The ways of the kingdom of God, brought to fullness in Jesus Christ, are upside down when compared to the ways of the world. The last are first. The poor and hungry are blessed. When Jesus appears to be at his weakest, most vulnerable point, he is actually performing his most powerful action. As a reflection of the upside down nature of the kingdom of God, brought to fullness in Jesus Christ, the church marks its time in an upside down way. We count time in a different way than the world. We have reached the end of the church’s calendar. November 20 is Christ the King Sunday, a celebration of Jesus’ eternal reign. November 27 is the first Sunday of Advent, similar to New Year’s Day for the church’s calendar. While the world may already be putting up their Christmas trees and decorations, the church is marking time in a different way. We still have some waiting to do.
Psalm 15:1-2: LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle? Who may abide upon your holy hill? Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right, who speak the truth from their heart;
James 1:27: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
When we think of being religious or being spiritual, we tend to think inwardly. Perhaps we think about the situations that we have to deal with, or the struggles we have to shoulder, or the battles we fight in our mind. It is widely understood that spirituality is an inward discipline – something shared between God and me.
But Scripture teaches us that spirituality is also about what happens outwardly. Spirituality is about doing right and caring for others. Sharing with those in need is good religion, acceptable to God. Our spirituality is embodied in how we treat people that are less fortunate.
A quote from Robert Webber: “No matter how hard we try, there is nothing we can do to restore our union with God. That is the bad news. But the good news is that God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. . . . So spirituality is not a self-generated achievement but a gift given to us by God. This gift sets us free to see life in a new way and to live life as God intended, in union with the purposes of the Creator and Redeemer of the world.”
God’s purposes for us are actualized in serving others. In the economy of God’s Kingdom, the last are first and the first are last. The best in God’s community are always on the bottom, serving others in humility. When we help people in need, making ourselves available to be used by God, we become truly spiritual.
 Robert E. Webber, The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), 18.
“Exploring the Future Church” is a series of discussions around the question, “What does it mean to be in a faith community?” These sessions are the foundation of the ministry intervention for my doctoral thesis (Discerning the Meaning of Church Membership at Theophilus). If you’d like to follow along you can download the notes from Session 2 here: Session 2 Handout
Big Takeaway from Session 2: God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15) was meant to be a blessing for all people (Genesis 12:3). The fulfillment of God’s promise to bless all people is realized through the Holy Spirit working in and through the church (beginning at Pentecost, leading to today, and into the future). There is some difficulty in explaining ideas like “covenant” and “Kingdom” today. They are foreign terms for most people. God’s Kingdom and covenant can be simply understood as “God’s love working to bless all people and bring peace.” When it comes to the church, people are wary of joining institutions that are interested in their own preservation. The foundation of the church has to be authentic and genuine relationships.