Showing posts with label Freedom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Freedom. Show all posts

13 June 2016

The City on the Hill

The old city on the hill - Approaching the end of his three and a half years of teaching and healing, Jesus told his disciples, 'Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing'. (Matthew 23:37-39)

A city on a hill - Ostuni, Italy
Jesus means us to take these verses very seriously indeed. In Matthew's account they're sandwiched between some of the most severe criticism of the religion of the day and a terrifying promise of the destruction to come. The city of Jerusalem and the temple at its heart were pulled down in 70 AD and replaced by a Roman city. The people died in the assault or were thrown out; this is what Jesus predicts and describes.

Jesus is well aware that we, too, are hemmed in by religious traditions and habits on the one hand, and inflexible structures on the other. And in the same way, he wants to gather us together under his wings. But are we willing? If we are not, he will criticise our religious tradition and allow our structures to be destroyed in order to save us from our own error and foolishness. Let’s not mislead ourselves, religion and structure are central to much that we think and do.

The new city on the hill - This is the New Jerusalem, the bride of the Lamb, the church! In Revelation 21:2-3 we read, 'I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’ Revelation 21:9-11 tells us, 'I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.'

This new Jerusalem has no traditions and is not built of stone. We are the living stones it's constructed from! Jesus said, 'You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven'.

Sometimes we think in terms of our own, individual lights, and how they should not be hidden. It's not wrong to read the passage in that way, but surely what Jesus really has in mind is his people collectively, the church, his bride, the new city built on a hill - the city that 'cannot be hidden'. And this new city is not built on a foundation of traditions and human teaching and Sunday services. It's built on the foundation of Christ alone and it's driven by every breath he breathes, the wind of the Spirit of Christ.

The how – life in the city - So what do we get in place of tradition and structure? Church life is based on something far more flexible and adaptable, something much more organic.

Ephesians 4:11-16 reveals church life as Jesus intended it. 'Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.'

And here's the practical detail. 'To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.'  (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

And yet more detail from 1 Corinthians 14:26. 'When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.'

This is the new city on the hill that shines its light all around (not hidden under a jar). This is the church, the new Jerusalem, light in a dark world, individuals all bringing a contribution, building and equipping one another. This is who we are, it’s what we need to be doing.

See also


02 October 2010

REVIEW - Have you had enough?

It's a great question. What is enough? There are some other great questions too - Why do so many people always want more? - Does it matter? - What can we do about it? - What can I do about it?



Take a look at this excellent and challenging video. Then visit Conspiracy of Freedom, the people behind it. There are more great ideas, suggestions on how to take this forward (perhaps with a group of friends), and more videos on related topics.

(Thanks to Peter Farmer for drawing my attention to this material.)

14 October 2004

Eaton Ford - Umbrella and prism

< 22nd September 2004 | Index | 1st November 2004 >

More than anything this evening was an evening of pictures. Father showed us so many, and all of them revealed something about his nature and our relationship with him.

An umbrella

Rachael explained how she'd been thinking about staying under Father's protection. When you drive a car in a really heavy rainstorm and you pass under a bridge, for a fleeting moment the deluge stops. It's not good enough to dash under his protection and then immediately rush out again, we need to stay there. The idea of an umbrella is different. Armed with a good brolly we can be under protection but also have the freedom to move around. But the principle is the same - we need to be where we will be protected, not somewhere else!

With the umbrella we are free to go with the wind. Under his protection we can be dancing and free because the umbrella travels with us - everywhere.

A prism and spectrumThe Holy Spirit also showed us something very special about dwelling in our Father's house. His house is not some wonderful and precious palace which can only be used with great care and is unsuitable for children. No! His house is really and truly our home. We're comfortable there, and we belong there. A good home is much more than a roof and an address, and it's much more practical then any palace. A good home is warm, and welcoming, a place to bring friends, a place where we feel 'at home'! That should not be a surprise to us.

In a related thought, Val shared something special about our Father's embrace. We can (and should) rest in his embrace. Now that's not a quick hug for just half a second. It is instead something that we really do 'rest' in. We feel a hug like that, and we know that we're being hugged, and we are not shooed away but we can stay in that place of love for as long as we need or want.

Yet another picture was of a meadow. Father said to us that our life with him is like being in a beautiful meadow, full of flowers, with the sound of birds singing. He is there, sitting in the meadow, and we are always free to go to him for reassurance, for food and drink, and for comfort and mending if we have fallen over. Val took this idea further, pointing out that he doesn't just sit in the meadow. He's also interested in us and in everything we do and he comes to look and shows us things. 'Look over here', he says to us, 'Have you seen this?'

And finally, in this evening of images, we considered something optical. We were given the idea of a glass prism with a beam of white light passing through it. The light is broken into all its many brilliant colours. Red light has the least energy of all the colours and is bent the most. Violet light is bent the least with the other colours spread out between the two. It seemed he was saying we are like the different colours. Some of us are close to him and are redirected by him, others perhaps don't hear him so clearly and are moved less. But the amazing thing about a prism is that it also works in reverse! If you send in all the colours of light, each one at just the right angle, they all combine to make a beam of bright, pure, white light.

So although we're all different (like the colours of light), through the prism of his love we all meet in him. We all reflect different aspects of him, but together we can begin to reveal him. Praise him! He is love and he is here amongst his people. He is here in his people!

< 22nd September 2004 | Index | 1st November 2004 >

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