Community 2019-10-25T21:28:47+01:00

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EMPOWERED TO BE HIS WITNESSES TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH

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DISCOVERING AN EMBODIED SPIRITUALITY WITHIN

Community

IDENTITY/EMPOWERMENT

Just as Jesus comes back from the dead and reappears, He mentions that He is going to leave once more! Can you imagine hearing this from the Messiah who has only just come back? After thoroughly defeating death, He can institute the promised Kingdom here on earth, as it is in heaven. Only, He doesn’t, he leaves. Is He playing with their emotions? “But don’t worry, I’ll send the Holy Spirit to empower you to be my imagebearers from here to the ends of the world!” “It’s taken three years to get to know the Messiah and now He is sending someone else to us?” But, the Holy Spirit did come upon them in the upper room after Jesus’ ascension. Known as Pentecost, it is the moment that the Holy Spirit comes to teach, to empower and to comfort us. He makes Jesus’ incarnation accessible and real to us. This, one Holy Spirit unifies us into a new community of faith. Just as God built a nation from 12 tribes from the largest refugee camp in history. Now, God wants to build an eternal kingdom from 12 apostles, Inclusive of every tribe, and tongue and nation on earth. This is not about one people group. It has always been about every nation. Jews and Gentiles formed into a body of Christ to image God to the world. A human body – the church. A community to lay down their lives, to fulfil the suffering and work of Christ in the world. We do this through communion, worship, intercession, evangelism, discipleship, mercy ministry, and baptism in the one Holy Spirit. To be God’s witnesses going to the ends of the earth with this good news for all creatures.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues  as the Spirit enabled them.

1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
    Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
    Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!

“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”

– Acts 2:1-12 (MSG)

“The One that God sent speaks God’s words. And don’t think he rations out the Spirit in bits and pieces. The Father loves the Son extravagantly. He turned everything over to him so he could give it away—a lavish distribution of gifts. That is why whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn’t see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that.”

– John 3:34-36 (MSG)

“Spiritual formation is all about entering this Father-Son relationship, about living out the truth of our adoption. It is the hard work of laying tasks aside in order to contemplate and receive the words, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Only when we hear that word can our tasks have any meaning at all. Quiet times, Scripture memorization, fasting, prayer—all the traditional disciplines—are to serve this one primary business of the Christian life, which is to live more and more deeply into being children of God. All too often we see the Holy Spirit as the giver and empowerer of tasks rather than as the giver of our identity. The Holy Spirit ushers us into adoption, not workaholism: he tells us not so much what to do but who we are.”

– Julie Canlis

“Community means that people come together around the table, not just to feed their bodies, but to feed their minds and their relationships.”

– Henri Nouwen

“We can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do, by what we deny ourselves, by what we resist and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.”

– Père Henri in the film “Chocolat”

The Body of Christ

JOINED TOGETHER IN ONE SPIRIT

Making space for the “other”.

The story of the Bible traces the line from Adam and Eve to a family. This family is told to take the small garden and extend it to the ends of the earth. The family branches off into 12 tribes as it grows. These 12 tribes are liberated from slavery and become the largest refugee camp in history in the wilderness. God takes them while destitute and forms a nation out of them through much suffering. They are His people and He is their God. Similarly, the story of the New Testament is an echo of this, but much more vast in scope. Jesus comes as the second Adam and asks us to once again take pockets of His kingdom into all the world through the Great Commission. Instead of 12 tribes, He calls 12 disciples. He gives them the Great Commission. They are to go and disciple all nations, yet they are all Jews. So, it is going to take some convincing for this group who balk at going to Samaria on outreach… Now they will need to extend God’s Kingdom to all nations, all tribes, tongues and cultures that cover the earth. The gospel is growing and it grows as we include all nations. From Jew to Gentile, God is calling all things back to Himself through the empowering Holy Spirit as God builds a temple not made with hands. Christ’s body “here on Earth, as it is in Heaven.”

