Monday, May 13, 2013

Simply Jesus, by N.T. Wright

Chapter 15 – Jesus: The Ruler of the World

1.  “What on earth does it mean, today, to say that Jesus is king, that he is Lord of the world?  How can we say such a thing in our confused world?”  This is the prominent question that runs throughout Wright’s final chapter.  As we are introduced to four fictional representatives of divergent faith positions (Andy, Billy, Chris, and Davie), Wright exposes the challenges of addressing our opening question with any kind of continuity.

So, what’s your position?  What does it mean to you to say that Jesus is king and Lord of this world?

2.  Wright notes, “God intended to rule the world through human beings.  Jesus picks up this principle, rescues it, and transforms it.”  We are at the very center of this rescue operation, as were his disciples.  This is the kingdom work over which Jesus presides through “the Body of Christ,” the church.

What does it mean to you to be both “the rescued” and “the rescuers” in Jesus’ kingdom?  How does one lead to the other?  How has this relationship of receiving and giving changed your outlook on faith, as well as your interaction with others?

3.  “The kingdom work is rooted in worship.”  This becomes “the most politically charged act we can ever perform.”  In other words, Jesus is Lord and nobody else.  Uff da…that’s going to make the big shots mad!  “Worship orients our whole being, our imagination, our will, our hopes, and our fears away from the world where (violence, money, and sex) make absolute demands and punish anyone who resists.  It orients us instead to a world in which love is stronger than death, the poor are promised the kingdom, and chastity reflects the holiness and faithfulness of God himself.” 

How has this reality – this life-changing act of worship – shaped your outlook on life & your participation in this kingdom work?

4.  Wright goes on to point out the obvious:  that human beings mess up…a lot.  When Christian leaders mess up, it becomes even messier, since the world seems eager to hoist up the shortcomings of all involved.  Wright counters this by noting that the vast majority of Christians, while sinful, are seeking to be faithful.  Second, he urges us to remember that “the way Jesus worked then and now is through forgiveness and restoration.”  And third, “The way in which Jesus exercises his sovereign lordship in the present time includes his strange, often secret, sovereignty over the nations and their rulers.”

“What does this mean?  How does the kingship of Jesus, at work in the wider world, relate to the specific vocation of the church to be Jesus’ agents in implementing his sovereign rule?”

5.  Wright sums up this chapter and the entire book:  “We live in the period of Jesus’ sovereign rule over the world…a reign that has not yet been completed, since, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, he must reign until ‘he has put all his enemies under his feet,’ including death itself.”  “This present age is indeed the age of the reign of Jesus the Messiah”…and will be complete upon his return at the second coming.

“What the church does, in the power of the Spirit, is rooted in the achievement of Jesus and looks ahead to the final completion of his work.  This is how Jesus is running the world in the present.  Jesus has all kinds of projects up his sleeve and is simply waiting for faithful people to say their prayers, to read the signs of the times, and to get busy.”

Our common ELCA mission statement is very simple:  God’s work, our hands.  We are invited to join Jesus in his kingdom work, here and now.  “This is, quite simply,” Wright concludes, “what it looks like when Jesus is enthroned.”

How does this free us and invite us for service in Jesus’ name?