The word incarnate means “being embodied” and in theological speak it refers to the miraculous reality that God became human in the saving life of Jesus Christ. Some people even came up with the Doctrine of Incarnation. Eugene Peterson in his contemporary translation of the bible entitled ‘the message” captures this reality well in the book of John.
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighbourhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.
John 1:15 (the message)
God moved into the world of 1st century Palestine and proceeded to knock the socks off the status quo by talking about a heavenly and divine reality called the “Kingdom of God.” Jesus, the incarnation of God then represented the collision between this heavenly reality and the laws, religiosity, political climate, and socio-economic reality of 1st century Palestine.
The result is the messy encounters of heaven colliding with a disconnected, sinful humanity found in the gospel story. Jesus didn’t just talk about the Kingdom of God, he was God embodied on earth and the actions of Jesus embody this hope of redemption and reconnection that we find in the God in heaven. Within all this, God’s presence is central. God’s presence on earth, God’s presence in Jesus, and God’s presence via the Holy Spirit in us here today.
Acts chapter 2 is a favourite of mine. Many call it the birth of the church as we know it. A community gathered, receiving the spirit of God, the same spirit of Jesus, and a member of this dynamic active Trinitarian God. In Acts 2, it was unifying, inspiring, empowering, and provided a great place for a community of believers to embark on a journey, imperfectly mind you, of loving God and loving neighbour. Here in 2011 we get the same Spirit that Jesus had. We get the same Holy Spirit that descended upon the gathered community of Acts at Pentecost. We don’t only get a portion of it. It’s not like we get the short end of the Holy Spirit stick. We have the opportunity to fully receive the Holy Spirit within us and join with God in the activities of this world. One way we join with God is by embodying the message by the Holy Spirit that is present within and around us.
Where you are present matters. Where you live and how you engage your neighbour matters because as a believer in Christ you are, in all your brokenness, transparently (hopefully, nobody is perfect) embodying the message of a Trinitarian God. For Anabaptists, that means grounded in community (presence in community is vitally important, can’t get into it on this post, but read up on it here) we embody a gospel centred around peace, justice, discipleship etc… That means where we are present and collide with the culture around us that does not represent those principles. The implications bring us face to face with a militaristic NHL hockey team logo, or the 3rd world living conditions in Northern Manitoba where there is apparently not enough fresh water to go around, or the gangs, drugs, and prostitution of the North and West End’s of Winnipeg. We as people who embody a message of God’s love must with apostolic zeal and creativity bring the heart of the Anabaptist message out in the flesh and blood. In some cases this may take a reimagining, but not deviating from, some of the more traditional Mennonite Anabaptist practices and focus on asking what Anabaptism looks like as it engages 2011 (that was quite the ambitious line, I know, I am working on a way to address quite significantly in the future, it’s also a shout out to the Naked Anabaptist).
What does the collision between Jesus centred, shalom seekin’, incarnated Anabapism and the dominate culture around us look like? I am beginning to think that we cannot even begin to ask that question unless we are willing to understand the true implications of incarnation and embodying the message of a loving and active God.
(for other posts in this series)