"The Church is not to be defined by what it is,
but by that End to which it moves."
What will the end times be like? Not the tribulation, scary stuff, frightenly described in Revelation…or the “Left Behind” series. A bloody moon, catastrophic wars, demons thrown into lakes of fire…not that part, but afterwards when God makes all things right. It says that there will be a new heaven and new earth and all that is broken will be righted, that which is out of joint with creation will be healed.
Fortunately, we get a few glimpses. For example, in Revelation 21 we find these words:
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bridebeautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’or mourning or crying or pain,for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the thronesaid, “I am making everything new!”
In the next chapter, John the Revelator says, “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”
It requires what I call Kingdom imagination. With a bit of intentionality we (most people) can summon a picture of ultimate human flourishing. The Bible calls that "shalom" and it is at the core of reconciliation. Paul says that in Christ we are a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.
The problem though is where we are and what that picture is seems like a million miles away. The way Scot McKnight would put it is the beautiful image that God wonderfully created is cracked, subsequently, there is estrangement with God, ourselves, others and ultimately creation itself.
I believe that the mission for every Christian, every community, is to recognize and humbly acknowledge the brokenness of our world, but not be satisfied there. We must live into the future reality that is to come. We pray that direction every time we recite the Lords Prayer, “Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” What is it we are praying? We are praying the ultimate flourishing that exists in heaven into our realities?
We recognize our quest whenever we see things out of joint. Poverty? Can we imagine poverty existing in the New Heaven and New Earth? Absolutely not! Inequality between men and women? Between different nationalities or races? Will that exist when all is righted? Certainly not! An injured planet? No, it will be healed or, as Paul says, “redeemed!” Do you see how it plays out? Anywhere we see a discontinuity or misalignment between where we are and what will be illuminates elements of our mission. Ultimately, that includes estrangement with God. In sum, the Bible describes this as a picture of reconciliation.
This fall, at Immanuel Church will embark on a journey grappling with how we can be a community that lives out our life attempting to fulfill the Apostle Paul’s words,
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christand gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”
Below are the dates and speakers for the series. As a pastor for 30 years now, I am fully aware of the shelf life of sermons (they are usually forgotten before lunch is over), but I truly believe that this has a greater potential for impact then any other series I've been a part of.
This Sunday, Immanuel Church has two services - 9 and 11 am, and we meet at The Bartlett (228 W Sprague Ave), in downtown Spokane. Why don't you join us!