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Identity Empowerment

THEME

Something amazing happens in the book of Acts. The gospel, which is the good news for all things and reveals God’s commitment to His imagebearers has always touched God’s chosen people and many other gentile nations surrounding them. Even in the wilderness they were multi-cultural, with converts to Judaism. Nowhere do we see such a sea change to the inclusiveness of the gospel as we do in the Acts of the Apostles. Now, a new push begins to go into all the world. Just as Adam and Eve were told to spread the garden to the rest of the world through the 12 tribes as a chosen family of God. So now, the Apostles are called and commissioned from the start of Jesus’ ministry with the Beatitudes to the very end with the Great Commission. Go into all the world, disciple nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…

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Entering into the story…

Not only do we have the help of the Holy Spirit to aid us in discerning and practicing God’s will, but we also have each other. We cannot image God alone, if for no other reason than that the image has a reference to our cultural rule over creation. And, as we have already seen, human culture-forming is a communal task. The biblical motif of the body of Christ also leads us in this direction. As Christians acting in unity, we need to address the issues of our culture. It means starting right where we are with our jobs and in our families. – Brian J. Walsh

Read the passage linked below and imagine the scene as if you were a movie director working with the characters. Often, we do not enter scripture with our humanity intact and we do not dignify the characters we find there by giving them their humanity in return. The goal of Lectio Divina is to meditate on the scene we find there and allow the characters to speak to us by vividly imagining the scene as if we are standing there physically too. Ask Holy Spirit to make the scenario come to life as you read using all of your senses to visualise everything in the scene…

Acts 2 – Good News for every Tribe, Tongue and People Group

The Gospel inclusive of all Nations!

When the book of Acts starts, the early church is made up of mostly Jewish believers or converts to Judaism and as the book progresses we find that it now expands to all nations. If you are a Jew, your story with God continues, if you are not a Jew, like me, this is good news indeed, as we are grafted in. God’s story has always impacted surrounding nations as God has never been working in not only one culture but in all. Now, He is calling His disciples, filling them with Holy Spirit and gifting them with a heavenly language that brings the diversity of the nations back front and centre to His plan. After this, the Great Commission also sends them back out to every corner of the earth. This mandate remains today. We are to go and to make God known!

However, this was a brand new concept to these disciples, Jesus’ ministry had been centered on Galilee, a tiny area and that was all they knew. At Pentecost, we see the Holy Spirit is gathering in all people, all nations, every tribe, tongue and culture into this kingdom come. A radical idea, with a shocking event at Pentecost, the ripples of which are still being felt today. Now, we have Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we can see what each person of the Trinity is working towards in our lives to knit us together into a community of faith, a people chosen, called and unified in His name, His work and His purposes to reconcile all imagebearers to Himself.

What do you see happening in this chapter of Acts? How do the disciples react? How do the nations represented respond to hearing their heart languages on the lips of these disciples? What is it like to hear stories for the first time in your own language versus a foreign one? How does God affirm all cultures by doing this wondrous thing? Why are the languages given by the Holy Spirit at all? We often think it was a heavenly, other-worldly language and for the disciples it might have well been, since they did not learn it and were uttering all the languages. It would be like a Jew suddenly speaking all the languages of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas etc. How incredible.

Where we have seen some of the imagery before in the Old Testament? A wind, fire, God dividing languages and creating diversity in the Tower of Babel? How did Holy Spirit lead in the Old Testament using a pillar of fire, or a cloud in the wilderness? How did Holy Spirit empower creatively, powerfully and personally in the scriptures? Before the person of the Holy Spirit would come upon someone for a while perhaps to complete a task. Now, He has come to indwell the Body of Christ. What does that mean for us? Just as Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit, so we are too. The gospel spreads like wildfire throughout the known world, many of these same disciples would die very far from their homeland as they travelled to the ends of the earth with the gospel.

1) Prepare: Close your eyes, breathe, clear your mind, and ask God to enter into this time of prayer with you. Ask God to speak to you through this image.

2) Lectio (read): Open your eyes and scan the image. Note what draws your interest, but continue to scan the whole image. Close and rest your eyes a minute.

3) Mediatio (meditate): Open your eyes and let your eyes be led. Focus on just the part of the image that caught your eyes and name it. Close your eyes, seeing that piece of the image in your mind.

4) Oratio (pray): Open your eyes and look again at the piece of the image that caught your eye. Allow it to bring forth a word, image, or emotion. Close and rest your eyes.

5) Contemplatio (contemplation): Open your eyes and gaze at the whole image. What is God speaking to you today through this image? How will you respond to Him? Spend time processing that with God. Pray or journal about it.

Pentecost changed everything for the Nations as the gospel continued to spread from Jews to all Gentiles, the book of Acts chronicles this radical change.

