I saw this video from a fellow blogger that I like to follow. I find NT Wright to be very enlightening for todays Christians. Though he sits in a tradition where an older, higher liturgy is upheld, he has good insights for those who have a more open worship style or have no tradition of worship (or even no tradition of christianity). Let me know what you think.
I was studying Revelation recently. I just wanted to do a word study on how the word new is used. Looking into the word reminded of the old game shows where someone was waiting to see what was behind door number one.
“A NEW CAR”
“A NEW BOAT”
“A NEW BEDROOM”
The host was excited. So was the contestant. Even I was excited, since I was yelling at my screen that they should pick 7 instead of 3. There is something exciting about getting something free.
Revelation is kind if like that. Christ is busy revealing himself to John, the seven churches, and to us. All throughout the book is a form of epic where good was pitted against evil and won.
At first John shows us through two churches (Pergamum and Philadelphia) in Chapter 2 and 3 of Revelation. If you take time to read it, it shows us that we have a new name. In case you’re wondering, the obvious name that we end up having is Israel, which in turn is us taking on the name of Christ. We are victorious in Christ and we are seen as the Israel of the New Covenant, to steal a term from the writer of Hebrews.
I think it is significant that each and every individual, when they place themselves in the hands of God by identifying with Christ, can find themselves as part of the movement of a new name and a new identity (at least new in the sense that Christ is not a very old name in the world at the time that John is writing this).
And as we journey further into Revelation, we hear the mighty, victorious characters singing new songs to an even mightier and victorious King (5:19 & 14:3). In the two references they both are new songs and we can’t help but here the promise that God is great and has acted on our behalf. Can you imagine wondering if the emperor was going to say that Christians need to be sought out and beheaded tomorrow like these Christians did and hear this letter? To modernize it, imagine Congress passing a law forbidding public prayer, Bible recitation, or even wearing a cross. If you do, you get life or a death sentence. Now imagine someone writing you a letter. A letter that seems beyond your imagination. How could there be saints and great ones of God singing songs that are new and full of joy and adoration? How can we sing at all in the moments of the “dark night of the soul?”
The dark night of the soul…
Sounds like something we have all experienced at one point or another.
A parent or child dies,
A unexpected bill comes in when the budget is already not enough,
A man is humiliated because of his race, class, or position on theological things.
You could make the list go on forever. But what John knows is that believers in his day were in a very dark night. They were the minority. The were not a legitimate religion in the eyes of society. Lies were developing about them like they all sleep with each other, they burned down Rome, or they eat people when they worship.
Things keep coming up.
and when you think they can’t take any more,
society periodically keeps hurting them or killing them.
We all go through different shades of the night. Some of us have clouds covering the moon and we have to feel around with only the light of hope to guide us. Some of us still have moon light. Not the most optimal light, but it at least makes you confident in the next step.
But one thing is for sure, we see a great light peering over the horizon.
For 2000 years it has been rising.
And one day, we will see that fullest light. It will warm our cold hearts completely.
We will see and no longer slumber.
No one will slumber.
That is what is new in Revelation. John has seen the coming dawn just barely peeping over the mountain. And wants us to see that.
Whether you live in the West or other places in the world where Christianity is left alone or even honored or you live in parts of the world where people are suspicious or even hostile to the Gospel, God is breaking in. He is doing a new thing. Christ is making all things new (21:5). He was continuing that in John’s day and he does it in ours.
Granted, fallen nature is still around us in death and oppression and wrongs people do.
But there are plenty of instances in the history of God’s action that good inspired by Him has happened. I hope Christians keep pursuing what is new and sing the new songs of those who live for His glory.
So when we are oppressed and marginalized, let’s remember that light is coming over the mountain. And when we see others going through night, let’s remember to point them towards that light, at least by walking towards it if not telling them about it. Let’s share the light with oppressors in loves since that too is walking towards the light. And remember that when the new day comes, God will look down to us and with that loud and thunderous voice say,
“YOU ARE MINE, BECAUSE I SAW YOU WALKING TOWARDS MY LIGHT.”
Grace and peace to those who seek the new kingdom and the new king who was and is.
