The Kingdom of God

Scripture Readings

Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17


“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above,” (John 3:3).



Heavenly Father,

Open my mouth, that I may proclaim your Word

Open our eyes and ears, that we may see and hear you

Open our hearts and minds, that we may joyfully receive you.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.



Earlier this week I Googled the term “born again”. The first hit was an advertisement for a Christian dating site with the tag line, “Meet born again singles – Find your born again soul mate!” Then there was Born Again Auto Sales whose sign was complete with a giant Jesus fish. Another good one was a website, whose header proclaimed, “Ye Must Be Born Again!” I then came across two interesting articles. The first asked, “Are Catholics Born Again?” Good question! The second was an article that came out in The Atlantic in the run up to the 2008 US election. The title of the article was “Born Again,” and it looked at the growing population of evangelicals in America. One comment on the media’s view of Evangelicals caught my eye: “Journalistic coverage of evangelical Christianity has oscillated between confident declarations that the Christian right is dead and horrified discoveries of its continuing influence.” True enough, the term ‘born again Christian’ conjures up all sorts of memories many, if not most, of which are terribly painful and rather embarrassing, and rightly so.

Yet, recall Jesus’ own words in our gospel reading from today: “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above (or, born again),” (3). In this scene we witness Nicodemus, a Pharisee and leader of Israel, come to Jesus at night and affirm that indeed Jesus must be a teacher sent from God, “for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God,” (2). Nicodemus has seen the signs but is missing an important piece. He has not yet believed in the name of Jesus. He has not yet been born from above. There is a difference, you see, between knowledge about Jesus and belief in Jesus. Here Jesus charges Nicodemus not only with a lack of understanding, but also a lack of belief, since what Jesus is teaching is beyond understanding, and so it is only faith that could comprehend it. What Jesus is saying to him is something like this: If you are not born again, if you do not share in the Spirit that comes through the washing of regeneration, everything you think about me will be from a human point of view, not a spiritual one (Chrysostom). It is impossible, Christ says, for someone who is not born in this way to see the kingdom of God. This saying of Jesus also implies that apart from this new birth we are exiles and complete strangers to the kingdom of God, and that there is perpetual opposition between God and us until He changes us by a second birth (Calvin). This is indeed a hard teaching. It is to say that we are not able to come to God on our own. It is to say that whatever it is God is doing to make the world new cannot be known apart from Christ Jesus, for his resurrection to new life is the first sign of what God has planned for the world. But more than this, it is to say that we are in need of being redeemed, that we are in need of being saved from the powers of sin and death. This is an affront to our modern sensibilities for we would much rather believe that we do not need to be born again. We are good enough the way we are, thank-you.

OK, so there can be no denying the weight of Jesus’ remark: “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” This raises two important questions for us. First, how does this happen? Second, what does this mean? With regard to our first question Nicodemus himself is curious: “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” (4). Now, Jesus does not directly answer Nicodemus’ question here with a simple yes or no. Presumably, however, the answer is no, you cannot enter a second time into your mothers womb. Thank goodness for that. How is one born again, then? Jesus elaborates on his earlier statement: “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit,” (5). So then, here we have it. One is born again, or born from above, by “water and Spirit”. The Christian tradition has, with a few notable exceptions, interpreted this to say that it is through baptism that one is reborn. This makes some sense in light of the surrounding passages of Scripture. Just prior to today’s gospel reading Jesus himself was baptized. Immediately following our passage John tells us that, “After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized,” (22). Furthermore, all of this talk of water and Spirit and entering the kingdom of God would have rung clear to a scripturally aware Jew like Nicodemus. The combination of water and Spirit with a particular hope for the future was deeply rooted in the Jewish consciousness. Israel’s prophets often proclaim a future time when Israel would experience renewal, by water and Spirit. Hear these words from the prophet Ezekiel: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God,” (36:25-28). God promises to renew Israel, to cleanse them by the sprinkling of water and by the infilling of His Spirit who will enable them to live in faithful relation with God. All of that to say the need for cleansing and expectation of the renewal of the Spirit was in the air in the period of Jesus and the early Church. Here is the part not to be missed, that in Jesus this hope for renewal is fulfilled and through baptism our old self, enslaved as it were to sin and death, is washed away and we are reborn in a new life of freedom in resurrection power. Of course, it is beyond us to say precisely how this happens in baptism. We must say simply that it does happen. After all, the Spirit like the wind has a life of it’s own. It blows here and there and we hear it’s sound though we know not from where it comes or where it will go next. Furthermore, this is not our own doing. That you and I may be reborn, indeed are beckoned to be reborn, is a work of God for there is only One baptism, Christ’s. Thus, “our” baptism is really a participation in Christ’s baptism. As we go down into the waters we die with Christ. As we come up out of the waters the Holy Spirit comes upon us with a life that is powered by the resurrection of Christ Jesus. We rightly call this, eternal life.