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

– Matthew 28:16-20

It seems clear enough to us. Yet, if we read in Acts 10, we see that Peter is still struggling to come to grips with what God is doing! God shows him a sheet coming down with all kinds of unclean animals and commands him to eat. Peter refuses. God is preparing Him for a visit to Cornelius’ house. Peter will not go into a Gentile’s house or eat with one.

27-29 Talking things over, they went on into the house, where Cornelius introduced Peter to everyone who had come. Peter addressed them, “You know, I’m sure that this is highly irregular. Jews just don’t do this—visit and relax with people of another race. But God has just shown me that no race is better than any other. So the minute I was sent for, I came, no questions asked. But now I’d like to know why you sent for me.”

Of course, this all comes to a head when Paul and Barnabus come along saying that they have a call to go to the gentiles. Even after this, Paul has to confront Peter publicly because he has withdrawn from mixing with the gentile believers when he eats only with the Jewish leaders who came down from Jerusalem (Galatians 2:11-13). This almost caused a church split as they decided if new converts would need to be circumcised or follow Jewish customs to be accepted (Acts 15). We need to be aware of how radical a change this was. Of course all change takes some time to get used to. These are still issues we deal with in modern missions as we may still be tempted to take our denominational traditions and force those of other cultures to adhere to “our way” of doing things. God wants each culture to find a way to bring their faith to be bear on their own cultures. This is worth thinking about.

All Nations, All Tribes and All Tongues included in Trinitarian Fellowship through the Body of Christ, the Church.

In the Old Testament, God made Adam in His image. Out of him, his side, came Eve. From them God created a family, community and imagebearers for His name. He called them His sons and daughters. From this one family, God calls faithful imagebearers, to partner with Him as individuals and flourish in communities. From one promised son, God grows 12 tribes. He takes them from slavery in Egypt and creates a nation out of them. From this nation, a great kingdom arises. God blesses all nations through them, but as they grow, this earthly kingdom turns from God, This results in their kingdom splitting, their temple destroyed, their holy city raised to the ground and their people are left in exile and their land taken and occupied.

In the New Testament, God does a new thing, but there are echoes from before. God comes in the flesh as the second person of the Trinity, the Spirit of Christ is born into a human womb. Instead of 12 tribes, Jesus calls 12 disciples and tells Him that He is the Messiah, from the line of David, a Jew, a perfect Israelite, born in Palestine. He has come to bring the Kingdom of God, but this time it is an eternal kingdom. He is also a High Priest from Mary’s line. God is going to gather together all nations into a new Kingdom in which there is no Jew nor Gentile, no slave nor free, no male nor female, because God is forming a new image of Himself in His church. We become one body drawn together by one spirit, who gives gifts to each according to His good purposes for the building of the church. So anyone can come to be saved in Christ and out of Jesus will come the bride of the Lamb. We enter an exodus, where God will see all peoples gathered into a new Kingdom, which God is bringing to pass on earth as it is in heaven. Where we will rule and reign with Him for eternity as He reunited heaven and earth and calls all imagebearers to co-create with Him.

“We are co-creators when we are artists, writers, and musicians. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. And it’s not that we necessarily make His world a glorious place as much as we remind the world that it is a glorious place. We enhance the beauty around us by our God-given gifts. We are His artwork, created in Christ Jesus for those good works that God prepared beforehand for us to walk in.”

– N. T. Wright

Embodied Spirituality in Practice

A DISCIPLINE OR PRACTICE TO INCORPORATE INTO YOUR LIFE.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

– Jesus in John 15

IMAGEBEARER: TENSION REFLECTION

Getting in touch with members of the Body of Christ within every branch of the Vine.

Notice the Tension between every branch of the One Vine. In Christ, we are pulled altogether. There is life in every branch. We would do well to look for where we find the life Christ expressed in each.

Unity in Diversity. This is the branch of the One Vine that exemplifies the prayer-filled life. Nothing is more striking in Jesus’ life than His intimacy with the Father. Prayer threads its way through Jesus’ life.

We all hunger for a prayer-filled life, for a richer, fuller practice of the presence of God. It is the Contemplative Stream of Christian life and faith that can show us the way into just such intimacy with God. This reality addresses the human longing for the practice of the presence of God.

Contemporary example: Frank C. Laubach

Unity in Diversity. This is the branch of the One Vine that exemplifies the virtuous life. It is simply a marvel to move among the crowds of imagebearers, men, women and children – always timely, always appropriate, always capable. In Jesus’ forty days of temptation in the wilderness, we see a lifetime of practiced virtue coming to the fore as He fasted to prepare Himself for those three great temptations.

