventh dimension.) God invites us to join him in his mission to restore wholeness in seven dimensions. God's mission is a reflection of his nature and character. God is a loving God who cares.
Ken Shuman

It has taken us decades to realize that mission is not just a program of the church. It defines the church as God’s sent people. Our challenge today is to move from church with mission to missional church. From Missional Church