From Creation to New Creation book giveaway

The Good Book Company has recently re-published my introduction to biblical theology, From Creation to New Creation.  To celebrate, I am giving away one copy.

The usual rules apply:

  • This is open to all RSS or email subscribers to this blog.
  • All you have to do to enter the draw is to send an e-mail with your postal address and name to bookoffer [at] timchester [dot] co [dot] uk.
  • The deadline is Tuesday 14 December.

You can find a summary of the book here. To buy the book in the UK click here and to buy the book in the US click here.



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The kingdom of God and the atonement

I recently led a series of informal theological discussions on the theme of eschatology for leaders in our gathering of The Crowded House. This session continues our exploration of the kingdom of God and the coming of Jesus with a focus on the secret of the kingdom, the nature of the kingdom in the present age and the crucial link between the kingdom and the atonement.

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No Standstill When God Shows You Reality

These notes are from a talk on Zechariah by Simon Smallwood at the recent Reaching the Unreached [http://www.reachingtheunreached.org.uk/] conference in Barnsley. They are my notes from a talk so they may not accurately represent what Simon intended.

This is a ‘day of small things’ (Zechariah 4:10). At this point in history there was not much of God’s kingdom. Jerusalem was in ruins. The temple was destroyed so it seemed as of God was absent. Over a million people came out of Egypt under Moses, but now there are only 50,000. They were not free, but subject to their Persian overloads. And their neighbours were hostile. They had returned to Jerusalem with high expectations fuelled by the post-exilic prophets. But their dreams had not been realised. It had taken them 18 years to get where they were and they were nowhere.  Work on the temple had come to standstill.

God’s purpose required that he would come to his temple (Malachi 3:1-3) so God raised up two prophets to inspire work on the temple – Haggai and Zechariah. Zechariah’s ministry was one of revealing ‘reality’. Zechariah pulls back the curtain so that God’s people could see with his word what they could not see with their eyes. As a result of Zechariah’s ministry the work of the temple was completed in four years. Something the size of an English cathedral was completed in just a few years.

For most of us it is also a day of small things. We are constrained by a secular government and face hostile neighbours. The place where we live looks like a bomb site. We have unrealised dreams. Many are tempted to leave. ‘In the past year I have met more people leaving ministry on estates than moving on to estates’ (Duncan Forbes)

But the message of Zechariah for us is this: there can be no standstill when God shows you reality.

The past need not hold you back (1:1-6)
The people of Israel had returned physically to Jerusalem, but their hearts were still far from God. They had come back home, but they had not come back to him. The evidence of this was that the work of God’s house had come to a standstill. What we work on reveals what really matters to us.

Verse 4 contains an element of warning. But the emphasis is verse 3: an incentive to get going. ‘Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Return to me,” declares the LORD Almighty, “and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty’ (Zechariah 1:3) Build my house and I will come to fill Jerusalem with my glory.

This is a small warning to us and a great encouragement. The danger we face is to be there in a deprived area and getting on with all sorts of good things, but not truly to give ourselves to being there and building God’s temple (which in the new covenant is his church).

It does not matter what we have inherited from the past (whether from our predecessors or our own mistakes). God promises to build if we return to him.

With the Lord your future is secure (1:7-17)
In Dagenham it is CCTV that keeps an eye on us. In Zechariah’s day mounted Persian patrols kept an eye of the Israelites. It seemed that Darius, the King of Persia, was in control. But Zechariah sees the Lord’s horses going out on patrol throughout the whole earth. The nations are like a drop in a bucket compared to the Lord’s empire (Isaiah 40:12-15). The destiny of all people is in God’s hands.

Israel felt small and fragile. They situation felt insecure. But God could comfort them with kind words because they were the object of his passionate, protective love. ‘I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion’ (14). When I saw my son being bullied in the playground my passion was ignited. This is the passion God feels for his people. With the Lord their future was secure. ‘Proclaim further: This is what the LORD Almighty says: “My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.”’ (Zechariah 1:17)

Insecurity and fear paralyses us. Losing sight of the Lord, Israel hardly dared press on with rebuilding Jerusalem for fear of reprisals. But this reassurance frees them to get on with God’s work. Since our well-being is guaranteed by God, we are free to work for him even in hostile contexts.

