It was another busy week here in Peregre Exilium (Exile Abroad). Explorer extraordinaire, Dwight Gibson, and I visited Indiana Wesleyan University for a screening of For the Life of the World. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, the students showed up that night to learn. Some were actually taking notes during the films. This should have been sign number one that I was about to get schooled…
Per usual, at the end of the screening, Dwight and I participated in a Q&A session. A hand went up in the back of the dimly lit theater. Referring to the final episode (Church), the young man connected to the hand asked something like, “What do you mean by ‘lived-memory’ and the ‘not-yet-now’…and how does that apply to the overall vision of the church today?”
Usually in these Q&A sessions people ask about the farm house or the scriptwriting process or how I’ve personally been affected by the series. This kid went right for the graduate-level, seminary-student, all-systems-go, “these go to eleven” question…
My eyes widen. My stomach dropped. My pupils dilated. I panicked and thought to myself, “Oh no…where do I even start? Lived-memory (anamnesis) and the not-yet-now (prolepsis), these are really big ideas. Do I go with the Greek? No, that’s insane! What about the Hebrew? No, you’re an idiot. Do I start at the Last Supper? How do I reduce this question to a sound bite?! If I ran screaming out of the theater right now, would that be weird?”
All of these thoughts raced through my head, but I remained. Instead, I chose to talk about the nature of an acorn. Yes, an acorn. I talked about (read: fumble my way through) how an acorn in my hand tells me something of the tree that is to come. That is, I can know by an acorn that there will be a tree, and everything the tree needs is found in the acorn in my hand. And, in many ways, the acorn is the “not-yet” of the kingdom of God, “now.” As clear as that may sound in my writing (or not), I’m certain it did not sound all that clear leaving my lips. Dwight took over and offered a response, and then the moderator offered some good insights that I told him I was going to steal. In truth, though, none of us answered the young man’s question. Looking back, I’m not sure one solid answer to his questions is possible.
In fact, as the week has progressed, I’ve been mulling over answers I wish I could have given to that incredibly intelligent lad. They only lead to more questions. But, for the sake of that student, whomever he is and wherever he may be, he’s what I’ve come up with:
Lived-memory and the “not-yet-now” are two sides of the same coin. When we live the memory of God’s purposes in the world, live the memory of Jesus, and the Saints–offering ourselves–we then enter into a vision of Heaven and what is to come; we reveal a glimpse of the “not yet,” heaven itself, right now. How? Living the memory of Jesus means humbly, obediently, and gracefully gifting every part of our lives to Him. This is the vision of life that is to come when our Bridegroom returns and we pour ourselves into each other, offering ourselves to one another in perfect union for all eternity.
Now, regarding the overall vision of “the church” today: by offering ourselves to God and the world, we are to be a vision of Heaven (grace, gift, union, offering). Do we think about that very much? Do we go that deep? Do we need to go that deep? What is the current vision for “the church” today? What do I even mean when I say “the church?” What does this all mean for my church? Does my church seem like a glimpse of Heaven…or something else? What image does my church project to the world? What do lives of offering really look like?
I could keep writing questions…but I’ll stop, because I learned something about myself (and all of us, I think) during my short time at Indiana Wesleyan.
I think we want too many of God’s truths to fit in nice soundbites. I know I do. I wanted to give that future scholar a wonderfully charming and pithy answer. I think all of us up there wanted to that night. I think that student wanted to hear one, too! The result of our well-intentioned haste, however, was a bunch of 2D answers to an incredibly 3D question. This is a tragedy I fear happens too often in our Christian circles.
So, let’s try something. From here on out, let’s not be too quick to reduce the rich meal of God’s Wisdom to a few bland bites. In our desire to make use of God’s precepts, let us take time to ruminate on them, hear them– not for what they can DO for us, but because they are His. Let us not seek to merely manage God’s ways, but explore them–to answer questions with questions, live in “three dimensions”–that we may learn more of his sovereignty and grace.
And, for all you education-minded people out there – don’t worry: this will not be on the test.