And that is the answer to our second question: What does it mean to be born again? It means to see and enter the kingdom of God. Another way of saying this would be to say that it means to receive eternal life. To believe in Jesus, to be baptized into his Body, the Church, and to be indwelled by his Spirit is to receive eternal life. So proclaims John in what is perhaps the most famous of all Bible verses, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” We modern Western folks tend to think of time as a linear progression. The present is a blip on the line. Behind us lies the past. In front of us lies the future. And beyond the future of our life on earth, beyond our death, lies eternity. We tend to think of eternity as part of our linear time, the part of time which lies a way off in the distance and which goes on forever and ever and ever. However, this is not eternity as Scripture portrays it. Eternity is not ‘part’ of time. Eternity, as understood Scripturally, is without beginning or end. It is that which always has been and always will be. Therefore, “eternal life” can not be something that “begins” after we die. It may be more helpful then if we think of eternal life not in terms of quantity (it just goes on and on and on forever) but in terms of quality (it is a particular sort of life). Whatever eternal life is, it has no beginning and it has no end, it is everlasting, which of course makes it rather hard to think about and talk about since our language is itself bound in time and space as is all that God has created. Our language itself begins and ends. Christian language in particular, begins and ends with Jesus. That is not simply a cute saying. It is the truth of the gospel, that everything that is, everything we can possibly say, properly understood begins and ends and is sustained in Christ.

Here, many would object. How can we claim such a thing? It is by no means obvious to us that Jesus is the clue to understanding history. This is a bold statement open to challenge and critique. And that is precisely the point! For John, eternal life comes only by the indwelling of the Spirit whom we receive with the waters of baptism and who opens our eyes so that we can not only see but enter the kingdom of God. Indeed, no one can see the kingdom of God without experiencing the renewal of the Spirit. For when we are baptized with Christ in his death we are raised with him to new life, resurrection life in the power of the Spirit. As St. Paul writes in Romans: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life,” (6:3-4). And again in the verse that preceded our NT reading for today: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you,” (8:11).

For John as with the other writers of the NT, central to a proper understanding of eternal life is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Arbitrarily acknowledging that God exists does not lead to eternal life. Even acknowledging that God exists and has something to do with Jesus does not lead to eternal life (as is evidenced with Nicodemus). To quote the great reformer John Calvin, the true faith which leads to eternal life is, “placing Christ before one’s eyes and beholding in Him the heart of God poured out in love.” Eternal life is to believe in the God whose originally wonderful and yet shocking love for us looks like the gift of His only Son lifted up upon the cross. Eternal life is to allow the God who loves the world in this way to penetrate our hearts and minds, renewing our entire being as the Spirit of the risen and ascended Christ lives and dwells in us. Eternal life is a blessed life that is freed from the confines and limitations of sin and death precisely because it is the bestowing upon us, or rather our participation in, the very resurrected life of Jesus. Furthermore, because the resurrection life of Jesus is central to our understanding of eternal life we cannot begin to grasp the effects of this eternal life apart from seeing the resurrection of Jesus from the dead as an event which paves the way for the resurrection and renewal of all things. The resurrection of Jesus and our experience of his eternal life right now points towards the time when the whole of creation will experience this in all of its fullness of glory. This is a time when the glory of the Lord will not only fill the temple, as Isaiah prophesied, but will fill the whole wide world: “Indeed,” writes John, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might saved through him,” (3:17).

