An Encompassing Christology – Molly Marshall – Baptist News Global

Thursday, July 23, 2015Columns

An encompassing Christology

God’s plan to bring all together through Christ is the fulcrum of Holy Scripture.

By Molly T. Marshall

The Baptist World Congress is assembling in Durban, South Africa, and it holds much promise because of its setting and its theme. South Africa manifests significance for the whole world because of its pursuit of truth and reconciliation following the gross indignities and violence of apartheid. The nonviolent approach of Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela prevented mass bloodshed, and their leadership bore witness to a pathway for peace. The practice of forgiveness, costly to be sure, opened a new route to a more just society.

Durban is a richly multicultural city, and Gandhi spent time here honing his own nonviolent resistance amidst diverse peoples. Indeed, this city is a great crossroads of Zulus, Afrikaans, Indians, and other tribal groups. As I observe the interactions across racial lines, I am encouraged by the process this country has undergone — and continues to perfect.

Baptist Christians will have opportunities to learn from varied communities as they experience mission opportunities in and around this city. Eager to hear the stories of how people make their way here, visitors will be enriched by the faith and endurance of those who have lived through perilous times. South Africa offers its distinctive gift of Ubuntu, the reality that we can only be by being together.

The theme for our gathering is “Christ the Door,” and it seems that this hinge of our faith is swinging wide open. I just attended a press conference where BWA General Secretary Neville Callam articulated an encompassing Christology. Known for his theological depth, he spoke of the Body of Christ as more than our insular congregational expressions; rather, Christ has significance for all God has called into being, which includes other ways of faith and this fragile earthly home.

Ever the theologian I thought further about the implications of this vision of Christ. I believe that he is engaging the expansive Pauline vision of the Risen Christ, through whom all things cohere, as the great Christ hymn of Colossians intones (1:17). The centrality of Christ can hardly be fathomed, and through him all things hold together. Indeed, Christ is the door through which God walks, and Christ is the door through whom humanity meets God. In my judgment, Baptists have spoken too narrowly of Jesus Christ, and we have often truncated his mission to saving the souls of those who confess their faith in him. The larger social implications are subordinated to this individualistic priority.

Because the Risen Christ extends God’s redemptive mission in promissory fashion for the whole world, there is a connection with all of humanity. That God’s very Word became flesh connects divine presence with all made in God’s own image. Choosing to be made after human likeness, God in Christ holds the door open for all. Such is the humility of God, according great dignity to humans to participate in God’s very life.

The Risen Christ thus encompasses more than the resurrection of Jesus. The corporate Christ, built up through the Spirit of life, makes room for both thematized faith (as Karl Rahner put it) of those who confess Christ explicitly and the inchoate longing of those seeking redemption. God’s plan to bring all together through Christ is the fulcrum of Holy Scripture.

It is refreshing to think anew of God in Christ reconciling the world. It is enervating to fathom that God’s wide mercy desires to include all. It is humbling to consider that God will use human beings as instruments of this ravishing grace, through whom God’s ineluctable pursuit is embodied.

The breadth of Baptist life points to the larger reality of God’s mission in the world. Some 40 million strong in 177,000 churches, Baptist Christians bear a particular witness to God’s desire to bring unity through Christ into being. There are representatives from countries in conflict here; Russians and Ukrainians, for example, will worship together in this congress. Baptists who disagree over sacramental theology will receive communion together; and Baptists who divide over the role of women in ministry will hear a Bulgarian woman preach in plenary worship. Our unity is larger because Jesus Christ is the door. In Christ the walls of partition are coming down, and an open door is set before us. As we study, worship and break bread together in these days in Durban, I trust we will better understand the height and depth and length and breadth of God’s love in Christ Jesus. Christ is our peace, and we can become one as we walk through this door together.

OPINIONViews expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.

Twelve Days of Christmas – Seven

My seventh of the extended Twelve Days of Christmas came before July 17th which is the date I have chosen for each month because it is my wife’s birthday and St. Patrick’s Day. I am happy to report that I did follow through and it does feel good.

I have marked my 2015 calendar for each of the twelve months as a way of extending the wonderful spirit of Christmas throughout the entire year. My hope is that others will join in the spirit and make it a wonderful time for all of us. It does not need to be a grand gesture. Just make it something simple. Something you will do. If it becomes over complicated we will not do it.

I am writing this as a part of my accountability to myself to remind me to follow through. We all have great intentions, but follow through is always the test. Please join me as we go through the year. Help brighten someone’s day.

Twelve Days of Christmas – Sixth Follow Through

My sixth of the extended Twelve Days of Christmas came before June 17th which is the date I have chosen for each month. I am happy to report that I did follow through and it does feel good. I have made it half way through the year.

I have marked my 2015 calendar for each of the twelve months as a way of extending the wonderful spirit of Christmas throughout the entire year. My hope is that others will join in the spirit and make it a wonderful time for all of us. It does not need to be a grand gesture. Just make it something simple. Something you will do. You will be amazed about how even the simplest acknowledgement of another person can make a tremendous difference in a person’s life. It might only be a smile, a touch, a note, a telephone call or an email.

Of course, we are free to do more than one act of kindness. Several a day would be nice. Just do at least one or more on or before the date you have selected.

