December 12, 2017

Sundays with Michael Spencer: April 26, 2015

the-sower-sower-with-setting-sun-1888

The Sower with Setting Sun, van Gogh

Note from CM: On Sundays in 2015, we are looking at excerpts from our Archives in order to hear the continuing voice of Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, who died five years ago. Today’s post gives an example of one of his lessons from the Gospel of Mark, and how Michael tried to understand and communicate the ongoing relevance of the Gospels to our lives today.

• • •

[Here is one of the] fundamental questions: How do we relate Kingdom, discipleship and cross together in one integrated view of Jesus and the Gospel?

Let me suggest some possible answers:

1. The Kingdom of God is the great theme of scripture, but the nature of that Kingdom is much different than any other Kingdom.

2. In order for the Kingdom of God to established in history, God provides a King who is also priest, prophet, sacrifice, temple, teacher and a fulfillment of all the other Biblical themes that are part of the Kingdom in history.

3. One of the ways we recognize Jesus is that he speaks of the Kingdom, but also, in himself, provides the defeat of sin and resurrection to new life that are necessary for those who would be part of the Kingdom. Yet he never ceases to be King.

4. Jesus is the presence of the Kingdom, and his ministry of healing, teaching and exorcisms prefigures the complete defeat of sin and evil. In the cross and resurrection that victory becomes total.

8f1ab007de8f4544aceaefa244e829345. The response of any person to God’s Kingdom proclamation is a) faith and b) discipleship, i.e. to believe in/trust the God of the Kingdom and to live out the reality of the Kingdom.

6. The tension between faith and imperfect obedience is dealt with by the cross, where the Kingdom becomes a Kingdom of fulfilled law and amazing grace.

7. The invitation to the Kingdom is a personal response to Jesus’ offer of himself as Lord, savior, substitute and teacher. One believes and enters the Kingdom; one believes and follows/obeys the King.

8. The cross makes it possible for the Kingdom of God to be constituted of sinful persons but to be a Kingdom of perfect righteousness.

9. The mark of the Kingdom is its Christ-centeredness. This defines the Kingdom in terms of our personal relationship to God. In history, that Christ centeredness becomes Kingdom living, evangelism, missions, compassionate ministry, love of neighbor, etc.

10. The old and new covenants are harmonized when the Kingdom of the old covenant is personified in Jesus and “signaled” in the church. Jesus now brings the Kingdom and disciples are living “Kingdom” lives now, in advance.

My contention is that a simple reading of the synoptics will clearly show that Jesus gives none of his followers a pass from the entire course of discipleship, that he is calling us to live as signs of the Kingdom of God in history, and his cross forever settles the nature of our relationship with God in the Kingdom: constant, overflowing grace.

Comments

  1. [Here is one of the] fundamental questions: How do we relate to love, acting and the gift together in one integrated view of Jesus and the Gospel?
    Let me suggest some possible answers:
    1. The love of God is the great theme of scripture, but the nature of that love is much different than any other love.
    2. In order for the love of God to established in history, God provides a representation of love who is also priest, prophet, sacrifice, temple, teacher and a fulfillment of all the other Biblical themes that are part of this love in history.
    3. One of the ways we recognize Jesus is that he speaks of the love, but also, in himself, provides the defeat of that which isn’t love and resurrection to new life that are necessary for those who would be part of this love. Yet he never ceases to be love.
    4. Jesus is the presence of the love, and his ministry of healing, teaching and exorcisms prefigures the complete defeat of that which isn’t love. In the cross and resurrection that victory becomes total.
    8f1ab007de8f4544aceaefa244e829345. The response of any person to God’s love proclamation is a) faith and b) acting, i.e. to believe in/trust the God of the love and to live out the reality of the love.
    6. The tension between pure love and imperfect love is dealt with by the cross, where the love becomes a love of fulfilled love and amazing grace.
    7. The invitation to the love is a personal response to Jesus’ offer of himself as Lord, savior, substitute and teacher. One believes and enters the love; one believes and follows/obeys the first to love.
    8. The cross makes it possible for the love of God to be constituted of sinful persons but to be a love of perfect righteousness.
    9. The mark of the love is its Christ-centeredness. This defines the love in terms of our personal relationship to God. In history, that Christ centeredness becomes love living, evangelism, missions, compassionate ministry, love of neighbor, etc.
    10. The old and new covenants are harmonized when the love of the old covenant is personified in Jesus and “signaled” in the church. Jesus now brings the love and lovers are living “Love” lives now, in advance.
    My contention is that a simple reading of the synoptics will clearly show that Jesus gives none of his followers a pass from the entire course of loving, that he is calling us to live as signs of the love of God in history, and his cross forever settles the nature of our relationship with God in love with constant, overflowing grace.