How can we say that this is the sort of life available to those who would believe in Christ Jesus when our experience of the world is very often difficult if not seemingly mundane? Indeed, sin and death are still very much a reality for us, as they were for Jesus. This is because time as we know it is the time of our fallen world which is marked by decay and corruption and above all sinful history (T.F. Torrance). If you need evidence of this I might just point towards some of the news headlines from this past week. Or, lest we be tempted to think that the reality of sin and death only exist “out there”, we might turn our gaze inwards. Yet it is within this very time that the Father gave us His Eternal Son who is our very life (Gal. 2:20). The eternal life we experience now is in part. Then, when God renews all things and the whole world is filled with His glory, it shall be in full. Eternal life is life with God in his kingdom, whether that kingdom is on earth or in heaven. It is to share in the resurrection life of Jesus and, simply put, this transforms everything. The experience of eternal life is so unlike our usual experience of time, it is so unique and new, that the only fitting way to talk about experiencing it is to speak in terms of being born again, into a new world. Today we celebrate with Charlotte and her family as she, through baptism, is born anew. Charlotte, after your baptism you will be forever changed because your life will be connected with the life of Jesus and his Spirit will live in you so that you are a new creation. Friends, as we renew our baptismal vows along with Charlotte, may we see that at our baptism the Holy Spirit came upon us. May we see that together, the very Spirit of the risen Christ dwells in us. You are a new creation. Christ has made you his brother, his sister, and as such you are a child of God. This is true of you. Let us then live by the Spirit, being nourished by the same source which brought us into being (Augustine), and anticipate the life that is to come for all. Amen.

The following is a short five-minute homily I preached during morning prayer in the Wycliffe College chapel on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. The New Testament reading, from which I preached, was 1 Corinthians 7:32-40.

Funny side-note. Prior to preaching at 8:30am I had not eaten anything nor had I drank anything. Further, when I got up to preach in what was a very warm chapel I was wearing a heavy knit sweater. As I preached, I became very hot and began to feel light-headed, dizzy, and yes even nauseous. I figured I had three options: I could try to tough it out but then I would risk passing out in the middle of my short sermon. On the other hand, I could make a dash for the open door at the side of the chapel where I would no doubt vomit. Those two options would have proven rather embarrassing (and gross) so I opted for the third option and excused myself as I stopped preaching to take off my sweater. Crisis averted.


It makes all the difference in the world how one regards the end of the world. By “end” I do not mean a temporal point beyond which we cannot venture but rather the goal, the purpose, the telos of the world. Talking about the end of the world may seem like an odd way to begin a short homily on a portion of Scripture addressed to virgins. Yet this is precisely the context in which we are to hear Paul’s seemingly odd relational advice. If the Apostle had a “Dear Paul,” column in the local paper his advice to a young engaged couple may have gone something like this: “Dear Young-and-in-love: Marriage? The time is near, the world as we know it is passing away! Perhaps there are other things you may want to consider such as, I don’t know, concerning yourself with the affairs of the Lord in what little time you have left. Plus, marriage will bring you great distress so, you’re welcome.”

Of course, Paul isn’t writing a general treatise on marriage here and given his expectations his opinion on the matter makes more sense. Paul’s advice is conditioned by his belief that the day of the Lord is immanent. In the few verses prior to this mornings reading Paul says that “the appointed time has grown short,” (7:29a) and that “the present form of this world is passing away,” (7:31b). Later on Paul will refer to himself and the recipients of his letter as “us, on whom the ends of the ages have come,” (10:11). Indeed, nothing less than this has happened in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. In Jesus, the ends of the ages have come upon us. The old age, ruled as it was by sin and death has passed away and the new age, the fullness of God’s reign in Christ, has come. The tension, of course, is that while this new reality has indeed altered the present world it has not yet arrived in all of it’s glory and splendor. In the present we have a foretaste, a downpayment. But, when Christ returns (any moment now, for Paul) he will once and for all judge evil and wickedness and set the world aright.

Thus, Paul’s powerful apocalyptic expectation shaped his advice to the young virgins, that they remain single. Because, for Paul, the time is short ordinary temporal matters dwindle in significance or rather they “assume the significance that is properly theirs in the light of God’s eschatological judgment”[1]. Whether married, single, or engaged Christians ought to live as people who know that all these things are made sense of and find their fulfillment in Christ. Since the future is impinging upon the present Paul simply thought it illogical to undertake such long-term commitments as marriage.

