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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Messiah in the Old Testament - Hannah, Nathan

Messiah in the Old Testament – Prophecies that Anticipated King David
            Two prophecies anticipate the rise of the chosen king, David: Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:1-10) and Nathan’s word (from God) to David, “your house and your kingdom shall ever be before me.”  Nathan is prophesying in 2 Samuel 7.  He gives King David this promise: “Your throne shall be established forever” (7:16).
            Hannah had been barren, but then is promised a son.  That son, Samuel, is dedicated to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:27-28).  Upon praising God for Samuel, Hannah sings the psalm found in 2 Samuel 2:1-10.  In verse 10 she says, “The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.”  The Messiah is the Lord’s anointed one.  Kaiser writes, “it seems fair to propose that those texts (Psalms 2 and 110) possibly used Hannah’s prayer as an informing theology for their own thoughts on the Messiah” (p.69). 
Those two Psalms are repeatedly referenced by New Testament authors to situate Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel’s Messianic hopes.  And Mary’s prayer upon learning she will be the mother of Jesus, found in Luke 1:46-55, is modeled upon Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2. 
In his comments on the Messianic thread within the time of the monarchy, Kaiser points to Psalm 132:18, which says of the “horn to sprout up for David;” “His enemies I will clothe with disgrace, but on him, his crown will gleam.”  The resplendent crown signals that this horn sprung from David will be both high priest and king.  Kaiser writes, “With such high accolades, there can be little doubt that the anointed is … God’s heavenly anointed one, Jesus Christ” (p.90).
Thus we see a Messianic thread woven intricately throughout the narrative running from the end of the age of the judges into the age of King David.  This thread is in 1st and 2nd Samuel and in David’s words in the Psalms.  Kaiser observes almost no connection between the words in the wisdom literature (Ecclesiastes, Proverbs) and the Messiah.

In my next post reviewing Walter Kaiser’s The Messiah in the Old Testament, I’ll look at his chapters on the Psalms (mostly writing attributed to King David).  

A “Revelation 7 Church”

“I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9-10),

            The final vision of the eternal kingdom of God cast in the book of Revelation is one of glorious diversity.  This is not a color-blind gathering.  It is a color-celebrating assembly.  John of Patmos (Rev. 1:9), can plainly see dark-skinned people and fair-skinned people; people with freckles and with tanned skin; people with flowing red hair, with curly dark hair, and sandy blondes.  There are tall people, short people, people with deep voices, and people with broad shoulders.  The description “all tribes and peoples and languages” is meant to show that every conceivable shape and shade of human is there.  This is no uniform crowd, but one with dazzling color and an array of vocal tones and cultural backgrounds.
            This is not uniformity.  It is spectacular harmony.  This gathering is united in praise of God.  This people has come together because all came to life through faith in Jesus Christ. 
            The church of the 21st century (and of the 10th century and the 1st) is called by God to anticipate this future, heavenly eternity.  When we as a people are in Christ, we are to live as if this Revelation 7 vision were already coming into reality in our gathering. The way our church lives as community should anticipate what John sees in Revelation 7.  Also, our church should point the world to this vision.
            How we are formed and how we function as a family of believers is a witness.  How we “do church” is our testimony.  What this looks like varies from community to community.  Recently, I was in a small town in a rural Midwestern community.  Almost every person I saw was white.  These were working class, Caucasian people.  A church there is going to be 98%-100% Caucasian. 
However, even in that place, even in that demographic, a church can live in anticipation of the Revelation 7 vision.  There are numerous ways a church there could do this, but my more immediate concern is the church I lead in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Chapel Hill is tremendously diverse.  The University of North Carolina, UNC hospital, the Research Triangle, geopolitical dynamics, and a number of other factors has converged to draw the world here.  A church here reflects the vision of Revelation 7 by existing as a family of brothers and sisters in Christ in such a way that sensitivity is shown to all who come.  It goes beyond just saying, “All are welcome.”  We will examine our worship style, our leadership demographics, and our schedules, and we will make adjustments in order to open the door to people who might consider visiting but because of cultural divides haven’t yet, or have, but have not returned after one visit. 
I have seen and been part of churches who do all they can to communicate the beautiful sentiment, “All are welcome.”  But, then the leadership and the church culture is set by the dominant surrounding culture (white middle and working class America).  Any Latinos or blacks or Asians who attend as deeply loved, but in order to feel at home, they have to be at home in a church that is controlled by white people.  The church I have in mind was diverse and very welcoming.  It was a love-filled family of God.  But, it was a body unable to adjust its corporate culture and so its growth was limited.
HillSong has already demonstrated a willingness to involve new members in all areas of ministry, including leadership.  HillSong has opened its arms and heart wide to new ideas and more importantly to all who walk in our doors.  I am thrilled and thankful that God has me among a people so willing to see new possibilities.  In our attempt to define what a “Revelation 7” church is and to become such a church, we will ardently strive to examine our own church culture and adjust it so that people of “all tribes and peoples and languages” might consider making our church their home. 
Obviously HillSong cannot be a church that does all things, that is all things to all people.  We have members who speak in heavenly tongues, but in their own private prayer lives, not in corporate worship.  That will continue.  Our worship attire is business casual.  That will continue.  Our language is English.  We partner with a Spanish-speaking congregation and also with a Karen-speaking congregation.  We would be open to other partnerships.  But the language of HillSong is and will be English.  These examples – glossolalia, attire, and language – a few of many that put parameters around us.  We are a family of God within these boundaries.
Within these and other boundaries, I believe God is calling us to be a “Revelation 7” church.  God is calling us to be intentional about growing in diversity, in integration, and in international expression.  God is calling us to expand our understanding of the Gospel and of Himself by meeting His Holy Spirit in the hearts of people who come to worship and to be part of our community.