It is so disheartening when the world looks on with derision. The nations in all their complacency and security were facing God’s judgment. ‘The angel who was speaking to me said, “Proclaim this word: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they added to the calamity.”’ (Zechariah 1:14-15) This should stop us envying the world. It may look secure, but it is actually on the edge of the abyss. We keep going because our future is secure, and we keep preaching the gospel because their future is insecure. So we keep going when God shows us reality.

No kingdom work can ever be insignificant (1:81-21)
God does not build his kingdom with (worldly) power and might. ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty.’ (Zechariah 4:6) The horns in 1:18 represent the power of empire. God does not confront the power of empire with power and might, but with craftsmen. What confounds the empires of this world is the building of God’s temple.

Every part of the temple under construction speaks of God. It prepares for the coming of the Lord to his temple. It would be reason enough to continue if all you see in a lifetime of ministry is one living stone because that living stone is a witness to the reality of God in the world and to the reality of his coming. This ought to be enough to get us temple-builders up in the morning.

Kingdom building knows no bounds (2:1-13)
When a labourer dug the first sod for the new Olympic stadium he could not imagine how it would unfold. It must have felt like a vast and thankless task. But back in the office the architect had the plans and artist’s impressions. These show what it will become. These offer inspiration. Zechariah 2:1-13 offer this vision, a vision of God’s plans.

In Zechariah’s vision a town planner is trying to work out where the walls should be. God’s response is that it will be a city without limits and which does not need walled protection for God himself will protect it.

In 400 years the Lord would come to this city and from there the gospel would go out to all nations over many generations and many, many people would come in to God’s kingdom. ‘Run, tell that young man, “Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it.”’ (4) ‘Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you.’ (11) This is the reality of which we are part.

Our view of God’s kingdom can become blinkered by what is going on in our patch. We can imagine that the church is in decline. We talk of living in a post-Christian era. This is de-motivating. We take on a bunker mentality.

We need to get excited about being part of God’s huge, worldwide project. Even if our part is slow-going, it is a privilege to be part of what God is doing.

There can be no standstill when God shows you reality. But we must let God’s word show us reality.
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Reaching the Unreached II

On Saturday I attended the second Reaching the Unreached conference in Barnsley with a focus on developing mission on council estates [the UK equivalent of social housing] and in deprived areas in the UK. It was a great day and very encouraging. I was particularly struck by the thought that here were many godly people faithfully proclaiming the good news in difficult areas. These were people who had chosen fidelity over fame. Inspiring. I’m going to post my notes from the day over the next few weeks.

Two Conversations: the Unthinkable Reach of the Gospel Part One

These notes are from a talk by Steve Casey. They are my notes from a talk so they may not accurately represent what Steve intended. Steve pastors a church in Speke, Liverpool.

I once had the experience of going to an AA meeting with a friend. I felt tearful because as people spoke I wanted to hug them and tell that Jesus loved them. But my overwhelming experience was not knowing what to say and being unable to identify with their experience. What does the gospel mean for people who are different from me?

I wish I had the confidence in the gospel that I have now.

Acts 10 is about how the gospel speaks to people who are different to us.

1. Cornelius Converted: What the Gospel Is

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ (Acts 1:8) Jesus says his unstoppable gospel will go to the ends of the world (which is Speke!). But in Acts 10 they have hit a brick wall. They had got to Samaria, a Jewish influenced area. But the next move was going to the Gentiles and this was a massive barrier. If you were a Jew and you met a Gentile then they would want to jump in the shower! Jesus called a Gentile woman a ‘dog’ – a typical Jewish term for Gentiles. So, although Cornelius was a good man, he was still an outsider. He would have been tackled by well-meaning deacons in suits if he came to church. But the angelic representative of God addresses him by name.

The angel says his good works do not cut it. He needs a message from outside. His good works are insufficient. But God has heard his prayers and God will provide an answer: a preacher. Being a nice bloke is not enough; you need to be a new bloke. You need God to do a work for you that you cannot do on your own Continue reading

Appraising The Desire of the Nations – Part Two

The Desire of the Nations - Amazon UK

Here’s the second of two posts providing an appraisal of Oliver Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology (CUP, 1996). Click here for other entries in this series summarising and assessing The Desire of the Nations.