    Fundamentals…..Theology … the study of God developed into a system….this word makes no sense there is no system to Love. Point to it in the Gospels. Where did Jesus do anything alike in miracles or dealing with those he met. The only system I see is the lack of one in that love just does not keep record but encounters and acts like a candle burning bright. Jesus brought true love into this world, but then again that’s just me and what I see. We could form into some type of government but as it was modeled it just happens and can’t be forced although it is the greatest force. How do you fight, debate, argue points when you meet love in purest form. IMHO I need to love better and I know no one but this Jesus who is capable of teaching me it.

    I have tried to keep my commenting down to when there are little to none but this could be my last. I’m not sure of the profit in debate anymore or if there ever was one. ( I’m sorry to have changed Michael Spencer’s words but this is what I saw, Please forgive me).

    • Christiane says:

      Hi ‘W’,
      I hope you will continue to comment.
      Speaking for myself, I have found ‘Imonk’ to be one place where we can openly be who we are, and since many of us are on a journey, we can appreciate each others’ experiences in that light. I have been aided by some of your comments, and I know from responses that others have found in your writing something of meaning for themselves. You are a part of this community, such as we are, and I hope you will remain so. Do I agree with everything you write . . . well, no, of course not, . . . but that’s okay . . . but I am able to recognize how I can grow from trying to understand another’s views of a situation or an issue from their different perspective, and that increases my own vision. I have gathered much from the people who come here to comment. You have become one of those people, and I am grateful.

    • Robert F says:

      “…there is no system to Love.” This so true. If the gospels are accurate, Jesus did not approach any two encounters in the same way, nor did he perform any two miracles of healing in the same way. He seemed to deliberately avoid method. There is no system to Love.

  2. Steve Newell says:

    In Lutheran theology, there is a concept of two kingdoms and we live in both at the same time. The Kingdom of the Right Hand is the Church and it is ruled through the Gospel. Here we see the church catholic and we see the forgiveness of sin. It is where we hear the Law and Gospel proclaimed for our salvation.

    The Kingdom of the Left Hand is the world that we live in. Here God uses civil authority to maintain order and justice in this life. It rules through the use of the law but it cannot proclaim the Gospel.

    There are many who confuse the two. Some want to use the Kingdom of the Left Hand to create a “Kingdom of God” on earth where the government does the work on the Church in proclaiming the Law. However, there is no forgiveness of sin or salvation found in this.

    Others want to the Kingdom of the Right to live without any civil authority. They tend to isolate themselves from society and live a cloistered life. However, one cannot bring the Gospel to a sinful and dieing world when one is isolated from it.

    I know that I did not to justice to this doctrine, but it gives us a valuable way to think about living in God’s Kingdom on.

    • Christiane says:

      Hi STEVE NEWELL,
      I read your words about cloistered life, and I agree that it does look as thought they have ‘withdrawn’ from the world and are isolated;
      but I see a monastery as a sanctuary for those of us who need ‘time out’ from a world where sometimes we can be overwhelmed by grief and exhaustion, and going to a monastery for a week or so is like finding a ‘hospital’ where we can rest and be treated kindly and find some peace and healing in prayer among those whose lives are given over to prayer FOR the world.
      I wouldn’t want there not to be monastic sanctuaries in a troubled world like ours . . . those cloisters provide a service to the world as retreats for a time to ‘come away and rest for a while’, and for some of us, those spiritual ‘hospitals’ are, in Chaplain Mike’s words, ‘grace-filled places’.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      There are many who confuse the two. Some want to use the Kingdom of the Left Hand to create a “Kingdom of God” on earth where the government does the work on the Church in proclaiming the Law. However, there is no forgiveness of sin or salvation found in this.

      “Law” as in Shari’a within the Global Caliphate of ISIS?

      But even more than that:

      “There is no Right, there is no Wrong, there is only POWER.”
      — Lord Voldemort

    • I don’t know the details of that doctrine, but whenever I hear someone describe it, I worry that it’s too easy to allow Christians to remain confused about which Kingdom is owed their primary allegiance. If the two kingdoms theology means that my activity (as a Christian) in the public sphere is not governed by Jesus, or that the standards for my behavior are different depending on what sphere I’m, civic or ecclesial, then I can’t get on board.

      I do see its advantage in preventing Christians from assuming that their job is to make a more Christian state though.

      • Steve Newell says:

        Jesus taught us how to live in two kingdoms in Matthew 22:15-22. However, there is no such thing as a “Christian state”, there are only Christians living in the state. Also we see in the letters of Peter and Paul that we are live our Christianity in our society and we are to honor the government that God has placed us under.

        We are sojourners in the Kingdom of the Left while we are citizens of the Kingdom of the Right. We are to live in peace in the Kingdom of the Left.