Incarnational Church – UK Context TWO Heavenly Branding

The Marks of Incarnation

If the incarnation story continues in the church then surely it follows that there will be indicators that can be seen within the life of the church.

Snyder proposes ‘While the Incarnation is a mystery, it provides the essential model for the believer and especially for the church’s corporate life and mission in the world.’

I have never particularly enjoyed looking at my own reflection in the mirror. I like it even less now because the passage of time brings me greater distress. The recurring thought that springs to my mind is that I look like my father more than my father’s son. I am not saying there is anything wrong with this, should he read these words, it continually reminds me that I am connected to my parents. I recall one day waking up from one of those mid-day naps that seem to be the comfort of middle age, looking down at my hand in that half asleep half awake state and thinking that my dad was in the room.

In a similar way, if we care to look, the whole of creation bears the impression of the thumbprint of God: every galaxy, star, planet, flower, animal and sunset, every human being reflecting God. Both in terms of physiology and history all created matter and therefore human life images our creator.

In the incarnation the Word, the second person of the Trinity, embraced this ‘creative’ fingerprint personally and thus reflected the creative act in both physique and purpose.

As we look at the life of Christ we can see the mind of a purposeful God. Every aspect of the life of Christ has the thumbprint of God upon it: from conception, through death, to resurrection. At conception we see the will of God unfold in a manner that although spoken of by the prophets of old was, in many ways, unimaginable to the human mind. His birth, so ordained to fulfil the prophetic utterances of the people of Israel, bringing together Divinity and humanity. His growth as a child: expressing his willingness to be self-confined within the human condition. His ministry: breaking into the mundane of human frailty, yet always with a mind upon the ultimate goal of the cross. The passion of the self-sacrifice of the creator God, as a seed dies in order to produce much fruit. The stunning glory of the resurrection: with all its mystery and wonder. These are things that surely no human mind could have conceived. God, the author and finisher, has been at work.

As I have already stated, what can be said of Christ, the Head, should be said of his body, the church. The incarnation continues and thus, the marks of incarnation, the very thumbprint of God, should be visible in the church. Locally we should touch our communities with these marks. Globally, we should shape and guide our world towards the creator.

To be continued............

‘Liberating the Church’ Howard Snyder Marshalls 1983 pg109

Incarnational Church – UK Context ONE - An Everyday Uniqueness

There should be little doubt in the mind of the Christian as to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. To the Church, the whole of history and eternity are held together in this unique act of incarnation. Jesus: fully human and fully divine.
McFarlane observes that ‘never before had such an event required expression. Something hitherto unspoken broke through the established markers concerning God’s being.’
In essence this unique event has no parallels from which comparisons might be drawn. No precedents to which can be referred. It is the most important component of the Christian gospel in its unique quality.

Yet, as Bosch asserts, protestant churches have ‘by and large had an underdeveloped theology of the incarnation.’ Within evangelicalism there has been a great stress placed upon the eternal work of Christ often to the detriment of teaching regarding his compassion for those in need in this life.
Before I made a decision to become a Christian as a fourteen year-old youth I, oddly enough, gave out leaflets on behalf of a local church at the Whit Walks in my home village. Here I was, someone who knew very little about Christianity, someone who wasn’t even sure if I wanted anything to do with it, giving out leaflets to others.
During this somewhat unregenerate evangelistic d├ębut I realised that it would be a good idea to read the words on the leaflet for myself.
The tract was called the ‘Incomparable Christ’. For the first time I had been made aware of enormity of the person of Jesus.
His uniqueness is a challenge to us all and we in the church should never allow such revelation to fade with familiarity. It is striking that many of the groups that wander off into what is perceived as doctrinal heresy do so at this point; the person of Jesus, though still often highly esteemed, is reinterpreted as less than the divine character accepted by historic Church belief.
The uniqueness of Christ, the head, is reflected by the uniqueness of the Church, his body. None of us can claim to be perfect or, indeed, to be part of a church without faults. But ontologically the church is unique. Although not to be confused with the Kingdom of God the church, as the body of Christ, is unique in its calling and in its relationship to God. It is my conviction that whatever can be said of the character and ministry of Christ should be said of his body.
 Of course no individual can rightly compare with the Incarnate One yet we are all designed to image God. In terms of design and purpose the church is to continue all that Christ has begun and finished. When we look at his life we must be moved to respond in kind. When we look at his character we must be charged to walk in his footsteps.