We too can rely upon these deeply ingrained habits of virtue to make our lives function appropriately and to bring forth substantial character formation. This addresses the erosion of moral fibre in contemporary life.

Contemporary Holiness example: Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Unity in Diversity. This is the branch of the One Vine that exemplifies the Spirit-empowered life. Nothing is more satisfying to observe than how Jesus lived and moved in the power of the Spirit. As Jesus arose from His baptism, “The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’” – Luke 3:22. From then onwards Jesus did everything “filled with the power of the Spirit.”

We can partake of this same empowering Spirit in our Christian lives of faith through the gift of the Holy Spirit and the fruit of His work in our lives. This Spirit-empowered way of living addresses the deepest yearning for the immediacy of God’s presence among His people.

Contemporary Charismatic example: William J. Seymour

Unity in Diversity. This is the branch of the One Vine that exemplifies the compassionate life. At the start of His ministry, Jesus stood in the synagogue at Nazareth and declared,”The Spirit of God is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim release to he captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” – Luke 4:18-19. With these words Jesus declared a war cry for social revolution.

We can also seek for justice and shalom in all human relationships and social structures, seeking equity and magnanimity among all peoples.

Contemporary Social Justice example: Dorothy Day

Unity in Diversity. This is the branch of the One Vine that exemplifies the Word-centred life. Jesus came proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, In his person, He embodied as an imagebearer the good news itself. Jesus was, and is, the living Word of God enfleshed among us, standing in His person as the very good news He proclaimed. In Jesus, the doors were thrown right open: “Whosoever will may come.” The Kingdom of God’s love has been made available to all. Whenever. Wherever. Whoever. In His imagebearing.

We are are enabled by the power of God to take the word of the gospel into our hearts in such a transforming way that others, seeing this, want it for themselves. This addresses the crying need for people to see both the good news lived as well as proclaimed in their midst.

Without God we cannot, Without us, He will not – Augustine

Contemporary Evangelical example: Billy Graham

Unity in Diversity. This is the branch of the One Vine that exemplifies the sacramental life. Jesus life is incarnational at its very heart. The wonder and glory that one pinpoint in history the great God of the universe stooped to take on imagebearing form as a human being just like us. He was born a baby in a backwater of civilisation. “…who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:6-8.

We can make present and vital the realm of the invisible spirit in an incarnational way through our imagebearing. This way of living addressed the need for the experience of God to be truly manifest and notoriously active in daily life.

Contemporary Incarnational example: Dag Hammarskjold

One Body, One Faith, One Church, One Bride

Unity in Diversity. All of these branches are of the One Vine that Jesus speaks of in John 15. When every branch of the vine is connected in, they will bear much fruit and fruit that will last. This section of the module is abbreviated from a wonderful book called “Streams of Living Water” by Richard J. Foster.

Here is a related Spiritual Practice called “Shaping Communities” for you to explore.

Application

DISCOVERING AN EMBODIED SPIRITUALITY OF DESIGN CREATIVITY AND THE ARTS.

At each step along the itinerary of the Biblical Timeline we will look at how the following themes come into play at each juncture of the journey…

Jesus kept saying to his disciples that it is better that He go, so that the Holy Spirit can come and empower them to fulfil the Great Commission all over the world and be His witnesses or imagebearers to the ends of the earth. What happens at Pentecost is a cloud descends in the Upper room, flames of fire appear over the disciples heads and they speak in all of the tongues of the nations. God is saying that what was once an exclusive Jewish religion is now being opened up to all nations in a spectacular way. The Jews always had gentiles and other nations in the their midst, but now we are all grafted in. Grafted into God’s chosen people; a community called for His name. Grafted into Jesus the perfect and mature imagebearer, grafted into the joys of being seated with Christ in heavenly places and yet also grafted into fulfilling in our own bodies the sufferings of Christ. Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished!” because His work was finished to save us and to redeem us and He had done all that God had asked Him to do. Now, our co-labouring begins with Him as the Holy Spirit descends on us to lead and guide us into all truth, to make Jesus’s humanity available to us and to give us a new identity as part of a new community of faith built up into the body of Christ where we all have a role and purpose within one body, unified by one spirit.