However, Paul was also concerned that marriage presents many distractions that hinder service to the Lord. At best, marriage will produce divided interests as the husband considers how to please his wife (and rightly so!). For Paul, the potential danger of marriage is that it will hinder the Christian’s singleminded devotion to the mission of the church. Paul thinks it urgent that we be about the affairs of the Lord, proclaiming the gospel in the short time that remains, and singleness simply frees up time, attention, and energy to do this crucial work.

Alright, so Paul’s eschatological expectations were off a bit (two millennia or so and counting). What now? We along with Paul are indeed those upon whom the ends of the ages have come. In Christ, we are re-socialized into a pattern shaped by the gospel and illuminated by our eschatological setting between the cross and the final day of the Lord. As Christians our stories are caught up into the story God is telling and has told, the story which culminates in Christ Jesus who is coming again soon to judge the world and subject all things to the Father, “so that God may be all in all,” (15:28). Whether married or single, this story makes sense of our lives and reveals that we are a people on a journey.

Our society has lost good reasons for getting married and having children. We appear even more-so to have lost good reasons for staying single. “Ultimately,” says Stanley Hauerwas, “for the believer there is only one good reason to get married or to stay single, namely, that this has something to do with our discipleship”[2]. In light of Christ’s return marriage and singleness help to cultivate those virtues needed to keep us on the journey. So then, let us not be anxious but instead pursue wholehearted service of the Lord who has authority over our lives be we married or single. Amen.


[1] Richard Hayes, Interpretation: First Corinthians (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1997), 127.

[2] Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, Resident Aliens (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989), 66.

It is well known that the ancient Greek society was rigidly structured. Individuals within that society each had roles that they were born into (i.e. master, slave, male, female , rich, poor etc). Aristotle has much to say regarding this. For Aristotle, in order for a society to be good and just each member of the society had to accept his/her role and play it and this began in the family. So then, for Aristotle, there could be no ordered society if there were no ordered family.

This is similar talk that you might here nowadays from particular (conservative?) Christian circles. Exceedingly, the emphasis is placed on the family unit (for example). What is needed is a focus on the family. A properly ordered family will lead to a properly ordered society (for example). The purpose of life, “is lived out first within our own families then extended, in love, to an increasingly broken world that desperately needs Him.”

To be sure I have a family. I love my family. I think family is important. My goal here is not to detract from the family. No, I think that Jesus and other New Testament figures do a better job of that than I. Consider some of the following sayings of Jesus:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it,” (Mt. 10:34-39).

“While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother,” (Mt. 12:46-50).

Who does Jesus consider his “mother and brothers”? “Whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” In contrast to this, John tells us that, “not even His brothers were believing in Him,” (7:5). Family within the kingdom is not necessarily the same as family in light of the world.

See also Paul’s letter to Philemon. Speculation about the relation between Philemon and Onesimus aside, Paul writes to Philemon, “for perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother,” (v.15-16).

Remember Aristotle and the structured Greek society? Each member had a role that they simply had to play. Well, Paul speaking to this very world, proclaims that, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ,” (Gal. 3:28). In the kingdoms of Greece and Rome there may very well have been structured roles to play. However, in this new kingdom, in God’s kingdom, all of the roles that would generally serve to separate folks are done away with, “for you are all one in Christ.”

Further, each role in society came with certain expectations. In Romans 13 Paul seemingly plays into this: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities,” (13:1). Wayne Meeks argues in The Moral World of the First Christians that the ruling class in these days literally made up 1% of the population (we are the 99%, anyone?!). Paul continues on and it seems that he is arguing for this sort of structure in society: “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour,” (13:7, emphasis mine). But then he goes on: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another,” (13:8, emphasis mine).

So wait, what do we owe people? Tax? Custom? Fear? Honour? Nothing? Love? For Paul (in his own subversive way), as for Jesus, it would seem that this new society is founded on something other than societal and familial roles. “For you are all one in Christ.” This is a society in which the nature of Philemon’s relationship with Onesimus is forever altered—no longer slave, but dear brother. This is a society in which we are to, “owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.” This is a society based on what we might call friendship. And it is thus, as Wayne Meeks argues, that the earliest Christians were ridiculed as not only pagans but as those who were out to destroy the family.

