Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Advent and politics

Biblical scholars and theologians such as John Howard Yoder have helped us see that the coming of Jesus was indeed political. Jesus' coming had to do with all of life, not just with the inner world of the individual. The kingdom of God come in Jesus brings in the beginning of the new creation and this began at the coming of Jesus: his Incarnation, life and ministry, death, resurrection, ascension and pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Jesus' coming said, in a day when Casear was considered both "son of God" and "Lord", that those titles belong to Jesus. Yet at the same time Jesus taught to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. Jesus seemed uninterested in dealing directly with the powers and trying to be a part of the world system. Instead he speaks of a kingdom not from this world and not living according to it. This is the heart of his kingdom come and now present "in Jesus" and in those who are in Jesus, his church.

To say Jesus' coming and the kingdom of God is political is to say that it really is concerned about all of life: the personal, communal and systemic; local, national and international. But it is one that infiltrates, I believe, especially through the people of God in Jesus, the church and the church's act and proclamation of the good news of Jesus in the world. And in the tradition of Daniel, Esther and early Christians in various stations of life, it is one that is salt and light in whatever corner or calling one is found in, and having potentially a major impact for its time.

I believe Jesus' coming is subversive in a transformative way within the system. It makes a big difference potentially even now. Herod could have been a part of that if he would have bowed his knees in repentance to the newborn king. In fact no matter what form of government is in play in this world, even in most trying circumstances brought on by it, acknowledging the King of kings and Lord of lords, the one exalted over all- can help in this world and existence to make a difference. But it's one of a subtle nature through the church and through members of the church at work in society. Not one of directly overthrowing this world order, which awaits the return of Jesus to this world, the Second Advent.

These are rather preliminary thoughts I have on this. Have you thought about this, and whether you have or not, what would you like to share here?

17 comments:

L.L. Barkat said...

Funny sometimes... Christians cannot see Jesus as being in any way political. But secular rulers, oh boy. Do they see it! History certainly tells that story.

Also, just because Jesus didn't become a Caesar (he was Jewish anyway, so this wouldn't have made sense) doesn't mean he didn't confront Caesar with the political truth that is based on a great spiritual truth ("You would have no power over me if it had not been given you.")

Ted M. Gossard said...

L.L.,
Thanks for sharing that, and certainly true. Helpful and the Scripture you quote is worthy of reflection with reference to Christian theologies that grapple with this.

In a certain way Jesus and the kingdom of God in him is ABOVE this world yet that does not negate the fact that it is IN the world while not of it.

I think Scot's work through Colossians Remixed demonstrates to me, if I understand it correctly, what I'm trying to say here in this post, which means the authors of that book are reading more or something different in Colossians than what is actually there- in a major part of what they're saying.

NaNcY said...

this morinng i was given thought about what bread and water is to life. and so can relate to how much it is to life. how bread and water is put in and goes through and is used and is can be shared.

the bread...the water...the Father through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. their power is not bound by our ways and our thinking here in the physical world. God's power is a part of all life. all l i f e. not just what we see with our eyes. all of life is what we know with our heart.

if you are with God, you are connected to God. can any of us grip what that means? it is all the heart can hold and more.

also, when reading your words, i was given thought as to...

what belongs to casear.

what belongs to any human? casear, bush, you, me, any human?

the answer is nothing.

nothing belongs to us, however, we belong to God or evil. our only real choice. and what we give is who we belong to. God is the impact, we are God's vessel.

NaNcY said...

if we are with God.
whatever we come in contact with
will get God
head on
in the face
that is what we give out...
God

the heart of others, the mind of others, the enemy, all is confronted with God.

if we are with God
God is in us

God confronts, goes in, through, around.

we are walking God vessels. we have not the mind to understand all of the power and meaning of that. but our heart understands and buzzes with the life that we can not yet know.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Nancy,
I take it that in God's order of things, he makes it so that there is certain things that are due to each other and to "rulers" or governing officials. Certainly respect for the office they occupy, and honor for those who do well in the fulfilling of this responsibility from God. Fear in the sense of respecting the authority given to them by God. And a certain respect for all people simply because they are made in God's image, Eikons of God.

In a true sense of course, what you say is correct. God is the soruce and we owe nothing to each other apart from God's just and good will. God makes it in that will, that we do owe something. Even Peter told his readers (1 Peter I think) to honor the emperor. But apart from God and his will it's certainly true that we are lost from our true mooring and what we give or think is owed us is empty and meaningless in a true sense, apart from that grounding and source in God.

I like your thought what we give ends up being who/what we belong to: God or evil. Lots of truth in that. Certainly everyone's life and power and ability is a gift from God and all ought to fall on our faces in thanksgiving and awe to God the Giver.

Thanks for sharing and thinking through this.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Nancy,
I think your point is well taken about us as vessels of God. This is evident in ways that both can draw others and repel them because it's not easy for any of us to be in the presence/face of God, and yet this is where all goodness and blessing come from. And we need it more than we can imagine, unsettling as that is.

Kim said...