3. I sympathise with O’Donovan’s model of Christendom which may surprise some people who know me, though I have significant reservations. Perhaps a comparison with John Howard Yoder (and especially Yoder’s classic work, The Politics of Jesus, Eerdmans) may be instructive. O’Donovan and Yoder seem poles apart. Yoder is the trenchant critic of Christendom, O’Donovan a defender of it (or at least a version of it).

But in fact the similarities are more striking than at first might be apparent. Both have a deep and sustained critique of empire. Both see the church itself as a political institution whose primary political responsibility is to be the church, to reflect the Christ-event in its own life. Both argue that in this way it will impact the surrounding culture.

The difference is that O’Donovan is more optimistic about what can be achieved in this way. The conversion of the powers can happened. It has happened. And it has left behind some positives legacies in Western culture.

O’Donovan is optimistic because the resurrection and ascension are to the fore in his theology. (As an aside I was blessed reading The Desire of the Nations for this reason: I was left optimistic about my own spiritual growth and that of others because of this resurrection-based hope.) O’Donovan critique of Yoder is, therefore, that he is too negative (151-152).

The Desire of the Nations - Amazon US

The Desire of the Nations - Amazon US

Yet in the end of I can’t help think that O’Donovan’s version of Christendom is it too rose-tinted. It is created by excluding all other deviant forms of Christendom.

The suffering church is present in The Desire of the Nations. (My main critique of Resurrection and Moral Order is that the cross does not sufficiently shape O’Donovan’s ethics.) But it is not the fore. I have a nagging sense that O’Donovan’s eschatology is overly realised. His four moments in the Christ event exclude the parousia. O’Donovan clearly believes there is future event. Perhaps he would argue that it is part of the ascension event – the triumph of Christ which s yet to be made manifest on earth. I acknowledge the link. The revelation of Christ is also the renewal of all things and the final judgment. In the meantime history bears the mark of the cross – the cross as the epitome of human hatred towards God and divine judgment against sin.

4. O’Donovan’s identification of sacramental actions looks somewhat arbitrary. In particular it is hard to confine baptism and the Lord’s Supper to the moments of the Christ-event to which O’Donovan assigns them. We are baptised into the death of christ and rise from water to share his new life. The Lord’s Supper not only looks back to Christ’s death, but also forward to the messianic banquet.

Nevertheless I think O’Donovan is on to something important. The significance of the church is expressed in concrete ways in the life of the church. Sacramental actions embody who we are and what we are about. They enact our story.

Appraising The Desire of the Nations – Part One

The Desire of the Nations - Amazon UK

Here’s the first of two posts providing some kind of appraisal of Oliver Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology (CUP, 1996). Click here for other entries in this series summarising and assessing The Desire of the Nations

It is hard to evaluate a work of such scale. It certainly invidious to be ‘for’ or ‘against’ The Desire of the Nations. I will restrict to a number of observations.

1. I am not sure O’Donovan has laid sufficient emphasis on the servant nature of God’s rule. God’s rule in Eden was life-giving, loving, peaceable and just. It was the Serpent lie to portray God as tyrant, holding humanity back.  Humanity’s problem thereafter has been twofold: (1) we believe God to be a tyrant and therefore we believe we will be more free without God than under his rule; (2) we typically rule in image of Satan’s lie (i.e. tyrannically) rather than in the image of God’s rule as we were intended to. Richard Mouw writes:

The story of the reclamation of fallen humanity directly confronts the revisionist doctrine of God [put forward by the Serpent] that precipitated the fall into sin. Over and over, human beings must hear the refrain, ‘You have misunderstood; that is not what it means to be a “lord”.’ Finally God himself must become a member of sinful humanity … The lie of the Tempter is decisively exposed when the incarnate Son says, ‘Look! This is what it means to be a “lord”:’ and ‘he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant … and become obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:7‑8). (Richard Mouw, Politics and the Biblical Drama, Baker, 1976, 41.)

2. O’Donovan seems to suggest a limited role for government. This is not the small state so beloved on American Republicanism. In The Ways of Judgment (Eerdmans), for example, he argues for the state provision of child benefit. Nevertheless O’Donovan argues that after Christ the role of government is simply that of judgment (though he also seems equivocal on this as in other places he allows for a continued, albeit lesser role of power and tradition.)

