So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church -Day 4
I finished part two (The Relational Life: God’s “Yes”) today and started part three (The Incarnational Life: God’s “No”). I really connected to the relational life; I also liked part one (The Missional Life: God’s “Go”), but my spirit soared all the while I was immersed in reading and absorbing the relational life chapters. Several aspects of Len Sweet’s so thorough explanation of the relational life connected with me. I realize this was intentional on his part because of the painstaking effort taken to express his points. In chapter seventeen of part two Sweet writes the following:
“In case you haven’t noticed, this entire section has been saying the same thing over and over again from every conceivable angle and position. This is necessary because of all the features of the divine design, this track seems to be the most difficult for us to grasp and travel. Why is relationality, this relational component of MRI, so hard for us? Ever since Descartes, we’ve been trained to think that the only real authority is reason itself, to which we all have equal access.”
This “relational” part of So Beautiful really fueled my thinking and for the last thirty-something hours I’ve been thinking of nothing but the interconnectivity of creation. Everything is interwoven and interdependent upon one another by God’s design down to and beyond the sub-atomic levels of our understanding. I realize how easy this thinking could swing over into Pantheism or Panentheism, but my thinking and (I believe) Len Sweet’s explanation of relationality is very different…extending into the understanding; “For in Him we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17:28). Now, this being the case, how much more relational is the jewel of God’s creation, humanity? Or, better put, how much more relational should we be? We fall so short of God’s grand design…thank Him that He provides through Himself a means to restore our brokenness. Praise Jesus!
“Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” (A person is a person through persons) -Zulu proverb
There is so much in this section of the book; as I’ve already said, I will go back and reread this several times so I might catch the parts I’m sure that I’m missing. I appreciate how Sweet points out how we have made every attempt to “ground” and “reason” our way to God and in the process (according to Bob Dale) “…have largely forgotten how to lead living things.” He (LS) goes on to say, “We (Westerners) prefer autographic truth over relational truth because it’s cleaner, neater, and mechanical.” This really strikes home with me as I look at the product of our thinking in a post-modern world; it especially becomes evident when I reflect on conversations I’ve had with my young adult sons. Despite mine and my wife’s best efforts, Western thought and post-modern society has a great degree of influence on their (my children) world view. It’s hard teaching faith and trust in Jesus Christ “to a culture that used to hearing ‘You are the ultimate authority’ and ‘You can make it on your own.’” (p.136)
Sweet spends a lot of time and effort to draw distinctions between our penchant for rules, authority, structure, and law. I cannot do justice in this short summary to all he brings light to in his discourse, but (for me) it all came together in a beautiful extrapolation he gives on Jesus’ Vine metaphor from John’s Gospel chapter fifteen. I won’t spoil this for folks who haven’t read the book yet, but it is found on pp 145-146.
Part 3: The Incarnational Life: God’s “No”
“Time is eternity living dangerously” (John Moriarty) pg.162
I’ve only made my way through the first third (25 pages or so) of this part of So Beautiful. I’m still trying to wrap my head around all that is going on here and trying to understand God’s “no” in the middle of His “yes.” I think some of what I’ve covered in part three thus far can be understood in the God-Man, Jesus, and our invitation-call to follow him. Maybe Len’s words on pg 153 help to clear the fog a bit…
“Jesus was at home everywhere, but naturalized nowhere. The incarnational life pays homage to context by celebrating regionality, by honoring particularity by domesticating the missional and the relational. God didn’t choose to send us a Superman. God chose to send us an Everyman-”Joe, the Plumber,” “Jesus, the Carpenter”-one like ourselves in every way.” “…The church of Jesus Christ must never be domesticated to a culture; but it must become domestic in that culture. Incarnational is domesticity, and we need to recover and redeem that word, as some philosophers are already doing.”
I will, in all likelihood, complete my review in the next day or two and will spend more time on my takeaway from part three, the Incarnational Life, until then…let me end today’s entry with this:
“The word incarnation is most familiar to us as a way of describing God’s self-portrait in Jesus. God took a nosedive into raw human experience and spoke to us in a language we could all understand-material language of a human life, the language of a person named Jesus of Nazareth. Because God chose to save the world by participating in its life, incarnation and atonement can never be separated. …The story of the incarnation is timely, timeless, and timeful.”
By giving us Himself, God has given us everything we need to live a godly live and partake in His divine nature…all through Jesus Christ…the Nazarene…the Carpenter (2 Peter 1:3-4). Praise Him. [Amen]