The New Testament gives us a good deal of help in trying to navigate this journey. Jesus is described as our great High Priest and in this he is depicted as unique. No one else was found good enough to break through the veil into the Holy of Holies and thereby blaze a trail for us to follow. The church on the other hand is to be a Priestly Nation and in that role we follow Christ in making intercession for a world that does not understand. Great High Priest and Priestly Nation: an incredible relationship.
Jesus again is described as our Apostle being sent as a messenger on behalf of the Father to this prodigal world: unique in his place of departure and also in his arrival at the cross. We, his body, are also sent and therefore Apostolic by design and purpose. We are called to continue this message of grace and hope.
The first chapter of the book of Hebrews tells us that God spoke to humanity in many different ways through the Prophets of old but now he has spoken to us by his Son. Ephesians chapter three tells us that it is God’s intention that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made know.
This tells us that the story continues and that the manifold things that God has in store for his creation are to be shown through the church. They resonate through the words of the Prophets; we have seen them and have access to them, in the finishing work of Christ. Now the world can touched them through his body the church. In this there is something of a tension. How can we communicate such a unique event? What symbols, motifs and analogies can we utilise in order that such a unique story can be embraced?
To be continued……………………….


‘Christ and the Spirit’ Graham WP McFarlane Paternoster 1996 pg10

‘Transforming Mission’ David J Bosch Orbis Books pg 512

Approaching Fifty - It makes you want to sigh!

I have noticed over recent weeks that I have been sighing a great deal.
Not with sadness you understand. This expelling of air is a totally
involuntary action and seems to be linked with nothing more than having
moved in some small way.

It’s as if I need to make a comment about how old I am starting to feel
but can’t find the words to fully express it; and so I sigh.

What made it slightly worse is than I have noticed that my dad does the
very same thing and has done so for some time.

Then, last week, whilst in the supermarket I overheard someone describe me
as ‘That old man’.
They meant no ill by it and I took into consideration that they were
merely a teenager and thereby new little about life.

I am just under a thousand hours from my fiftieth birthday so I really
don’t want to be know as ‘that old man’ at this stage of my existence.

I ask my wife whether I deserved such a descriptor and she was supportive
to a point but reminded me that I am technically in my fiftieth year and
about to start my fifty-first. Not being interested in technicalities I
ignored her comment.

Ignoring the fact that I was ignoring her Mrs M went on to ask what
description I would have liked them to use.

I thought for a moment and then conceded that I couldn't find one that was
both accurate and didn't cause me offence.

Describing me as 'that middle-aged guy' might have been truer but it still
would have marked me as older than I want to be. In truth the word old,
from the teenagers perspective was accurate.

I suppose it’s mildly better than ‘the fat guy!’

I mistakenly said that last sentence out loud to my wife and she chuckled
as she pointed out that I was taking comfort in grading the possible

She was right: I was performing mental gymnastics trying to work out
whether it was better to be called balding than old.

I made the mistake of asking Mrs M what words she would find acceptable
about herself.

This was not a bad thing in and of itself but because it lead to my bride
asking the following question.

'How would you describe me?'

'A beautiful lady' I said, hoping that would put an end to it.

'Lady' she commented sounding a little disappointed 'that makes me sound

'Well you are married to and old man' I replied.

Then as if we couldn’t find any more words my bride and I sighed at the
very same moment.

Jesus Didn't Write A Book

Bishop Lesslie Newbigin on how to bring the gospel to the culture:

If the gospel is to challenge the public life of our society, if Christians are to occupy the “high ground” which they vacated in the noon time of “modernity,” it will not be by forming a Christian political party, or by aggressive propaganda campaigns. Once again it has to be said that there can be no going back to the “Constantinian” era. It will only be by movements that begin with the local congregation in which the reality of the new creation is present, known, and experienced, and from which men and women will go into every sector of public life to claim it for Christ, to unmask the illusions which have remained hidden and to expose all areas of public life to the illumination of the gospel. But that will only happen as and when local congregations renounce an introverted concern for their own life, and recognize that they exist for the sake of those who are not members, as sign, instrument, and foretaste of God’s redeeming grace for the whole life of society.

Bishop Newbigin was one of my favourite pastoral theologians. He had a pastor's heart and a theologian's thought process.

He said that to understand the gospel correctly we need to remember that Jesus didn't write a book. He invested in people!

- Posted from my iPhone