Just as the Old Covenant was built out of one human family, with a father and a promised son, which grew into 12 tribes as they extended the kingdom and walked out an exodus into the promised land, so the New Covenant has many similar images at work. Father God sends a promised and only begotten son into our world, Jesus chooses 12 disciples who will become an image of the 12 tribes to call people into a new Exodus into an eternal Kingdom of God, His reign will have no end and we are in exodus out of slavery and into sonship in the one Son. It is a human story but also a Trinitarian one. God has empowered Christ to pull the two together into a new family. Where we partake of our human family just as before, but now we are also invited into a position in the Trinity as sons and daughters of God in Christ. It is through this Word that all things were created, it is in His image that we were made the pinnacle of Creation and it is in Christ that we are then glorified in Christ, saved in Him and sanctified through His redemptive work. The Holy Spirit comes like the pillar of fire by night or the cloud by day, like the burning bush to show us a new way to be human, teach and comfort us in our labour and help us to enter the rest He has called us to. In one moment the Holy Spirit filled apostles are able to see a future which is opposite to the Tower of Babel, in the Old Testament, where they are unified into a new language that is as diverse as all the nations of the earth called into a new Kingdom that is greater than national identities, male or female, slave or free and that unifies even Gentile and Jew into one body. This is community and church, we are called one by one into a great community of faith and cheered on by a great cloud of witnesses who by faith believed but did not see the end result of their faith. We see the Holy Spirit bringing all of this together in the unifying work of the Holy Spirit filling each believer and creating a new reality in our midst.

A great change occurs at Pentecost, where before the Holy Spirit would ascend on people for a brief period of time to enable them for a task, just as He did on Bezaliel and Oholiab in the Old Testament and then leave again. Now, in this time we can have the filling of the Holy Spirit to come and live in us and refresh and fill us again and again to do the work of God as His imagebearers. He is available to us and unifies us so that we cannot hold to racism, to bigotry, to sexism or to tribalism. We do not have to subscribe to any other cultural dictates, to be included. This is where Paul was sent out to the Gentiles, because now, thankfully Christianity is about to spread from the tiny area of Galilee that Jesus and his disciples ministered in for 3 years to the ends of the earth, the apostles will go to India, Africa and every corner of the earth by the power of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Of course, this was a huge change for the apostles. Peter was confronted by Paul for not eating with the Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11–14), he had a vision of a sheet with unclean animals and God told Him to kill and eat (Acts 10:12). He recoiled in disgust. They agreed that the Gentiles coming to faith would not be required to be circumsized or convert to Judaism. There was almost a church split over many of these matters. So now, God has taken the story that was focused in on one family, one nation, one kingdom – Israel – and extended it out to include all imagebearers all over the globe. This is astounding and was always in the plan and purpose of God. A beautiful picture of God taking what was exclusive and making it inclusive of every tribe, tongue and people group to baptise them and disciple all nations. Our co-labouring continues.

A great multitude from every nation is what John saw in Revelation 7:9. It is also what Isaiah writes about in Isaiah 65, where God says “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name… God is speaking of a new wave of believers from every nation on earth. This does not mean that He has forgotten Israel, simply that God is building a new Kingdom without end and it is inclusive of everybody and will also be inclusive of all creation. The Gospel and good news is spreading further afield. This is where the body of christ now has cultural diversity like never before. We are not exporting a Western Christianity, we are going to the ends of the earth to invite all cultures, all people and all languages into their own unique expression as they come into a large body of faith, a community unified by Christ and not by anything outward to distinguish us. Unity in diversity. The Holy Spirit is personal, just as Father and Son who we have come to know already are intimately involved in our lives. So, now we can pray to God the Father when we need the love of a Father. We can pray to our older brother Jesus when we need to identify with His incarnation and continuing humanity as our great High Priest and finally we can ask for revelation, empowerment and comfort from the Holy Spirit as they each have distinct roles and purpose in each of our lives to draw us as multicultural imagebearers into fellowship with each person of the Trinity. God wants to reconcile all things to all of Himself. If we focus on just the incarnation of Christ, or the Fatherhood of God or the power of the Holy Spirit, we are not truly reconciled to All of God, all of the story and calling to every imagebearer to invite them in, to fine their place, to belong and to not cease to do so until every imagebearer has heard this good news for all things. Indeed, even creation itself is groaning for redemption.

