I don’t leave home to go on trips out of town very often but this afternoon I will be headed to Durham, North Carolina for the Duke Divinity School ‘Summer Institute’ hosted by their Center for Reconciliation. I will be taking part in a week-long seminar, titled: ‘Making Peace with the Land‘ taught by Norman Wirzba and Fred Bahnson who just wrote a book of the same name: ‘Making Peace With the Land: GOD’s Call to Reconcile with Creation‘. This is the last book in a serious of books on the theme of Christian faith and GOD’s ‘ministry of reconciliation’ that has been given to us as ‘ambassadors’ of His eternal Kingdom -which is both: here now and still yet to be fully manifested.
I believe this book is one of the most important books for Christians to read right now. We, as the Church, Christians from every stream and culture, are in deep need of hearing and absorbing this message into our lives. It is not just a message about ‘creation care’ – caring for the world our Creator has given to us. This message is about the Gospel of Jesus – and the reality that GOD’s Creation is bound up in our destiny. This is a message that implores us to leave behind an immature and partial understanding of GOD’s redemptive purposes and instead embrace the reality that GOD is not going to scrap this world while we fly away to a disembodied paradise. In the end, Scripture teaches us, this “present evil age’ will end with a day of reckoning – but it doesn’t stop there – we go on to glorious, bodily resurrection and a New Heavens and a New Earth. This created order will be made new just as our bodies will be made new.
For too long we have dislocated spirit from soul and soul from body – but a truly holistic discipleship to Jesus must involve a whole Gospel for the whole ‘man’ – and one which has a solid view of how Creation is desperately waiting and groaning for our redemption. GOD’s Creation is longing for it’s liberation from the principles of sin and death – as are we. I believe the next hundred years of Christian renewal will involve cleansing ourselves of Gnostic and Platonic dualism that has called the material world evil and split GOD’s world in a great divorce between spirit and matter. And I also believe this renewal of our belief and practice will involve the restoration of our relationship with the land, our specific geographies, our communities of context, even our own bodies, and in general the ability to live out a faithful witness beyond the four walls of a church building. Our faith must go deeper, wider and must encompass all the compartments of our life that we have told Jesus: ‘this is not spiritual so I cannot be yoked to you or learn your ways in this realm of my life”.
This work of seeking a mature, embodied Christian discipleship- and living into the ‘restoration of all things’ – is what the Sustainable Traditions project is all about. We are stumbling towards the shalom – the wholeness – the reconciled community that is our inheritance in the Gospel of Jesus’ kingdom. My hope is that more and more of us will stumble, in the grace of GOD, towards this vision of a renewed people who dwell in GOD’s presence and manifest His love in an Age crumbling at it’s foundations. I believe a community-centric cultivating and stewarding of the land in what Russian noblewoman Catherine Doherty called ‘apostolic farming’ will be central to this vision.
So, as I go through the ‘Making Peace with the Land’ seminar this week I hope to blog about what I am learning and to further convince you that we cannot just be reconciled to GOD, and each other – but we must also be reconciled to GOD’s creation.
Here are a few excerpts from the book:
“Jesus’ miracles are not, as modern deists suppose, an “interruption” of the laws governing a body’s life; rather, they are the body’s liberation into wholeness. From a Christian point of view, there can be no Socratic-like hatred of bodies. Rather than seeking an escape from our bodies, we must hope and invest in their healing, reconciliation and redemption
Notice that a Christian view of the body does not take delight in bodies that are hungry, ill or wasting away. Much of Jesus’ ministry was devoted to the feeding, healing and touching of bodies. The Christian Scriptures show us that GOD’s created order is now in a state of pain and suffering. The effects of sin are everywhere visible to us. What the resurrection of Jesus teaches is that this state will not endure, because Christ has overcome sin and death. Christ calls his followers to take up his ministries of nurturing, feeding and healing. In so doing, we bear witness to the GOD who has never stopped loving the world.
The resurrection of reconciled bodies; this is the gospel’s good news. Without it, we and the whole world are lost. Without it, we may grow to despise creation…To affirm [the resurrection of the body] requires an entirely new way of thinking about GOD, the inestimable value of the material world and the meaning of life” (p.27-28)
“Scripture makes clear again and again that GOD is Emmanuel, GOD with us. This is why GOD became incarnate in Jesus. This is why GOD sends the Holy Spirit to live within us as our animating and inspiring breath and to direct us in the ways of heavenly life. This is why Revelation shows us that the grand climax of GOD’s cosmic drama has heaven descend to earth, because GOD’s dwelling will forevermore be among mortals (see Rev 21:1-4). The goal is not our souls’ escape from this world but the transformation of all creatures in their relationships with each other. The goal is that our embodied living radiates and becomes the perpetual expression of GOD’s glory.” (p.72)
If you are going to the Summer Institute as well, I look forward to seeing you there.
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