Have you ever wondered why our savior is a Jewish man from Nazareth?
In Peru, I sometimes get the question: “What religion are you?” And while the person asking the question is usually just wondering if I’m a Catholic or a Christian, I answer: “I follow a man from Nazareth who was killed 2000 years ago and who I believe was raised to life.” That usually raises some eyebrows. It also gives me a chance to have a more meaningful conversation.
In the beginning God created the universe and wanted to fill it with God’s presence. God decided to share that mission with humanity, so God gave humans the capacity to reflect God into the world. Seeing a world full of people who did not know God, God chose the family of Abraham and Sarah to bring the blessing of God’s presence to all the families of the earth.
In Jesus, God doubles down on the bet to redeem the earth through the family of Abraham and Sarah.
In the most startling missionary move of all time, God joins the story in a new, unexpected way. Heaven and earth meet as God becomes human and lives with messy, broken people. Jesus of Nazareth travels from town to town broadcasting the good news that God is now in charge. God’s reign breaking into darkness and death means salvation, reconciliation and life.
Jesus, in startling continuity with God’s mission from the very beginning, confronts the power of death, destruction, shame and accusation. And by lovingly accepting evil’s very worst, defeats death. The resurrection marks the beginning of the new world as God had always intended. In Jesus, God redeems the mission to bless all the families of the earth, taking the worlds’ sins on himself and bringing reconciliation to all things, enabling love, hope and healing.
Fast-forward to the end of the story. Finally: people from every nation, tribe, family and language worshiping God. They experience the fullness of God’s presence in a new heaven and new earth, where there is no more chaos. God will actually live in this New Creation with humanity, and there won’t be any more death, mourning, crying or pain. New Creation is full of people who would know and love God, reflecting the image of the Creator.
Now, back to our chapter of the story.
Brokenness still dominates. Despair oozes. Death looms. The world’s wrongs have not yet been made right. What Jesus began hasn’t been finished. The mission to reconcile the ends of the earth continues.
Through whom does the mission continue? Someway, somehow: through Jesus’s followers.
Wait a second.
Because of Jesus, reconciliation overcomes brokenness. Hope overtakes despair. Wrongs are righted. And it’s the church that carries on the mission. Christians are to be conduits of God’s presence. Jesus is still the one sustaining everything, and it’s still God’s mission, but Spirit-led people are called to live out the New Creation in the midst of an old one.
Will you join me?
P.S. – This Sunday’s sermon in the second half of a story I started two weeks ago. If you want to catch up, you can watch here.