The Desire of the Nations - Amazon US

The Desire of the Nations - Amazon US

I think the move to judgment alone needs more justification than is provided. It almost seems to occur by slight of hand. Somewhere in the dense prose the move is made and it is not until some time later that you realise that the move was significant. The role of the state in Romans 13 to punish wrong doing seems the main plank in this argument (though O’Donovan elsewhere critiques those who proof text a political theology from Romans 13). Yet even in Romans 13:4 the ruler is not only ‘an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer’, he is also ‘God’s servant to do you good’.

The Triumph of the Kingdom: Christology and Politics

The Desire of the Nations - Amazon UK

Here’s the next instalment in my series summarising and assessing Oliver Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology (CUP, 1996). Click here for other entries in the series.

Chapter Four: The Triumph of the Kingdom

O’Donovan criticises what he calls ‘Jesuology’ (pacifism, liberation theology) which focuses on the life of Jesus without reckoning with the death and vindication of Jesus. Instead he focuses on four ‘moments of the representative act’. These are merely exegetical summaries that represent the structure of the story. They have not conceptual or theoretical function.

1. Advert

Jesus comes meditating God’s rule and representing humanity.

2. Passion

We see judgment in the story of Jesus in the plot against him, his passion and his resurrection. Jesus unsettled the post-exilic two kingdom conception by claiming the kingdom of God had swept away existing orders of government (137). But, though passing away, Gentile rule persists. This creates the conflict that climaxes in the cross.

3. Restoration

The resurrection signifies judgment against Israel and for Israel – overcoming Israel’s sin and affirming Israel’s new identity in its representative (Romans 4). This rejection and affirmation take the form of the conquest of death so makes Israel’s restoration representative of the wider human race (Romans 5). Restoration (to bodily life) and empowerment (to a spiritual body) (1 Corinthians 15). (Resurrection is unfolded in two events: resurrection and ascension – reminding us that not everything is accomplished: creation as all history will be renewed.)

4. Exaltation

Daniel 7 is fulfilled on the Mount of Olives (Acts 1) (144). All authority belongs to Christ. But this authority awaits the final universal presence of Christ before it is apparent.

Between these assertions there is opens up space for secular authority. Secular authority is authorised to provide space for mission (1 Timothy 2:1ff).

O’Donovan argues that in Romans 13 Paul sees the powers in the context of Christ’s victory (the phrase ‘the prevailing authorities’ alludes to the defeated principalities and powers). Government no longer secures national identity. Commenting on 1 Peter 2:13-17, O’Donovan says Christians are aliens because we have our own political identity. The role of secular authority is judgment (and the taxation required to this end). So respect is due to secular authorities because of this judicial function. But fear belongs only to God and love only to the brothers. The roles of power and possession no longer pertain, only judgment.

Secular authorities are no longer in the fullest sense mediators of the rule of God. They mediate his judgments only. The power that they exercise in defeating enemies, the national possessions they safeguard, these are now rendered irrelevant by Christ’s triumph. This is what might properly be meant by that misleading expression, the ‘desacralisation’ of politics by the Gospel. No government has a right to exist, no nation has a right to defend itself. Such claims are overwhelmed by the immediate claim of the Kingdom. There remains simply the rump of political authority which cannot be dispensed with yet, the exercise of judgment. (151)

By limiting the state’s role, state idolatry could be condemned as it was in the book of Revelation (152).

The politics of Jesus and dual authority

The Desire of the Nations - Amazon UK

Here’s the next instalment in my series summarising and assessing Oliver Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology (CUP, 1996). Click here for other entries in the series

Chapter Three: Dual Authority and the Fulfilling of the Time

The rule of Jesus reflects the rule of Yhwh in the Old Testament.

