Kingdom Principle: Order and Hierarchy bring Movement and Mystery
|Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 Psalm 8||Romans 5:1-5||John 16:12-15|
Ever ordered food at a drive thru and felt like they didn’t get a word right… because what you asked for is not what you received… unfortunately that is often how the church interacts with those who are hurting (or hungry) in the world. People come seeking one thing… often not really caring who is on the other side of the “window” yet hoping to find something that will satisfy their current and immediate need. When the church even with good intention goes on to solve a problem (be it eternal) that the seekers are not even aware of, their response to the church is a blanket rejection. Bill Johnson (of Bethel Church) captured this concept beautifully a year ago (a quick 2 min video). When someone comes to a drive thru to order a cheeseburger, they don’t want a dietary explanation of why vegetarian is a better choice.
The lectionary calendar leads us to Trinity Sunday. When it comes to answering the question of the Trinity… the early church (first 150 years) did not truly even ask the question of how to explain the Trinity. Then for centuries it was debated and caused division throughout the church and today it continues to do the same. However, while the word Trinity is not even in the Bible, the Word of God speaks of the Trinitarian relationship as if it is a matter of fact and never seeks to solve it or truly explain it. It just is…. Imagine ordering a cheeseburger, and first getting a descriptive explanation of how to slaughter a cow, might you lose your appetite? How might those who are wondering if even God exists, get lost in the crossfire of the best way to explain the Trinity. Yet that is what I am trained as a Master of Divinity to do– explain the Trinity. I have a certificate and many papers to prove it… but that will not be the blog here! (3 cheers!) In fact it will be just the opposite. If we approach the Trinity as if it simply is a matter of fact – how then are to move forward and experience this reality? This I believe this has been captured in a book called The Shack, by William P. Young. For many this book contains heresy about the Trinity and has been blasted by some in the church as being a road to universalism. I do not share this view, because I do not read The Shack as a theological treaty, nor an attempt to solve the ontological aspects of the Trinity… (look it up if you care & if you know what it means you’re more than likely already irritated with this post.) The Shack answers the question of “Where is God when bad things happen?”, “How do I find peace in my life when evil abounds?”, “Is there healing from pain?”, “Is God distant and angry?”. These are the questions that society is asking, and this book seeks to show how great and mysterious God is, not how to divide God into three “modes” or persons to understand God. Rather the focus is, “How do I move in the direction of a God that is already moving in my direction?” Listen to a short interview (7 min) with William P. Young as he explains what is behind the book. As he says it took him personally 38 years to return to his own shack experience and 11 years to go through it… that is the journey of many in this world. That’s 49 years where suffering produced perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. There is no short-cut to character in this life, and yet without character you will never truly enjoy hope.
When Jesus looks at his disciples with compassion and tells, them, there is more I wish to tell you, but you simply can’t bear it… it is a wonder how he was able to tell them anything at all. He does not tell them, toughen up, or listen here, he tells them there is hope and that hope comes through the Holy Spirit. What is essential, is that Jesus revealed only what the Father told him to reveal. Even though there was more truth to share, it was their faith which was imperative, not their thinking or even understanding. It is a good thing that peace is a result of faith and not understanding.(Phil 4:7) This peace is a gift that as we seek the truth of the Holy Spirit, He alone can and will give it to us. Again, the Holy Spirit only speaks to us what he hears for Jesus. Here is the reality of the Trinity, there is a flow from the Father, to the Son through the Spirit to all who are listening. To those who are listening they hear that God is delighting in mankind. Even that thought might be too much for some to bear.
The paradox of this post on the Trinity – is not the Love that takes place in a Shack or that you always get your order right at a drive thru, it is that God in perfect union (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) enjoys a perfect relationship, operating in a hierarchical structure. You may have heard it said, “three-in-one”, and all are the “same substance”, yet there is a mysterious hierarchy in the Trinity. As I highlight the message flows from the Father, to the Son, through the Holy Spirit to all the world. (to explain this further would be to give an explanation of the economy of the Trinity – not going there either…) The same hierarchy is true for humanity and the angels, and it that we are created a bit lower than the angels. Yet we are rulers over the animals of the globe. (Another post later may look at how this hierarchy shifts after Christ’s return.) But for now – How does the reality of a hierarchy blend with perfect unity? The answer returns to Love. How else can a Holy God, lift up an Unholy people to rule and be in relationship with Him? Love.
Finally, since God is mindful of the “little” humans on the earth, even going so far as to rejoice and delighting in them. How might we response to this? The answer is simple – open thy ears and heart to hear what is being said by the Spirit. God has chosen to offer redemption for all suffering, that His creation may boast in the hope of the glory of God. This is what that message means for humanity who turn to God, they shall overcome all shame and suffering. That is the great Love Shack. What does that have to do with the Trinity? Everything. Jesus in the power of the Spirit, lived out the will of the Father, such that he overcame the shame of the cross and the suffering of death. We to must live out this hierarchical paradox, being rulers of this world, heirs of God, yet the least shall be the greatest and the first shall be last and all this shall come through suffering by which we boast in the hope of the Glory of God.
Making this tangible – befriend someone who is clearly of a different “class” than you… you may attempt to befriend someone of a higher class than you but it will most likely not work, unless they know God’s love. Therefore as most assume, you will be better off to befriend someone of a lower class. –The key to all of this is that you do not move in judgment – yet how then are you to assess who is of a lower class of people without judgment. You must wait on the Lord to lead you, and then you must be led from love and not power. (Or know that you are of the lowest class of people, “chief among sinners as Paul saw it, then you are limited to only befriending up.) This is why the Trinity is so hard to grasp, God’s love flows perfectly not only through the Father, Son and Spirit, but also to all of creation. This little exercise will be amazing if you are willing to try it. Truly try to share your love with another who is of another “class”. Seek God, Listen to his voice (let God bring someone to you – if you dare) and let your life become a testimony of hope to someone who is stuck in shame or suffering. If you discover a new relationship you have entered Love Shack of God.