Reflections for the Week of Sunday July 2, 2017 Fourth after Pentecost

Gospel: Matthew 10.40-42 says that whoever welcomes Jesus and His disciples welcomes the One who sent Him.

Christian doctrine holds that Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnation of the second Person of the Godhead, reveals God the Father so that when we see Jesus we see the Father in human form. Jesus does what the Father would do; Jesus shows us what human beings should be and can be when empowered by God’s Spirit when the human nature is willing to submit fully to the Spirit. To understand God’s plan for His world and for human beings we need to look back to the Old Testament: Then God said, “Let us make Human (Adam) in our image, according to our likeness; and let Human reign over creation” (Gen 1.26-28, abbreviated). Human beings were made to reflect the image of the Creator and the garden of Eden was like a temple where God dwelled, but because of self-centered pride and sin, man rebelled against God and his, and our, image was defaced. Jesus shows us as we might have been had we been willing to submit to the Father in obedience. The text from Gen 1 tells us that we were meant to reign over the creation and be priests and stewards of God’s creation. There is nothing to suggest that the “reign” in question is anything other than benign. Humans were intended to enable the garden to flourish and to bring divine order to the wonderful beauty and diversity of God’s creation. Creation was to be a dynamic process of growth reflecting God into the world and reflecting the praises of the world back to God. This was to be the “truly human” vocation for mankind. To be a royal priesthood, reigning and worshiping, is the goal to which human beings are called. Christian virtue and character (the subject of After Your Believe… by N.T.Wright, on which these reflections are based) is the pathway toward this goal. Ps 8 says: “You [God] have made them [mankind] a little lower than God, and have crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them royal dominion over the works of Your hands, and have put all things under their feet…” (vv 4-6). The goal is a throne, not happiness. The wise rule of humans over God’s world is what “being in God’s image” is partly about. We are to prepare for this destiny by developing the kind of character Jesus manifested, loving God and neighbor. Because God’s character is generous, creative, and overflowing with love, He wants His image-bearers to collaborate in His project, the kingdom of God on ‘earth as it is in heaven.’ This is His challenge to us. It is what we are made for as Rev 22.3-5; 1.5-6; 3.21; 5.9-10, and 20.4,6 show. Worshiping and reigning: those are the twin vocations of the new people in the new city, Jerusalem, come down out of heaven. These people will be able to sum up the praise which all creation offers to its Maker, and to exercise sovereignty and dominion which God intends for His image-bearers. They will be priests and rulers, summing up the praises of creation for the Creator and exercising His dominion over it. The vision of Rev 5 is not a vision of the ultimate end, but of the heavenly dimension of the present earthly reality. The goal is the fulfillment of the task of which, according to Gen 1 and 2, humans were made in the first place. This is the vocation according to Exodus 19 to which Israel was called. The whole creation is a temple in which God resides and where His image-bearers are priests serving Him and worshiping Him.

Memory Verse: You have seen…how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex 19.4-6).

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