Last week I was in a prayer meeting – as you do. Early, ordinary, just a few. However, I had a sudden realisation that our options as believers are being squeezed by the cry of lament from our land. (It doesn’t matter what land you live in, it still applies.) Not just that the earth is crying out, but also the people who’ve been placed there to find God (Acts 17.26-27) – and haven’t. In the meeting, I mentioned the phrase “The best of times, the worst of times” used by Dickens to describe the French Revolution of 1789 in Tale of Two Cities – a situation much like our own. Shifts of civilisation, culture and government… This is what Dickens said…
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .
Sounds a bit like today really. And, looking back, did the Body of Christ engage the spiritual shifts that were occurring? I think possibly not. We don’t want to make the same mistakes again… But we don’t seem to learn very much from history.
Anyway, later this week, someone else I know and respect uttered the same phrase “The best of times, the worst of times” as he handed us a heavenly scroll that would be honey to our lips yet bitter as it was digested. Honey because it clearly interpreted our current situation (which is always helpful) but bitter because our generation is processing the consequences of disaffection from the Father; a people turned from his ways.
And this is what had come out in the prayer meeting, involuntarily, through revelation, as we prayed. We recognised that our heavenly authority is more than ‘reasonable’. What we face today cannot be dealt with by Reason. It can only be dealt with by heavenly authority given by God for God’s purposes and subject to God’s ways. This authority is born of heaven and must be used by those who are citizens of heaven to promote heaven’s will – “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” With this authority comes a requirement to be heaven’s people; bold lovers of God in a foreign country, ambassadors not subject to the laws of earth but fully committed to the heavenly country – “further up and further in”. This is where we live.
Justin Welby has spoken of ‘a moment of opportunity for the church‘ but I believe it’s more than that. The Archbish may have tempered his language for a wider audience. I believe we are in a fluid season of ebbs and flows (or as Martin Scott says, facades rising and falling) and the ekklesia must capture the edge of the flow and channel it towards heaven like a child on the beach, if we’re to bring the government of the ekklesia to bear – as it should – on the world.
This ekklesian government has to be one of kenotic authority in the spiritual realm. In this time, its purpose is to minimise any falling into a spiritual abyss (or vacuum) as big as that which occurred under the fascism of Hitler or Stalin; as big as that which occurred in 1914 or in 1929. It may be we cannot wholly stay this fall but God’s promise is that if we humble ourselves and pray…he will hear us. In one sense, it doesn’t matter too much whether the fall occurs or not – it’s how we, the ekklesia, respond that counts. We are the gap-standers but this is more than a call to supplicate, it’s a call to govern where we’ve never governed before…
Walter Brueggemann records in his new book, Truth Speaks To Power, the miracle of Josiah’s response to the revelation of the rediscovered Deuteronomic scrolls (2 Kgs 22.8). As the King, Josiah gave an amazing heart response to the words he read there. As Brueggemann puts it, Truth transformed Power! Brueggemann says “Josiah responded with visible, public repentance. Josiah clearly was deeply upset and frightened by the words of the scroll. Out of a vigorous response to the scroll and to the words of the prophetess Hulda, Josiah instituted a great public reform that sought to bring his regime into sync with the scroll (Ch 23). The king attended to the long-standing tension between the radicality of the covenant and its Torah and constituted a radical departure from the compromised religious practices by that time conventional in the Jerusalem temple.” Josiah governed according to the Deuteronomic scroll. It was said of him by the scribes “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.” (2 Kings 23.25) Wow.
We need nothing less today. We sit in the place of government. Trouble may be written on the scroll of this generation but we are the ones who are overcomers. If we learn to honour one another (as well as those who may not deserve it), we go lower, to where we should always have been. If we engage with heaven, we can walk like Jesus did on the earth. If we know our identity in the Father, nothing can shake us, even death. If we can walk in our true identity as the Sons and Daughters of God, creation will cease its groaning as we are revealed. Many will recall Rees Howell’s responses to the extremes of the Second World War – he knew he was born for those heavenly moments. Is there a like response rising in us today? Is this what we were born for?
The Great Scroll we carry with us is the message of Jesus – nothing less than the full gospel. That of who God is, what he has done and what that means for the whole planet.
If we can, for a moment, see the planet as Ransom did in Out of the Silent Planet, as ‘without the heavenly spheres‘, dropped down through the heavens into darkness and silence, we see the need for all to be restored – which, of course, is what the Father was about all those years ago.