1. Works of power (victories over demons)

Spiritual enemies made colonial power secondary. This looks like spiritualization, but hunger and disease are depoliticising. Overcoming them is an empowering act. The empowerment of Israel was more important than the disempowerment of Rome. The exodus was not only a conquest of Egypt, but also of the sea. Moreover Jesus can be ‘casual’ about Roman power because it is passing (Matthew 17:24-27). It is ailing so does not require resistance. (91-93)

2. Judgment against Israel

We see this in Jesus’ widespread condemnation of ruling classes in favour of the poor (98) as well as his apocalyptic pronouncements against Jerusalem (Mark 13). But judgment can also reconcile the alienated as when Jesus decides for the tax-collectors.

3. The possession of the law

‘Jesus believed national restoration had to come through the re-appropriation of the law.’ (Matthew 7:24-27) His critique of the Pharisees shows the interpretation of the law mattered of Jesus. But he was concerned for law in the heart.

If the law was Israel’s possession then those who possess the law are Israel. So Jesus forms ‘a decisive Israel’ = disciples. The disciples bear the authority of the kingdom

— power (as they cast out demons)

— judgment (as they preach the rule of God)

— possession (as they form a new community)

4. Faith

Faith in Jesus as the messianic king and the Son of Man (Daniel 7) is an act of political recognition.

In chapter three O’Donovan argues that the two cities approach of Augustine finds support throughout the exilic and post-exilic Old Testament writings. Imperial subjugation presented an opportunity for separation and an opportunity for influence, but this influence was perilous because of the potential for compromise and because of the inherent instability of empire. In chapter four he suggests the overlap of the ages leads to a recovering the post-exilic two kingdoms approach (1 Peter 2:13-17). In chapter six he develops this idea of dual authority as follows:

The doctrine of the Two was, before all else, a doctrine of two ages. The passing age of the principalities and powers has overlapped with the coming age of God’s Kingdom … Secular institutions have a role confined to this passing age (saeculum) … The corresponding terms to ‘secular’ is not ‘sacred’, nor ‘spiritual’, but ‘eternal’. Applied to political authorities, the term ‘secular’ should tell us that they are agents of Christ, but are marked for displacement when the rule of God in Christ is finally disclosed. They are Christ’s conquered enemies; yet they have an indirect testimony to give, bearing the marks of his sovereignty imposed upon them, negating their pretensions and evoking their acknowledgement. Like the surface of a planet pocked with craters by the bombardment it receives from space, the governments of the passing age show the impact of Christ’s dawning glory. This witness of the secular is the central core of Christendom. (211-212)

The Revelation of God’s Kingship

The Desire of the Nations - Amazon UK

Here’s the next instalment in my series summarising and assessing Oliver Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology (CUP, 1996). Click here for other entries in the series.

Chapter Two: The Revelation of God’s Kingship

The reign of God also connects us with the history of Israel. Recently political theology has moved beyond isolated texts (like Romans 13). But it still only draws on eclectic themes (exodus, jubilee, shalom). It lacks an ‘architectonic hermeneutic’ (22) to bring together these themes.

The Desire of the Nations - Amazon US

The Desire of the Nations - Amazon US

Yahweh’s reign does not legitimate certain forms of political order (not even the David king). So can we learn anything useful from Yahweh’s for political theology? ‘We can, if we explore the resonances of a wider range of terms that are used to develop the idea.’ (35) O’Donovan undertakes an exegetical task (although he does not show his workings) to identify these resonances:

We shall take three common Hebrew words as primary points of reference: yeshū’āh (salvation), mishpāt (judgment) and nahalāh (possession). Yhwh’s authority as king is established by the accomplishment of victorious deliverance, by the presence of judicial discrimination and by the continuity of a community-possession. To these three primary terms I add a fourth, which identities the human response and acknowledgement of Yhwh’s reign: tehillāh (praise). (36)

This creates three themes (that tend towards one another):

1. Salvation (mighty acts, victory)

The paradigm for this is the exodus. Salvation is an exercise of Yahweh’s covenant faithfulness (hesed) and righteousness (tsedeq).

2. Judgment (righteousness)

Judgment of Yhwh involves both vindicating the righteousness of Israel in the face of the nations (through military victory) and vindicating the righteousness of God in the face of Israel (judgement against Israel).

3. Possession

This includes both the land (as a national possession, later focused on Jerusalem, and family inheritance) and the law. It also encompasses Yahweh’s possession of Israel.