A little while back I heard a sermon with the topic calling Christians to be pastors and leaders of churches. The sermon had much truth in it, but one particular point did bring up questions about Christianity and the Church. The speaker had the pastors and those called to be pastors called on stage. It was an interesting move and I was intrigued to see where he went with it. He proceeded to say that even though all of us are saved and had our place in the Kingdom to serve, it was the men and women on the stage that were part of a deeper calling.
In a sense, I got it.
They have a different role.
But I can’t help but wonder if there is an undercurrent of clergy versus laymen sneaking into the Churches. So let’s explore what is the Biblical view of leading roles in the church.
In looking for the word pastor, I only found one. Ephesians 4:11. I thought it was odd that it only found in the NLT once, so I looked it in greek. To my surprise, the word only means Shepherd, which is used many times in the New Testament as well as the Old Testament. Pastors are merely watching the flock. Making sure the sheep/people are taken care of. It’s an important role for now while the Great Shepherd is gone, but more on that in a second since it ties in with another role.
You might be asking why I am mentioning something generally attributed to pastors, but the New Testament has a more wide open tradition than the Church today.
The word preacher is found 1 Timothy 2:7 and 2 Timothy 1:11 in the english. The greek uses a word that is a term for an official herald or a public announcer (sometimes of a divine being). Paul says that he is God’s herald in these cases, though he say that it is only because God gave it to him. He reflects a person who is lowering himself to being under a more important being and cause.
This word is used many times for people who proclaim things. The high value proclamation in the New Testament is about the Good News that God is still working out a good plan for the world He created. That is something that all Christians are commanded to do.
Some translations have the term in 1 Corinthians 8:18. Although the word itself is not there in the greek, the idea of proclaiming the Good News is there.
It makes sense that preaching is not a limited activity by leaders in the Church, but by all of God’s children.
I know some people from some traditions use this position. Trust me, I am not wanting you to deconstruct and trash your traditions, but to see them with a good light. Elders are from the word we get Episcopal from. In the greek, it can mean a position of responsibility or oversight. It is seen mostly in I Timothy 3:1-2, 5:19, Titus 1:6, and 1 Peter 5:1-4.
The important passage for my purposes 1 Peter. It starts with the term for Elders. So we recognize that there are Elders in the New Testament on some level.
However, the Greek muddles up a couple roles. Peter starts talking about shepherding and the Great Shepherd. Sound familiar? Look back to the Pastor section.
Which is it?
I think it’s safe to say that there is not one position over the other, nor is there a differentiation in Peter’s eyes. Pastor is shepherd is elder. What is the most important part is that Peter says they are going to see the Great Shepherd revealed one day(look ahead to Revelation). When that happens, there will be no other shepherd worthy of mention. No name above that name of Jesus.
This is another position that some denominations use. Once again, I am not saying ditch your tradition, but keep trying to see it in a good light.
What is a deacon? That is something that you could get a million answers to. One thing that is definitely true is that the New Testament had people that were called by that name. The meaning, however, was slightly different than how we might use it today. Every New Testament use except for 1 Timothy means servant/minister (this is my opinion even for Romans 16:1). This is interesting. This shows the highly valued term to be that of simply a servant, which is a reflection of Christ Philippians 2:1-11 and Romans 15:8.
So we have pastors (shepherds), preachers (public announcers), elders (episcopal ?), and deacons (servants). Some of what we have talked about is applied to pastors of today and sometimes leaders in the church. Other things sound more like things all christians should be doing. Although we probably might disagree on how the specifics of the roles should work, what we can agree on is that it must reflect Christ. If you have to be a leader be a servant.
Do not just say it…
be the servant.
We do no have to be afraid of the positions of authority since they have a purpose, but you do not have to be a pastor or deacon or elder to do the work of the King..
Just be a servant and reflect Christ.
Hear the words of N.T. Wright, “There are…no “special Christians. Ordination, for those called to it, is simply a sub-branch of Baptism, setting certain persons aside (as in Ephesians 4) so that, through their ministry, the whole baptized body of Christ may continue to function as such and grow together to maturity. Every Christian has a different calling. But all callings are marked with the same water, the same cross.”
Pastors, this means be humble, because you are in your place because God allowed you to be there.
Everyone else, be ready to do something.
Grace and peace.