When we think of Jesus asking His disciples to go and minister into Samaria, we are immediately hit by their disgust to even go there. Why would God want to save them? They are dogs. Or when we hear of the Canaanite lady who came to Jesus to plead for her demon possessed daughter in Matthew 15. Jesus has compassion on her and gives “her the crumbs from the table” that she asks for. In the Old Covenant, Gentiles were allowed in the outer courts, but now by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are not just allowed into the edge of faith, but included in everything that is Christ’s. Fully inclusive of our nations, their cultures and their tongues. This is good news for every nation, all peoples in all places. Still, it is such a radical shift that includes a great amount of sacrifice to take this gospel to the ends of the earth. It will cost us our comfort, our safety and confronts our bigotry, our racism and our views of the outsider, the foreigner and the “other” in the imagebearers we meet. God’s desire is to reach all nations. He has always been doing this. In Moses He was making Himself known to His imagebearers, the Egyptians as well as His people, the Jews in exile. The plagues were a sign that He was the God of all imagebeares. In Daniel, God was doing the same in a gentile nation, likewise in Joseph, Esther, Abraham (the father of all monotheistic religions), Ruth, Rahab, Eliezer of Damascus, Uriah the Hittite, Naaman the Syrian, and also the Ninevites. Jesus interacted with many gentiles too; the Samarian woman, the wise men at his birth, the Roman Centurion. Gentiles and surrounding nations have always been touched and included in God’s redemptive plans from the start. In fact, when Jesus stands in the temple and declares Himself the only begotten son of God and makes the claim that only He knows the Father, every other imagebearer, Jew or Gentile does not know the Father as He does, He is putting every human being on the same plane. He is the one son who has an exclusive relationship with the Father, it is no wonder they set about to kill Him right there and then. Of course, Jesus would be raised from the dead and say, “All that I have is yours!” and share His inheritance with all imagebearers completely and totally with nothing left out. Jesus first and we are all included in Him! The pain of exclusion, of being held back and of having no voice or invitation to the coming New Creation is done away with in Jesus, who now extends wholeheartedly the gospel of all things to include everyone. As 2 Peter 3:9 states, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”. This has always been God’s plan and was the start of a great exodus of gentiles to be welcomed into the promised land and included with the new people of God, who has Jesus a Palestinian/Jew as the head of this new multicultural body, His church and bride from all the nations of the earth.

Our work as imagebearers of all kinds includes this multicultural aspect of life. We need to have heroes in our nations that show that we can find redemption that looks like us as Africans, Americans, Europeans, Asians and so on. This diversity is something God loves. We often wish that we all had one language, but God divided languages at the Tower of Babel and loves our cultural diversity, our unique expressions of fashion, design, the colourful palette of the different shades of our skin, and has been working within each nation’s identity to draw them into His big story. God is longing for Jamaica, Brazil, South Africa, Australia to be shaped and redeemed in every area of society just as He shaped Israel into a great nation from a refugee camp. Now with the seal and delivery of the Holy Spirit, I cannot decide who is in and who is not. Only God decides. Equally, I am not to disqualify another imagebearer from my community based on creed, or denomination or the colour of their skin. If they are human, they are imagebearers, so God longs to save them and they need to hear this good news of the gospel that includes all people, in all places at every stage of the timeline of God’s divine work in this human race. Indeed we have a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on as we hand the baton on from one generation to another. Our calling is to image Him uniquely and distinctly while being drawn into the unity that only the one Spirit of God can provide to being us together into one body, a living temple, a kingdom of God called by His name! There is more that unifies us in both our humanity and the work of the Trinity than what divides us in bigotry, racism, economic class or sexism. Indeed there is no room for this in the Kingdom of God.

Paul began his ministry thinking that he was zealously defending God and working as a Pharisee to please God and it led him to kill Stephen and others as he followed God’s call. He was deluded as we can be too. God so transformed this Jew of the Jews, into the most effective missionary in the early church. Paul/Saul had two names as he was a dual citizen, He was a Hebrew and a Roman. God uses him to effectively take this work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit to all imagebearers the world over. We often see the coming of the Holy Spirit as a spiritual gift, but He is the gift that leads to an embodied spirituality that reconciles who we have always been but transforms us in radical and also minuscule ways to better represent God as embodied creatures. We do not become something else after our salvation, Paul used his same gifts, zeal, energy, mind, will and emotions as he always had but now he was not working against God but joining in with what God was already doing. This about face, this repentance is what God wants to lead all imagebearers into. We all have a limited understanding of God’s involvement in our own lives, in the nations we come from and in His purposes for all things, but we need to grow into this and have the Holy Spirit to guide us, empower us and teach us all things so that we are transformed and learn who we really are as we become more and more fully human in the image of Christ, who is the Spirit of Christ now made human forever. Everything God does is from the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit,  so as we engage in fellowship with God our life and work is lived right in the centre of who God is and His plan for the world. In Him, we live and move and have our being.

