Thursday, May 12, 2005

Improvising The Rest

You and I are a part of a grand story that spans the entirety of time and beyond. Our part begins when God (for reasons unimaginable to me) decided to create the world and everything in it, including people. It was a good set up (as the first two chapters of Genesis repeatedly state) And, to top it all off, God walked around with people and talked to them. Then, believe it or not, people screwed it up, and the relationship was damaged (not just with God, but with everything). The language about God's proximity to people changes after that. I'm not actually sure if it reflects God's actual proximity or just people's perception of it (thought I lean toward the latter), but the Bible starts speaking of God as if He's distant and just comes down to check things out.
On one of these visits (having to do with seeing if a city called Sodom was as evil as he had heard it was) God goes to see a guy named Abram. God basically makes a deal with Abram that he and his descendants will be blessed so that they may be a blessing to the rest of the world. The story continues with Abram's descendants being much more interested in the first part of the deal (being blessed) than the second part (being a blessing) and God being perpetually frustrated with them, but never giving up on His dream. Then, one day, after a guy named Moses has led these people out of a time of captivity, God does something that no one expected. Moses goes up on a mountain and receives the 10 commandments, which usually steals the spotlight in our tellings of the story, but God promises something else that was astounding. They were to build a special tent (called a tabernacle) that God was going to "live in". For the first time since the Garden, God was going to be in their midst again. When the people settle in one place, the tabernacle becomes a temple and God is there.
Then, after a while, God does something that no one would have dared to ask for. God became a man...or actually God became a baby that grew and developed into a man. For the first time since Eden, God was walking around with people again. The relationship was restored, but God wasn't done yet. He reached out to the poor and oppressed with good news about the eternal abundant life NOW that was available to them. Then one night, as He was eating with his 12 closest friends, He shocks them by telling them that He's leaving and they can't go with them. They are stunned. Then He shocks them more by telling them that it will actually be better for them once He was gone. He said that "another" was coming. God wasn't done yet. He was going to do something that no one would have ever dared to dream. Now, instead of walking beside them, God was going to live inside them...they were going to be saturated with Him.
Later, guards come and take Him and nail Him to a couple of pieces of wood. After hours of agony, He dies. His followers are reeling. How could this have happened? How could they go on? But that's when it gets really weird. A couple of days later, He's walking around again...alive. He hangs out for a while (long enough for about 500 people to see Him). Before He literally flies away, He basically tells them that He took their place on the Cross so that they could take His place in the world. The story goes on from there and tells about how those followers set up the church and attempted to fulfill the mission given to them. We even get some cryptic information about how it ends (with God saying "I am making all things new"...kind of an odd ending) but that leaves you and I in an odd, unwritten section in the middle. Our role as followers of Jesus, is to take His place in our worlds...to figure out who Jesus would be if He lives our lives, (had our jobs, went to our schools, had our relationships, etc.) and improvise the rest.

AE

2 comments:

Kenny Payne said...

Holy Improvisation! Do you mean to suggest that the Scriptures are not a legal code telling us all the minutia we need to know to answer all possible religious, scientific, social and philosophical questions, but rather an invitation to a lifestyle? That is going to demand a great deal of attention to the text as the context for our continuing story and a holy imagination concerning what it might look like for Jesus to live in my skin. Imagination and improvisation are not the normal tools given to disciples in today's Christian sub-cultures. However, they are the necessary tools for the adventure of living with God that Jesus calls us to live. Thanks for the interesting post.

JP Manzi said...

Good thoughts Adam. Question: How do we bring together postmodern though into a traditional setting such as the Churches of Christ?