“In the case of the resurrection of Jesus, all Christians must realize that the facticity of the event will be contested right up to the eschatological consummation of the world because its uniqueness transcends an understanding of reality that is oriented only to this passing world and because the new reality that has come in the resurrection of Jesus has not yet universally and definitively manifested itself.”

Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology Volume 2 (361).

“What should one call that being which in such great dissimilarity is concerned for the greater similarity, in such great distance is concerned for the still greater nearness, in such great majesty is concerned for the greater condescension, in such great differentness is concerned for the still more intensive relationship? To ask it in a Pauline way (in all of this we are dealing with God’s relationship to ‘sinful man’): How is that being to be named who counters growing sin with still greater grace (Rom. 5:20)?

The answer does not have to be sought. It is both anthropologically and theologically evident and is called Love.”

Eberhard Jüngel, God as the Mystery of the World (298).


Some like to yell about it. Others can’t stand the thought of even mentioning it.

But what’s the deal exactly? Who the hell (pun intended, hey-o!) am I supposed to listen to? Obviously different theological traditions will come at this differently but what are some things that we can all agree on? What are some things that, in light of revelation, we can say about that God awful topic, damnation (the reason I say “can” is because it’s my opinion that both extreme’s, those that yell about it and those that are silent, are saying things that we can’t say if we’re to be faithful to the whole of the Biblical narrative)?

It is here, yet again, that I must turn to a gentleman that is quickly becoming one of my favourite living theologians, David Yeago. In the final chapter of Apostolic Faith, ‘The Four Last Things’, Yeago highlights 5 constraints that our teaching on damnation should be bound by. I found these immensely helpful so I thought I’d take the time to share them and expound just a wee bit. If we are to be faithful to the apostolic legacy then these must guide what we say/don’t say in regards to damnation.

1. We have no right to teach with certainty either that some will be damned or that none will be damned, that many will be damned or that few will be damned.
A most important point about the Last Judgment is that it is yet to come. It has not yet happened. When this happens it will happen in the utter freedom of God, who is the judge, not us human creatures who are most certainly not the judge (we are, rather, the object of this judgment!). So then, to assume with any degree of certainty and detail the way in which God will execute his judgment is to “usurp his prerogative”, as Yeago says. Just as the coming of the Messiah totally surprised and subverted Israel’s expectations so too the course of God’s judgment is sure to surprise us. We must say then that all people everywhere are in God’s hands and that whatever happens to them/us will, in the end, prove to be entirely consistent with God’s character. This is all we can say about outcomes.

2. We cannot deny with certainty that the God who has conquered death has ways of bringing the gospel to the dead.
Once in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (4:7-10) and twice in 1 Peter (3:18-20; 4:6) reference is made to Christ descending to the place of the dead to preach the gospel: “For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does,” (1 Pet 4:6). The result of Jesus enduring death and descending to the place of the dead is not only that he was able to preach there but that he, in fact, defeated the powers of sin and death utterly exhausting them beyond their last breath. And so elsewhere in Scripture Jesus is described as he who holds “the keys of death and Hades” (Rev 1:18). Jesus’ preaching to the dead is in no way portrayed as a one-time event. Like the crucifixion, which transcends time and confronts each and every person, it is possible that his descent into Hell may transcend time and confront each and every dead person. Given that Jesus holds the keys of death and Hades (the door is open) this is entirely possible.

3. We can and must say, however, that no human being will find a final fulfillment of his/her existence apart from Jesus of Nazareth and those who gather round him.
In Yeago’s words, “the Church does not claim simply that Jesus is a meaningful symbol; it claims that this particular person, as a particular person, is in reality the Lord of all, the one whom all go to meet, the active centre of meaning for the whole universe. He is in person the fulfillment of human destiny, and there simply is no other fulfillment than participation in his risen life. Indeed, the fulfillment is his risen humanity, into which he gathers his brothers and sisters.” Salvation, then, is not something which God has “attached” to Jesus which is unattainable unless you “believe in Jesus”. Rather, salvation is simply the “name for what it means to gather around Jesus and share in his life.” To be sure there is, nor can there be, any human fulfillment apart from Jesus the Christ.