Ted, Your emergent leanings are leaking through! I don't want to get all serious on you at this festive time of year.

I just can't help imagining James Dobson wholeheartedly agreeing with you that Jesus was political and the emergents having a cow!

You know I love you brother Ted. Just trying to keep it light. Merry Christmas. Kim

Steve Hayes said...

The first Christian missionaries to Zululand went to the king to ask permission to spread their message, and the king saw the subversive implications immediately, just as Herod did.

The missionaries tried to rationalise it away, which they were so used to doing in Western culture that they weren't even aware that they were doing it, but the Zulu king was having nonw of it. If this Jesus is king of kings, where does that leave me, he wanted to know. He had no intention of playing second fiddle to anyone.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Kim,
Yes. But I just don't see Jesus enmeshed in either the political right or the political left. I think his words would hit both, since both have some serious issues, I believe, with due respect to those involved and in leadership in them.

The world keeps on turning so it's hard to be light even during this season. But there's a time for lightness. And I hope we can be celebrative and festive now, for sure, just as you say. We have good reason to be in Jesus.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Steve,
Good point. I wonder how this plays out in my American context and particularly in regard to governing officials, or maybe the entire system.

Surely in Jesus we're meant to be a challenge, but when I read Paul in Romans 13 and Peter in 1 Peter, I'm not sure we're to be a challenge to overthrow the established order.

That king of Zululand as any king would need to know that he would have his place if he ruled justly and with mercy- for he is accountable to the King of kings. Maybe in his case he did not want such accountability. And maybe in the case of some, they see themselves as the sovereign beyond their actual appointed sphere.

Thanks for sharing that with us. Interesting.

RonMcK said...

Ted
You seem to want to have your cake and eat it too. It is easy to say, Jesus is Lord, but who can say Jesus is President. If George W is president, Jesus cannot President.

Pushing Jesus' Presidency (kingship) until after the second coming, does not help, as Jesus said his presidency was near, when he came in the flesh.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Ron,
Interesting thoughts, and thanks.

I see Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords, and that all are answerable to him. I see the church as the one holy nation, scattered throughout the earth; that is the Theocracy of this time, with Jesus as the Head, and the kingdom of God present in Jesus, and therefore in that holy nation. Yes, God is sovereign over all in other ways too, but the beginning of the kingdom come is here.

I'm not sure what you're getting at when you say if George W. is president, than Jesus cannot be. But President Bush and all world rulers have authority that really inheres in God, and therefore they will be judged and dealt with accordingly. I see this as the working dynamic now, until Jesus returns.

RonMcK said...

We play with words. It is easy to say that Jesus is king in America, because you do not have a king. It is funny why christians never say, Jesus is President. The reason is that you alredy have one. You cannot serve to Presidents.You cannot have two kings.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Ron,
We don't see our presidents as kings, even if it is true that Andrew Jackson tried to change the presidency towards a monarchy. The checks and balances we have here limit the power of the President.

Jesus is Lord, but this nation is not a theocracy, nor any on earth except the one, true holy nation in Jesus, scattered throughout all the earth.

So I don't see this as a play on words, but a different concept theologically and in reference to eschatology. The future indeed is here, but it is in the church, I believe, in Jesus.

RonMcK said...

Ted
The reality is that your President has more power and authority than King David had. David was subject to checks and balances too. President George has far more power and authority than had King George III.

The truth is that you have pledged allegiance to two Lords, masters, whatever you want to call them. You justify this divided loyalty by calling one king and the other president.

If your nation has a king and you have pledged allegiance to that king, it is hard to call Jesus king. If you believe Jesus is king, it is hard to pledge allegiance to a human king, because we cannot serve two kings.

Jesus is President would be a valid paraphrase of Jesus is Lord. It would be more meaningful in American, where you do not have any experience of kingship or lordship. However, I bet you would stuggle to pledge that "Jesus is President" or "No President but Jesus". Yet that is what people who live in kingdoms have to do.

You can have divided loyalty and pretend that it is not there, because you use different words. People ruled by a human king cannot do that. "No king but Jesus", becomes a subversive statement.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Ron,
Thanks for your continued good thoughts on this, and the good spirit in which you express them.

I have trouble pledging allegiance to the flag, not because I'm against America, but because I'm not sure that such allegiance is compatible to the sole allegiance that belongs only to Christ Jesus our Lord.

Having said that, I'm just not all that sure that we in Jesus are to be so concerned about earthly kingdoms such as the United States. Our kingdom in Jesus is not from this world, though it is invading this world. But even so, it just does seem that what Paul and Peter calls Christians to do, as well as what is not said, leads me to think that we should not have the idea, that we have to make Jesus President or King of this world. I don't think we're called or enabled to do that.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Ron,
Let me add to that that I see Jesus as Lord of the Church. And I see the Church as the people of God today, the one holy nation, and in that sense a theocracy. And Jesus has that special rule of the kingdom of God, only in the Church. While God: Father, Son and Spirit have a general rule over all. This special rule, which is to take place-of the Triune God, is in the Church.