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ordination paperwork: question #9

a) Theology
9) What is your understanding of (a) the Kingdom of God; (b) the Resurrection; (c) Eternal life?

a) “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.”[1] These words greet us in the first chapter of Mark, reminding us that the good news of the gospel is all about God’s reign, here, at hand. In Jesus, we experience a kingdom that is made present right now, even as we experience it as approaching, drawing near, with anticipation. In Luke’s gospel, we find Jesus reading the scriptures in the synagogue: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Today,” Jesus said, “this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”[2] The Kingdom of heaven that Jesus proclaimed and that the Church proclaims today is twofold – God’s kingdom now and God’s kingdom to be fulfilled. As the Church, we both seek to live into the Reign of God in proclaiming the gospel and seek to prepare for the future when God’s reign will come into fullness.
b) Resurrection is closely tied with an understanding of God’s reign. Like the kingdom of God, the resurrection also has a double meaning, a present and future reality. As Easter people, we are bound up in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We followed and follow him to the cross, and we saw and see him resurrected, with us still and in new ways.
In John’s gospel, we find Jesus talking about himself as the resurrection. He says to Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answers that she believes her brother will rise again on the last day. But Jesus shows her a different meaning, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha, understanding, responds, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”[3] Jesus identifies himself as the resurrection and the life. Here, Jesus alludes to the actual events of his future in some ways, certainly. But primarily, Jesus speaks about a resurrection in another way. Jesus tells Martha that he is the resurrection and life now, he has power over death and life now. Jesus reorients our understanding of resurrection. Jesus saves, heals, and resurrects us now. As Martha says, Jesus is the one “coming into the world.” Jesus dwelling among us here in the world means that Jesus can change our lives, resurrect us, here, in the world. I understand resurrection to mean that which the disciples witnessed on the first Easter, but also to mean what Jesus promises for us – resurrection and new life where it seemed only death was possible. Jesus has the power to bring new life in us now, to resurrect us out of death and sin now.
c) Our understanding of what eternal life means is naturally bound up with the kingdom of God and the resurrection. Jesus was asked what must be done to gain eternal life. Jesus’ answer was to follow Jesus, give up everything, follow God’s commands, and most particularly to love God and neighbor. From the Discipline we read, “we pray and work for the coming of God’s realm and reign to the world and rejoice in the promise of everlasting life that overcomes death and the forces of evil.” The promise of eternal life is the promise that God is always with us and that Christ indeed has power over death.
[1] Mark 1:15
[2] Luke 4:18-19, 21
[3] John 11:23-27, emphasis added.


Anonymous said…

I was glad to see both this question in your list and your answer to it.

Maybe it was just my particular Annual Conference, but IMHO there just isn't that much discussion in the UMC on this subject. We seem to be strongly focused on the "church stuff" of that you referred to in Question #8. Traditionally, UMC clergy do not spend nearly enough time on these three subjects. I bet I haven't heard 10 serious sermons on these subjects in my 37 years of existence in the UMC (okay I've only been paying attention for 20) .

In my personal experience, the greatest "step change" in my Christian walk came when I sincerely realized that I was going to live forever. When I quit worrying about, my personal life calendar. I used to think to myself, " I'll be doing this when I'm 40, and I should be here when I'm 50, and I'll hope to be there when I'm 60 and then I'll be 70 and I can die." When I quit this paradigm and started thinking to myself, "I am going to live forever". My body may (God willing) get older, but I have an eternal soul, this had a tremendous impact on my Christian thinking. My whole thought process changed. My whole Christian attitude changed. I began to realize that there is no "Social Security or Retirement Planning" in the Kingdom of God. I will always have a job to do in the Kingdom.

Prior to this, I could have easily aged and turned into one of those "church people". You know, the ones that argue in Church Administrative Board meetings, "we have to have red carpet in the sanctuary because that is the way the building was built in 1908 and it has always been red" or " we shouldn't have hand bells in the choir because we never have before". Up until 5 or 6 years ago, I was headed right down that path. But when started looking at life in a truly, eternal Christian perspective, I started to realize that I was going to live forever in Christ's Kingdom, and things change. You start to realize that in the scope of eternity, who cares about red carpet that will last in a man-made building that will only be around for maybe a hundred years and in the scope of eternity, a hundred years is like 1/10th of a second. ( I am having a hard time typing what I'm trying to say, so I apologize if this reads funny.)

The Kingdom of God; the Resurrection; and Eternal life are essential concepts in the Christian Church. They are ones that the UMC needs to stress more strongly. If we did, it would have a lot more influence on how we deal with the temporal issues of the world, how we deal with our relationship with Christ, how seriously we go to God in prayer and study his Word. In fact, IMHO if the UMC as a whole spent more time on these subjects, we'd do a better job as a congregation of reaching the lost, caring for the sick and the poor, struggling for social justice, and spreading the Good News.
Beth Quick said…
Hi Kevin - thanks for being one of few who is commenting on these posts! I know, ordination responses may not be compelling reading for everyone ;)
I agree totally that realizing our own mortality is a big thing that we have to confront in our personal lives. Sometimes I think i do better thinking about my own mortality though than that of those I love!
I also totally resonate with you in the 'red carpet' department. I guess we all have our personal 'red carpet' areas where we let ourselves get off course.
Thanks for reading!
Anonymous said…
Thank you both for your comments on this question. Beth keep up the good work. Reading your blog is a refreshing part of my day. Blessings to you, Chris

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