So, I’m turning 40 this year. One of my goals for the year is to read back through my 40 favorite books. I broke that down into two categories. 20 favorite novels or “fun” books, and then 20 formational books, books that have shaped me, my ministry and theology.
As I’ve been reading back through the formational books, a common theme that has stood out is the incarnation: the “in the flesh” reality of the God we meet in Jesus.
My theology, my philosophy of ministry, is so tied to this idea: (a) that God came toward us, became a human being to with us, and (b) that our call then is to “incarnate” that good news for other people, to be a flesh and blood presence with other people.
Quick side step: all throughout human history (and the story of Scripture) we see people trying to de-incarnate God, depersonalize God. This is what the writers of Scripture call idols.
God is not anti-idol because he hates statues or because he thinks art is dumb. He is anti-idol because idols are relationship killers, they keep God at a distance, they fundamentally work against incarnation.
“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” Jonah 2:8
The coronavirus crisis creates a conundrum for incarnationalsists (a made up word). In a world where we socially distance ourselves from flesh and blood out of love, in a world where we can only be with each other digitally, what does that mean for presence, relationship, and withness?
Personally, this really messes with me. And not just theologically. I am not a big showy person.
I don’t like the cameras
and the flash
and the “look-at-me” tendencies of online church.
When your world turns around,
when up becomes down,
when the old patterns don’t fit the new paradigm,
what do you do?
Paul, the guy who wrote most of the New Testament, wrote all that stuff because he couldn’t be with people.
So, he wrote a bunch of letters. And in many of his letters he expressed his grief at not being able to be with the people he was writing to.
Romans 1:11, II Timothy 1:4, Phillipians 1:8, I Thessalonians 2:17…
“I long, I long, I long to see you, to be with you.”
And so that’s where we start:
With the grieving of distance.
The longing to be together.
And the writing of letters.
More to come on Wednesday.
Grace and Peace,