Please pray for HillSong Church as we pursue this vision.  Please pray God will show the pastors, elders, and deacons how we do this.  Please pray God will bring the people in who will make this vision become a reality.  Please pray that our church will, in becoming a “Revelation 7” Church, testify to our community what the Kingdom of God is like.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Come to the New Baptist Covenant Summit, September 14-16, 2016

             Our church will go through a renewal in 2017 in which we explore our congregational identity especially as it relates to race and ethnicity.  We are guided by the vision of Revelation 7:9-10.   
            “I looked [into Heaven], and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
            God is calling HillSong to be a Revelation 7 Church.  Evangelical Christianity has, in recent years seen the rise churches based on Biblical projections.  There are “3rd day churches,” “8th Day Communities,” and “Acts 29 Churches.”  These movements come from understanding scripture and understanding the church today as the continuation of the resurrection community that began in the days between Jesus’ resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2).  God is calling HillSong to a new metaphor and a new understanding of church, one especially needed in 21st century America.
            Ethnic tensions abound as extremists in other countries have struck fear and suspicion in the hearts of many Americans.  We find ourselves suspicious of Muslims and of Arabs (not all of whom are Muslim) and of people from the Middle East (some of whom are neither Muslim nor Arab).  Instead of loving our neighbors, we mistrust and prejudge.  The same happens with Mexican in the United States as there is talk of building a wall and the presumption that certain people must be in this country illegally.  Of course most people of Mexican descent were actually born in the United States or are here as citizens, the same way people of British descent (like me) are American citizens.  But that doesn’t temper the immigration hysteria that grips us.  Tension is also building between Americans who are black and white.  For some, the black-white divide has never been wider.
            Followers of Jesus are called to love all – Arab, white, black, Asian, Mexican, Muslim, Jew, atheist.  Our Lord expects us to sacrifice our own convenience for the sake of loving our neighbors – all of them.  But too many American Christians are just as xenophic and racist as Americans who are not Christian.
            In this climate rife with fear, we are called to be God’s church, proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, and generous givers of God’s love.  How do we do that?  The New Baptist Covenant is one movement that gives some help.  Beth Roberts shared at the HillSong Elders August meeting that in our country, there are over 60 different Baptist groups:Cooperative Baptists (like HillSong Church), Amercan Baptists, Progressive Baptists, Old Regular Baptists, Independent Baptists, Southern Baptists, and Free Will Baptists just to name a few. 
In 2008, President Jimmy Carter gathered Baptists from nearly all these traditions to try to begin bringing people together by bringing Baptists together.  One of the main areas of focus for the New Baptist Covenant (NBC) was racial reconciliation.  This continues to be a focus.  At the summit in Atlanta, Georgia, September 14-16, Baptists from different traditions will gather to learn how we can join forces in the name of Christ to bring peace and harmony to America as we proclaim the Gospel.
Please be in prayer for this event.  And please prayerfully consider joining the HillSong contingent that is going.  Heather Folliard, Beth Roberts, and I are attending and we hope many others from HillSong Church and Baptists of all shades from the Chapel Hill area will join us.  Ask God if He’s leading you to go.  If you cannot go, prayerfully consider contributing to the cost of the trip.  Registration is $125 ($65 for ministers under 35 years old).  Hotel fees are $139 per night (a total of $278).  Plus there will be travel and meal costs. 
I believe this event will propel our church toward a deeper understanding of our goal of becoming a worshipping family that reflects the vision John sees in Revelation 7 - a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.  Our participation in this even is one step toward us becoming a Revelation 7 Church.