rritating Facts, A Cruel Month, & An Explosion of Joy
Friday Greetings Rock Creek Fellowship,
I hope that the residue of Sunday’s celebration of the public truth of Christ’s Resurrection to be personally possessed still lingers in your noggins as you go about your daily work.
I am praying this day that what Keller called, the “irritating fact” of the Resurrection of our Lord from the dead, in which he “destroyed death and brought life and immortality to life” will create for you a sort of “explosion of joy” as Lesslie Newbiggin once called it.
Perhaps, in the middle of the anxious bidding and frenetic hustling of April, another reason why we might join TS Eliot in calling it the “cruelest month”, we might pause for just a second to imagine that it is all so true and so good....that we will not die, a new world has begun, and we are not alone.
We are actors in a topsy turvy narrative to be sure, but one that is being Authored, and in which we’ve beenprivileged to play meaningful roles of bearing witness to the resurrected Savior who has pardoned us from the sins that cause us to blush and others to bruise. And not only has he pardoned us, but he has and is empowering us with new life.
Eternal Life Now
As Dallas Willard was fond of saying, “the life of the heavens is available to us now.” So even when you are doing your plumbing, taking a deposition, rebuilding a transmission or taking a patient’s blood pressure, you can invoke the presence of the living Christ and move, act, and speak with the Spirit of the Resurrected King energizing and engaging in your activities.
Paul could even say, in a word that eclipses our current boredom and despair, “to give yourself fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” And of course, as witness-bearers to the living reality of the Savior, everything from answering a phone call to helping out in the concession stand at your child’s game, can be done “as unto the Lord.”
Perhaps we’ll pause a moment and consider these things this morning.
Lesslie Newbiggin once insisted regarding the church’s mission in the world as personal witnesses to the public truth, or to the “clue to human history” in Christ:
“The logic of mission is this: the true meaning of the human story has been disclosed. Because it is the truth, it must be shared universally. It cannot be private opinion. When we share it will all peoples, we give them the opportunity to know the truth about themselves, to know who they are because they can know the true story of which their lives are a part.
Wherever the gospel is preached the question of the meaning of the human story–the universal story and the personal story of each human being–is posed. Thereafter the situation can never be the same. It can never revert to the old harmonies, the old securities, the old static or cyclical patterns of the past. Now decisions have to be made for or against Christ, for Christ as the clue to history or for some other clue.
There will always be the temptation, even for those within the Christian community, to find the clue in the success of some project of our own, to see our program (whether of church growth or of human development) as the success story which is going to give meaning to our lives.
The gospel calls us back again and again to the real clue, the crucified and risen Jesus, so that we learn that the meaning of history is not immanent in history itself, that history cannot find its meaning at the end of a process of development, but that history is given its meaning by what God has done in Jesus Christ and by what He has promised to do; and that the true horizon is not at the successful end of our projects but in His coming to reign.” Lesslie Newbiggin
How Can I be Silent?
But Newbiggin insists that if we are personally possessing this public and universal truth robustly enough, we won’t need to be commanded to be on a mission to make this reality known. He says that such commands are counter-productive:
“It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel. If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact?
The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving. One searches in vain through the letters of St. Paul to find any suggestion that he anywhere lays it on the conscience of his readers that they ought to be active in mission.
For himself it is inconceivable that he should keep silent. ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ (1 Cor. 9:16). But nowhere do we find him telling his readers that they have a duty to do so. It is a striking fact, moreover, that almost all the proclamations of the gospel which are described in Acts are in response to questions asked by those outside the Church.” Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
Perhaps, by the generosity of our Lord both toward the world he is determined to make new and toward us in whom he is already at work, we’ll be moved into “mission” that “begins with a kind of explosion of joy.”
May the Holy Spirit, in personal Pentecosts for each of us and those around us, enliven our understanding so “the news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed.”
May our Lord make it so thrilling, so true, so persuasive, and comforting that, “It must be told.”
May we each find ourselves with a racing pulse and spring in our step wondering, “Who could be silent about such a fact?”
Praying, expecting, and considering with you today,