Charleston was hit this week with a terrible act of hate. We have created an atmosphere where it is alright to hate. Much of it stems from the hate speech that surrounds us. If I tell you just don’t hate, what does that mean? If I tell you to say something nice. You have something to aim for. Our speech reveals what is in our hearts. Say something nice to every person you meet. Let’s change the dialogue.

I am writing this as a part of my accountability to myself to remind me to follow through. Follow through on our good intentions is always the test.

Where’s Barnabas? : Doyle Sager: Baptists News

UESDAY, MAY 26, 2015COLUMNS

It is impossible to measure the positive impact we can have when we develop the habit of encouragement.

By Doyle Sager

One of my favorite scenes from the movie Christmas Vacation has Clark Griswold standing in his front yard with wife, children, parents and in-laws. They are shivering in the December cold, admiring the gaudy but brilliant Christmas lights which Clark has just strung all over the house. But this light display has come at great cost. He has had many disappointments with dead bulbs and tangled wires. He has fallen off his ladder and worked late into the night while others were nestled in their beds. But finally, the lights are on! And yet, at this moment of pride and accomplishment, the only words which come from his father-in-law? “The little lights aren’t twinkling, Clark.” Ugh! What a kick in the gut!

Perhaps you feel like Clark Griswold. You work hard on a project and all you get is criticism. You labor lovingly to prepare a meal and your thanks is, “The roast seems a little tough.” You preach or teach your heart out and the only feedback you receive is, “You don’t mention the Holy Spirit often enough.”

Have you noticed how criticism and a negative spirit can virtually suck the energy out of a meeting, a conversation or a relationship? Have you taken the time to tally social media to see whether there are more encouraging or discouraging posts? (Don’t do it; I don’t want you to be discouraged!)

For those who follow the Christian calendar, June 11 is St. Barnabas’ Day. Acts 4:36 introduces us to this man, whose given name is Joseph. But the early church gave him the name Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” This begs the question: If I allowed my church to bestow a descriptive moniker on me, what would it be? Mr. Grouchy? Rev. Always Right? Dr. Sad Sack? Mr. Negative?

Barnabas lived up to his name. In Acts 9, when Saul of Tarsus, a new convert to the Jesus Way, was having difficulty getting anyone to believe him or give him the time of day, it was Barnabas who intervened and used his considerable influence to welcome Saul. Barnabas saw the Saul-Paul glass as half-full, not half-empty and said to the church leaders, “Let’s take a chance on this guy. Something tells me he has potential.” How different would Christian history have been if Mr. Encourager had not stepped up.

Here’s the simple truth: It is impossible to measure the positive impact we can have when we develop the habit of encouragement. Many years ago, I attended a pastors conference and had braced myself for the usual fare — lots of bragging sermons about how the speakers were doing it right and I was doing it wrong (whatever “it” was). I was prepared to feel both guilty and inadequate.

Instead, a very successful pastor preached a sermon of encouragement. The message was in the indicative, not the imperative (I was loved and valued vs. I ought to be doing this or that). I went away lifted and refreshed, framing my many weaknesses in the larger truths of God’s provision and power. That sermon was delivered 25 years ago, and it is still nourishing my spirit.

If we’re all so starved for encouragement, why is it in such short supply? Where’s Barnabas when we need him? Sad to say, the secular world sometimes has a better grip on encouragement than the church does. In business and industry, a relatively new model for strategy planning has emerged called Appreciative Inquiry. AI begins with what is right in the organization, using strengths to leverage problem areas, thus keeping the visioning process from veering off into quick fixes or discouraging self-deprecation.

In yet another area, the mental health field offers “positive psychology” as an approach, not as a replacement for other emphases, but to augment them. Researchers have discovered that human beings are more drawn to the future than driven by the past. We more naturally grow by building on our virtues, positive experiences and pleasant memories.

May I offer a modest proposal? Let’s begin to cultivate a reputation for encouraging others. Wouldn’t it be great if someone would give me the nickname Encourager? Wouldn’t that be a wonderful word on my gravestone someday? Perhaps we could all begin June 11, on Barnabas’ day. I challenge you to spend that entire day encouraging others — in person, by way of handwritten notes, over the phone or through social media. Don’t let a discouraging word come from your lips all day long!

Here’s hoping Barnabas shows up at your place — and mine — on June 11. And here’s hoping he stays awhile.

Doyle Sager is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo.

 

Something Ventured: Don Kirkland

Don Kirkland. Something Ventured: Selected Writings from My Career in Journalism. Greenville. Baptist Courier Press. ©2014

I have been feasting for the past several days. I discovered by accident former Baptist Courier editor, Don Kirkland’s book, Something Ventured. It is a spiritual feast.

Don’s writing skills are well known by South Carolina Baptists. His knowledge of Scripture is apparent in every entry. He makes me wish I knew about Walter Rauschenbusch, the father of the social gospel movement; however, this is not his greatest contribution. His real contribution is in helping us understand our roles as ordinary Christians.

Don tells us that the Bible sheds light on all the times in Jesus’ ministry that are not specifically accounted for, “He went about doing good.” He makes its clear that going about doing good is exactly what we are to do. He quotes renowned poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “All service ranks the same with God.” Jesus puts it this way, “You are the light of the world.”

According to Don, “Christianity must be visible to others or it is not Christianity at all.” Later he says, “I encourage those who will hear me to never throw in the towel. Never stop doing what Jesus expects of us.”

We hear you, Don. Thank you.


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