Creative expression

INSPIRATION AND PRACTICAL APPLICATION FROM A CREATIVE

LAURENCE MUNOZ

DANCE/CHOREOGRAPHY

Coming soon…

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Creative Assignments

DISCOVER HOW TO MAKE SPACE FOR “THE OTHER” TO INCLUDE THEM IN THE BODY OF CHRIST, HIS CHURCH

This is a chance to express yourself creatively. Perhaps something in this part of the timeline has challenged, excited or inspired you. You may want to think about how your could express that through drawing, writing, painting, filming, designing or photographing something to share with others here at creativeimagebearers.com.

So write a haiku, poem, song or create a piece to express yourself and share it with us!

add-e1557741871377.png “As you have done unto the least of these, you have done unto me!” – Matthew 25:35-40. How do we actively make space for the other in our lives? Who is the other in your life? Give this some thought and write or create a response… Wherever we encounter an imagebearer, how we treat them, is how we treat God. This is where every law stems from…! How do we dignify every imagebearer with dignity, respect and value as we would do with God Himself? How does this challenge racism, bigotry, hatred, sexism tribalism, and de-humanising of others?, Upload your response here!

Submit Creative Assignments

This is where Creative Imagebearers submit their creative assignments for each module of the coursework.
  • Drop files here or
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Final Take-Away to give context…

PROVOKE THOUGHTS, QUESTIONS…

We can underestimate what Pentecost did. With a wind, clouds, flames of fire and the joining of all languages into a heavenly one that pulls all earthly languages into a new empowering framework. God is speaking, just as He led the Israelites with a pillar of cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night, as He appeared to Moses in the cloud of the Holy of Holies and in the burning bush to Moses. So, the Holy Spirit will be in us, to guide us into all truth. As the Tower of Babel separated one empire into all the tribes and nations of the world by confusing their language so God is now building His church as He built the temple garden of Eden, the tabernacle in the wilderness, the second and third temple. He will build His church out of believers gathered together the world over in One Spirit as Christ’s body here on earth as it is in heaven.

The Great Commission is our call to go to the ends of the earth. The body of Christ is not complete until every nation, tribe and tongue has heard. First, though God has to deal with the racism and bigotry in our hearts, just as He did in Jonah, in His disciples when Jesus said they were going to Samaria, in Peter as God shows Him a sheet of unlearn animals and tells him to eat. Or when Paul confronts Peter for not eating with the gentile believers. God has to deal with the wickedness in our hearts, by the power of One Holy Spirit who dwells in us. He fills us up so that we can pour out our lives for the last, the least and the lost. Only to refill us and empower us again and again to be the body of Christ to the world. Wounded, suffering death but also animated by resurrection life again and again to do the work of God.

God calls us into a New Story, which is actually the same story. Except now the temple is not built by human hands. The body is not an individual, but now communal. We are part of a church and God is calling a people for His name, a community set apart for Him, filled by Him and in which there is no Jew, or Gentile, no slave or free, no male or female. We are made one in Christ and this supersedes all racism, sexism or ethnic divides in the early church or today. The life of God is now found in a community, where two or three are gathered. We should be finding our home in a body, God’s church. The church became more and more inclusive of every tribe and nation and tongue. If you are a Christian from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas etc. we should be so thankful that the gospel is so inclusive of us.

Your take-away

WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU

Questionnaire

Additional Resources:

Creative Imagebearers Workbook – Aleck Cartwright:

Church History

33AD to Present

www.livegodspeed.org videos and study guide series

The Whole Church to the Whole World – Mission Mobilisation Videos

Bible Project: Ephesians

God has always included Gentiles as part of His plan of salvation:
http://healing2thenations.net/papers/gentiles.htm
Jesus and the Gentiles:
https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/leadership-training/sending-your-team/jesus-and-the-gentiles.html

Engaging with the Church Calendar:

The Prodigal Son Story:
Luke 15 talks about the loss of all things. A lost coin, a lost sheep and a lost son, actually two lost sons and the Fathers live for all things; creation, creatures and imagebearers. The gospel redemption includes all!