One of Brian McLaren’s books is entitled, ‘A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, anabaptist/anglican, methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.’
Christian traditions may specially value liturgy and ‘sacraments’, ritual forms and aesthetics, justice and ethics, or the text of the Bible. They may have an altar at the front of their meetings, or a crucifix, or an empty cross, or an open Bible. But the ultimate place to experience God is among us ourselves, in the Church community.
We ourselves are the ‘icon’ (Genesis 1:27 in the Greek, Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 11:7; 2 Corinthians 3:18) and even the ‘idol’ (Genesis 1:27 in the Hebrew) of God. We are the ‘body of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 12). We are ‘letters from Christ’ (2 Corinthians 3), demonstrating his resurrection to the world.
In John 16:7, Jesus didn’t say, ‘It’s good for you that I’m going away, because I’m leaving with you this really great book, the Bible’! He said he was sending us the Holy Spirit, so that instead of words, we could be pictures. Like Jesus (John 1), the Church is Word made flesh!
The Bible isn’t just ancient history, on our shelves or even just in our minds. It’s in our blood. It’s our history, the story that we are now part of. We are the community that inherits and lives this message out. The history of Israel’s kings began with the prophet Samuel, and prophecy died when there was longer a king. But John the Baptist heralded the new King of Israel, Jesus, and now that He’s enthroned, he gives gifts to His people, and we have to prophesy!
It’s the Christian community, the Church, with all its failings, that’s God’s voice to the world. The Church is the tangible expression of his ultimate revelation in Jesus.
When you get together, each person has a song or something to teach the others or a revelation to share or a message in a miraculous language or a translation of it. Whatever you do, just make sure it encourages the others. (1 Corinthians 14:26)
We sing ‘enthusiastically’ (a word derived from the Greek ‘en theos’, which means, ‘in God’), because of all that God is and has done.
Don’t go looking for Jesus up there in heaven or down in the grave – God’s ultimate revelation is already among you – in the heart and soul of the Church itself! (Romans 10:6-8)