As the book progresses O’Donovan equates these (without stating this correlation) as follows does this: salvation = power, judgment = right, possession = tradition – thus making them recognisable as concepts in Western thought. (45)

This analysis creates the first of six theorems:

First theorem: ‘Political authority arises where power, the execution of right and the perpetuation of tradition are assured together in one co-ordinated agency.’ (46)

Second theorem: ‘That any regime should actually come to hold authority, and should continue to hold it, is a work of divine providence in history, not a mere accomplishment of the human task of political service.’ (46)

4. Praise

O’Donovan adds a fourth theme: Human beings respond to these three dimensions of the divine rule with praise. ‘We may say that the land was the material case of Yhwh’s kingly rule, as judgment was the formal cause and his victories the efficient cause … praise is the final case of God’s kingdom.’ (41, 48)

Third theorem: ‘In acknowledging political authority, society proves its political identity.’ (47)

The recognition of political authority involves a worship of divine rule explains (49):

—  the persistent connexion between politics and religion

—  why political loyalties can go so badly wrong

—  the moral debilitation of the Western idea of political authority as a human creation to protect individual purposes

The authority of Yhwh (like Yhwh himself) is imageless. But it is mediated through human mediators (in addition to cataclysmic events). But human mediators, especially the king, are idolised because they are relativised by the prophetic movement (65).

Fourth theorem: ‘The authority of a human regime mediates divine authority in a unitary structure, but is subject to the authority of law within the community, which bears independent witness to the divine command.’ (65)

Can law be applied to the other nations? In the Old Testament we see both judgment proclaimed against the nations, and also the prospect of co-operation and co-worship. The same legal expectations are applied to the nations. They are accountable to the same divine court (Psalm 82:3). The great Mesopotamian empires are God’s sword or servant of judgment. There is also a critique of empire – of both its military and cultural hegemony. So the eschatological vision of Israel is of an internationally plural order, free from the unifying constraints of empire (71).

To summarise: the rule of Yhwh was conceived internationally; it secured the relations of the nations and directed them toward peace. But at the international level there was to be no unitary mediator, Israel never entertained the apologia for empire which we find developing in patristic and medieval sources, that the rule of a single world-power represented and mediated the universal rule of Yhwh as high-god. Yhwh’s world order was plurally constituted. World-empire was a bestial deformation. It was in this providential disposition of events that Yhwh’s rule was seen; and it was mediated only through the authority of prophets and the prophetic people. Israel did not speak of a ‘Natural Law’ because it felt no need to go back behind its own prophetic role to explain how Yhwh made his name known; Israel was itself the messenger. But it thought in terms of a law which could and would bind the nations universally. To propose a generalised statement: the appropriate unifying element in international order is law rather than government. (72)

This is O’Donovan’s fifth theorem.

Fifth theorem: ‘The appropriate unifying element in international order is law rather than government.’ (72)

No political structure can claim to encompass all humanity (73). Law can shape relations between nations, but not government. There are always ‘others’ whom we must respect and encounter.

Israel has a fundamental collective identity. But there is an emerging role for the individual. This creates O’Donovan’s sixth theorem:

Sixth theorem: ‘The conscience of the individual members of a community is a repository of the moral understanding which shaped it, and may serve to perpetuate it in a crisis of collapsing morale or institution.’ (80)

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure …

Yesterday we had another ‘vision Saturday’ when the congregations and teams in the Edge Network come together. We’re looking at a series of ‘identities’ that are ours in Christ and which should define who we are and shape how we live. This time it was heirs of God. I began with a story …

Let me tell you a story that Jesus once told. Jesus said the kingdom of God was a bit like this.

A man was walking home from working in the fields when he decided to take a short-cut across a scrubby area that never seemed to be used for anything. There was no clear path through the field so he picked his way through as best he could. About two-thirds of the way across he tripped suddenly and fell into the long grass. A few inches from where he fell he saw to his surprise a piece of metal sticking out of the ground. Curious, he pulled away the grass and brushed off the top soil. It was the metal corner of wooden chest. He tugged away the tufts of grass and dug away at the soil. He pulled and twisted the chest until it was free. He paused. And then lifted its lid. Inside were jewels, pendants, gold coins – all covered in dust, but clearly extremely valuable.

What was he to do?

Continue reading