Wednesday, July 25, 2007

God with us? V

Today: God with us
But what about us? What about today? It may be all very well to say that if you lived two millennia ago in Palestine you could have seen Immanuel, God with us, but is God with us? And what might this mean?

In one sense, Immanuel has come and returned to be with the Father. He is physically absent. It is no longer possible to see God in the flesh as it once was. We are waiting for his return. Indeed, this is one way of thinking about what our lives are about: we live preparing for the presence of God. We await not simply the return of the risen Jesus, but the day when everything is set to rights and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2.14).

This is what we are waiting for – the ultimate and permanent fulfillment of the promise: ‘I will be your God and you will be my people.’ Here’s how the final pages of the Bible envisage it:

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home [lit. tabernacle] of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new."

- Revelation 21.2-5a

Our lives are preparing for this day. We are maturing our taste to enjoy the messianic banquet, we are exercising our heart so it can be inundated with God’s love, we are training our eyes to see the invisible God. You are getting ready to be able to stand in the presence of divine glory, to reflect and shine with that glory. The tastes we get of the life to come now are only a taste, but they are genuine tastes. Whenever you are generous to someone in need, that’s a taste of the future. When you welcome a stranger, when you forgive a deep wound, when you resist a chance to gain at someone else’s expense, when you keep a promise, when you fail but confess and turn your life around, when you bless instead of curse, when you trust despite fear, when you hope despite pain, when you love despite busyness – you are catching a glimpse of the future presence of God.
Ten points for guessing the cathedral in the picture.
Series: I; II; III; IV; V; VI.


Anonymous said...

"Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice..." 1 Peter 1:8

I don't think I think much about the current absence of God... but maybe I should think more about it... it is obviously a big and key category for you with your emphasis on waiting, groaning, longing etc.

Rachel said...

i'm just reading now "dissapointed with God" by Yancey and so far it covers this absence quite a bit.

Martin Kemp said...

you are catching a glimpse of the future presence of God

This is a key idea. Many would say that in welcoming the stranger we are encountering Jesus in the stranger. I get what they are saying, but it just doesn't fly with me. The future idea works better. BUT, it's still future, what about the present? Next post?

Martin Kemp said...

Also, in Anthony Tyrrell Hanson's, Grace and Truth: A Study in the Doctrine of the Incarnation, a big deal is made over the link between John 1 and Exodus 34:
Grace and Truth (John 1) lines up with Love and Judgment (Exodus 34).

Martin Kemp said...

Notre Dame

byron smith said...

John 1 and Ex 34 - interesting.

Yes, another post to come (the Spirit). Not sure that it won't leave us with more questions than answers, though. This was a sermon I wrote very much feeling the gaps as I groped around. I'm publishing it here so I can think about it more.

And ten points.

Anonymous said...

a glimpse of the future presence

it's still future, what about the present?

I wonder if a touch more can be said here?

I'm not much of a theologian, but it strikes me that in the logic of "When you welcome a stranger, when you forgive a deep wound" etc, there is required a kind of forgetting that this is a glimpse of the future. I know this sounds barmy, but if we 'forgive a deep wound' on the pretext of gaining something in the future, I wonder if we have actually forgiven it, or have we simply weighed it on an account and found that we could afford it?

This is to say, that in glimpsing the future, we actually need to forget about it and 'feel the absence' by concentrating on the present circumstances, and what is required of us. By exercising the kingdom in the present(?), by loving God's creation in the present moment, with all its flaws and frailty on account of our sin. On this account, the absence of God becomes a key component of God being with us.

Does this make sense, or does it sound completely gaga?

byron smith said...

Drew - I'm not sure I do follow you. Doesn't forgiving involve precisely the kind of deferral with an eye on eschatological judgement that you mention? Jesus' refusal to return abuse for abuse was because he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly (1 Peter 2.23). The reason the merciful are blessed is because they will receive mercy (Matt 5.7).

Anonymous said...

Thanks Byron - nice to ground it down with some scripture.

I think I'm a little confused over what 'to forgive' precisely means, and its relationship to judgement.

byron smith said...

Drew - was your concern that our faith not be mercenary? That we obey (forgive) out of love, not because we're in it for the 'money'?