Hear or download this post (mp3 file – 3:55): What’s a Body to Do? (Part II)
I’ve spent the last few days at the annual meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, held this year in beautiful, downtown Roanoke. It was a great meeting, with challenging, prophetic messages from Tony Campolo and David Coffey, and soul-stirring music from Kate Campbell (Wow. That girl can bend her voice like a guitar string!).
I hurried home in order to lead the second session of “What’s a Body to Do?” a three-week series on the mission and purpose of the local church. Last week we searched the Gospels for the clear commands of Christ, thinking that if Jesus really is Lord (and he is), then his body–the church–should do what he wants us to do.
This week we started with the Ten Commandments.
It’s my contention that those commandments were meant not only to keep God’s people from killing each other and committing adultery, but to create the kind of community where you didn’t have to worry that someone might kill you, or steal from you, or bear false witness against you, or covet your possessions. I think God wanted to create the kind of community where nobody had to lock their doors, or guard their things, or be afraid.
And then Jesus took things to the next level.
“You have heard that it was said by men of old, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ but I say unto you don’t even be angry with your brother. You have heard that it was said, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ but I say to you don’t even cast the lustful look.” As we talked about some of the clear commands of Christ we had identified the week before someone mentioned the one about loving one another as Christ has loved us. “That’s it,” I said. “Jesus wants to take us from a community where people don’t kill each other to one where they lay down their lives for each other”; in other words from the Covenant Community to the Kingdom of Heaven. He did it by issuing clear commands, by calling and training disciples, and by telling parables of the kingdom.
And then I talked about my favorite Walter Brueggemann quote, the one that says: “The central task of ministry is the formation of a community with an alternative, liberated imagination that has the courage and freedom to act in a different vision and a different perception of reality.” I think that’s what Jesus was trying to do. He called some disciples and formed a community. He told some parables that liberated their imaginations. And finally he gave them the kind of clear commands that would move them to courageous action.
The Lord’s Prayer seems to sum it up. In that prayer Jesus teaches his disciples to pray that God’s kingdom would come and God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is not just wishful thinking; it’s a call to action. It’s the kind of prayer a soldier would pray before going on to the battlefield, the kind of prayer a missionary would pray before going on to the mission field. You can tell by the next part of the prayer. Jesus teaches his disciples to pray for daily bread, because this is a big job, and they’ll need their strength. And then he teaches them to pray for forgiveness, because those sins will weigh you down on the mission field, and also to forgive others, because grudges are too heavy to carry. He teaches them to pray for deliverance from temptation, from anything or anyone that would distract them from this important task. And then, right at the end, just in case they begin to succeed and try to take credit for it, he reminds them that the kingdom, the power, and the glory all belong to God.
Next week: Part III