This World…and the Next…

“Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” (John 4:49) Such a poignant, human cry from deep in the heart of the royal official in today’s Gospel as – in desperation – he asks the local healer, Jesus, for help. It’s a strange thing to me how Christianity is so often misunderstood as an “other worldly” religion, primarily concerned with heaven and hell, and the concept of everlasting life!
 

Now, it’s certainly true that, from time to time, people do ask Jesus about such things in the Gospels. I think of the rich young ruler who asks what he has to do to inherit eternal life. Yet, even here, “eternal life” can mean “life lived from an eternal perspective,” “life in relationship with the Eternal One – the God of heaven and earth.”

 

And most of the time, people just ask Jesus for very practical, bread-and-butter assistance. Healing from disease, deliverance from evil, forgiveness, explanation of his teaching or about the Law, why he and his disciples live like they do, when the Kingdom of God is going to come in its fullness. Even his preaching about the Kingdom of God is primarily about this world – about the Reign and Sovereignty of God in this life…not just the life to come!

 

In that, Jesus is very consistent with the whole message of the Law and the Prophets he came to fulfill.  After all, what did Isaiah promise in our first Reading today? “New heavens” yes, but also “a new earth!” What does God promise his people?

“Jerusalem a joy, without weeping or the cry of distress…” in other words, Peace in the Middle East!

“No more…infant(s) that live but a few days…” in other words, An end to infant mortality!

“No old people who do not live out a lifetime…” in other words, Adequate health care and the eradication of disease!

“They shall build houses and inhabit them…” No more homelessness!

“They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit…”Agricultural reform, clean air and water!

“They shall not build and another inhabit…” No colonial expansion and invading other people’s land!

“They shall not labor in vain…” A living wage, and fair return for one’s work!

And finally, “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox…” Even the natural order will find a new harmony! 

 

Those who think our emphasis on the Millennium Development Goals is too “secular” should spend some time with the 65th Chapter of Isaiah…and with the life and teaching of our Savior, Jesus Christ! Of course, the Christian hope also includes our vision of heaven (which the Catechism describes as “eternal life in our enjoyment of God” BCP 862), but it primarily defines that even that hope as “living with confidence in the newness and fullness of life, and awaiting the coming of Christ in glory, and the completion of God’s purposes for the world.”

 

Surely those purposes include peace, and the end of killing…justice, and the end of suffering…and the healing of a little boy!   

      


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3 Responses to “This World…and the Next…”

  1. rwk Says:

    My “dissenting” parish has poured tens of thousands of dollars into micro-loans, orphanages, persons in prison, Katrina relief, crisis pregnancy centers among other things. If we were not “dissenting” I have no doubt our efforts would be highly lauded by TEC, but our dissent means that we are sued instead. It is not that we are opposed to the objectives of the MDG, it is making these the mission of the church that we oppose. We do these things because we believe we are called to do them, but they are not the mission of the church. They are not the Gospel. They are an outgrowth of belief in the Gospel. If the leadership of TEC cannot see that things like proposing a “Stations of the MDG”, to cite just one example, would be offensive to many then they are truly tone deaf to many within their ranks.

  2. ecubishop Says:

    Congratulations, rwk! Here is at least one TEC loyalist who does indeed “laud” your outreach efforts.

    The Presiding Bishop increasingly lists the “5 Marks of Mission” from MISSIO as more completely summarizing the mission of the Church. The MDG are simply “commentaries” on some of those and provide a focus which allows us to joint the mission of the Church with the broader mission Dei.

  3. Margaret Watson Says:

    Dear Ecubishop,

    I have just discovered your blog. I am fascinated and heartened by your discussion. I have searched for your biography, but to no avail. Please, dear Bishop, who/where are you?

    –Margaret

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