4. If Jesus is the fulfillment of human destiny, then the way to that fulfillment for every human being must be the way of repentance and faith.
“Repentance” simply means to turn from a life without Christ and “faith” means to join our lives with his. So then, repentance and faith are of ultimate importance for each and every human being. Since he is the fulfillment of human destiny then turning to him and entering into shared life with him matters infinitely. Therefore, any sort of “wider hope” or “universalism” must be the hope that those who do not know Christ in this life will nevertheless be brought to repentance and faith in him (This is important to note. Proponents of a “wider hope” or “universalism” are all too often accused of pluralism. However, to be sure, one can hold to a “wider hope” and not be guilty of pluralism if they maintain that it is only in Christ that salvation is possible).

5. We must confess that in all God’s dealings with creatures, in mercy and in judgment, his aim remains the same: communion in love.
God’s aim always and everywhere and in every situation with regard to his creatures is “communion in love”. However, God is not coercive, so his love is nor forced upon anyone, now or after death. So then, because God is not coercive we cannot exclude the possibility of damnation even though we may hope it never becomes an actual reality. We cannot say that Jesus’ warnings are simply empty threats rather than real life-or-death warnings. However, before hurling these warnings at anyone else we must realize that they are first directed towards us.

Well then, what are we to do? On this basis, the most appropriate way in which to entertain a wider or universal hope is in prayer. “If it is not impossible that those who have not believed in Christ in this life may nonetheless be received into his fellowship in death, then it is certainly permissible to pray that it may be so”.


*The image featured above is a painting from the Chora Church in Istanbul depicting Christ’s victory in the place of the dead. I believe that is Adam and Eve whom he is pulling up out of Hades.

They said they found you on the 20th floor, sleeping in the hallway. By the time I saw you I was stepping out of the elevator in our building’s lobby and there you were, sprawled out on the floor. The lobby was packed with firemen and paramedics, building security (4 of them, you must have posed a real threat) and curious onlookers. As I walked past you on my way out the door I heard you mutter something incoherent. It sounded agonizing.

By the time I came back 10 minutes later you were in the same spot. As I stood and waited for the elevator I overheard a couple of the firemen chuckle to one other. To them you were probably just another Aboriginal junkie, worthless, equivalent to the pigeons that defecate all over the sidewalk outside our building. Perhaps equivalent to the shit itself. But as security scribbled furiously in their notepads and the paramedics tried to ask you questions (“So, whatcha been drinking tonight?”…really?) I couldn’t help but wonder how you got here.

Not how you ended up here, in the lobby of an apartment building, but how you ended up here on the streets of Toronto fucked out of your mind. I cannot begin to imagine how you’ve suffered. Born into a people that have been marginalized and shit upon, some of whom still do not have access to clean drinking water or nutritious food (in a developed country in the 21st century?! But this is no time for a rant against the capitalist Empire). I cannot imagine the toll that your addictions have taken on you, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I cannot begin to imagine the sort of dehumanizing things people have made you do, how you’ve been taken advantage of and used for others gain.

I’ll be damned if your Creator does not look upon you with the greatest amount of dignity. I’ll be damned if to Him you are not infinitely valuable and beautiful. I’ll be damned if He is not with you in your suffering and, hell, if He’s not on your side then He’s not much at all.

I guess I don’t know what to say. I didn’t say anything after all. But if there’s one thing I know it’s that this suffering which you now endure (this suffering which could very well end in death) is a suffering that is fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and one day you will know that glory.

Anyways, the elevator arrived eventually. I got on, hit the button to my floor and the doors closed. I went home and you went, well, I don’t know where you went.

*The featured image above is Henry Ossawa Tanner’s The Annunciation (1898).

**Picture caption: “I changed my mind!”

Four weeks to the day and Christina and I (along with Aisling, Stephen and Ejay) will be sitting in our new house, probably with some friends, pizza and beer after a solid moving day.

I’ve only mentioned it briefly on the ole bloggerino here, so for those who might not know, after many months of thoughtful consideration and prayer we’re moving in with 3 other people in order that we might try and pursue some sort of intentional community together. No doubt this will be the source of lots of material to reflect on here. We found the neighbourhood. We found the house. And by tomorrow (or so it feels) we’ll be there. Just thrown into the deep end not really knowing how to swim. In between floundering and flapping about for our lives we may try and make a swim for the side of the pool. Steal someones water wings. Grab on to someone else. Who knows? I feel like we’re fairly well prepared mentally but none of us really know what we’re doing. We’re really just trusting that the voice in our head that told us this might be a good idea was God and not the taco’s from the night before.

I’m somewhat terrified. Terrified of opposition. Terrified of conflict. Terrified of total-and-utter-self-implosion-hollywood-fireball-of-death failure. Yet part of me (probably the stupid part that prefers to learn the hard way) is excited and ready to welcome opposition. Welcome conflict. Welcome even failure. For in all of these things we will be presented with opportunities to make decisions. In all of these things we will be presented with opportunities to act in love, offer grace, be reconciled to one another, practice resurrection. In all of these things we will be presented with opportunities to be conformed to the image of Christ Jesus our Lord. In all of these things the kingdom of God is just waiting to burst forth. So bring it.

We definitely need people praying for us.

Pray we don’t kill each other. Pray we abide in grace. Pray for our neighbourhood, Riverdale. Pray for the people that make up the fabric of that community: neighbours, business owners, street folk, the local crazies. Pray that God gives us eyes and ears to see and hear what He is doing. Pray we’re quick to love, til it hurts.

I read a prayer today, attributed to Ignatius of Loyola. I’ll leave you with that:

Teach us, Good Lord

To serve thee as Thou deservest;

To give and not to count the cost;

To fight and not to heed the wounds;

To labour and not to ask for any reward,

save that of knowing that we do thy will.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

In my Systematic Theology class we have begun to study creation. Mangina recently noted (briefly) that there are three important heresies with respect to the doctrine of creation. Two of these in particular are pretty rampant in the church, practically if not theoretically. The first of these is Gnosticism.

In my experience amongst Western Evangelicalism Gnosticism is essentially a pillar of the faith (I know I’m generalizing here and not everyone will have the same experience, nevertheless, I’m sure you can identify what I’m talking about in your own experience).

Now I won’t delve too deeply into Gnosticism here. To totally oversimplify (and to serve our purposes here), that Gnosticism has infiltrated the Church is evident in that many Christians believe the material world to be evil. Creation is a problem (in some ways creation is the Fall). So, for these Christians salvation = escape from the material world. For these Christians, our hope is in being raptured out of this world to be with Christ in Heaven. The earth is merely a temporary home. Our real home is “in Heaven”. If you don’t believe that this sort of Gnostic belief is rampant in the Church then walk into most any Evangelical church in Canada and ask a few folks what happens to us when we die. Undoubtedly the top answer will be something along the lines of “going to Heaven”. Yet this is a concept that is totally foreign to the Scriptures. No where in the Old or New Testament is there talk of “going to Heaven when you die”. “But what about the thief on the cross?” someone will ask. Jesus said nothing to him about joining him in Heaven but being with him in “paradise”. In light of the Biblical witness we would be mistaken to think that paradise = heaven.

Now, to be sure, I believe that when we die we are “present with the Lord.” However, I would qualify this by saying that this is not our final “resting state” if you will. Creation is necessarily material. Being human is *necessarily* a material reality. If you die and live in some sort of immaterial bliss for eternity then you’re no longer human, yet, God created you to be human. God created you to be material. In the Incarnation the material creation is affirmed and in the BODILY resurrection of Christ Jesus from the grave the material creation is redeemed and set right. Our hope is not that one day we’ll get the hell out of here and meet Jesus in the sky (which by the way is not at all attractive to me personally). No, our hope is that one day God’s kingdom will finally break through INTO THIS WORLD in all of its fullness and wonder. It is significant that the Bible does not come to a close with humanity going up to heaven but with heaven coming down to be wed to earth (Revelation 21).

One might ask, “does it really matter what we believe about creation?” to which I would respond, “hell yes it does!” What you believe about creation has massive implications for how you will live your life right now. I won’t get into this here but perhaps it’s a conversation worth exploring in the comments section if anyone feels so led.

What might be the practical implications of believing that our hope is that we will one day get out of here to be with Jesus vs. our hope being that one day the Kingdom will finally and fully break into this world and all things will finally be made new?