The eternal God dwells in community, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He created us in his own image to do and be the same, a community of persons who dwell in with him, and each, in eternal love. In the creation account God says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” The woman was formed from the man, thus fully made in God’s image. God’s image has a male and female expression. Therefore the outworking of divine community is God’s highest creative act.
But sin marred this community by breaking the relationship with God and one another. This idea of sin breaking relationship is not nearly as common in the West, as in the East. But it is clearly a biblical understanding. Sin broke relationships and ruined community. Rebuilding broken communities is thus God’s good work in grace and reconciliation. He calls a people through the patriarch Abraham and the rest of this story is the narrative of the entire Bible (Genesis 12:1-3).
Jesus came to bring this work of restoration to fullness in the present age, by forming a beloved community in the image of the Trinity as loving persons.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
Jesus embodied this very community, and passed it on to his disciples. There is a lovely word in the Hebrew that expresses this work powerfully: hesed. Hesed is the mercy of the Lord. Richard Wineland, an Episcopal priest in Nashville (TN), expresses the importance of this idea in The Anglican Digest (Summer 2018), in an article titled “A Communion of Mercy.” Wineland contends that mercy is beyond all human reason, which means divine mercy boggles the mind. He adds, “It is a quality that was in the short supply in the world in which the nascent church was born.” It is also increasingly in short supply in our modern world.
Popular writer Anne Lamott, in her fine book, Hallelujah, says: “Im not sure I even recognize the ever-presence of mercy anymore, the divine and the human; the messy, crippling, transforming, heartbreaking, lovely, devastating presence of mercy. But I have come to believe that I am starving to death for it, and my world is, too.”
The famous theologian Karl Barth was invited to speak at a conference where the difference between Christianity and other religions was the subject. Barth was asked what was the Christian distinctive from all other religions? He replied, “That’s easy, it’s grace.” God’s hesed, his radical kindness, has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ. We are, as the new community, to go and live this kindness and grace so that together we (as community) will pour ourselves into the lives of the poor, the strangers and the powerless.
If this understanding is correct then the church should be thought of as the extension of the original dream of God to form a beloved community in personal and life-changing relationships. It is this divine mercy, grace and goodness that is incarnated in Jesus Christ. This is our message, to live and proclaim. When the church moves away from this divine dream it loses heart and soul. The Initiative is both a community and a movement. We believe this loss of the divine dream has created a massive problem across Western secular nations. We further believe that the solution is to recover the reality of beloved community in deep friendship and personal relationships. This vision seems counterintuitive to many, but it is the only vision we find at the very center of God's purpose for this age. Can we recover it in faith, hope and love? We must. And we believe, God helping us, we can.
NOTE: On September 1, 2018, this mission will legally become The Initiative. Please take note of this when giving on and after this date. Further, this ACT3 Weekly email will come to an end in two weeks, August 27. You will need to sign up for mailings from The Initiative at http://eepurl.com/dA5GqH
This Week at ACT3 - August 13-19
- Today I will be in Indianapolis meeting with my friend, Fr. Rick Ginther, the ecumenical officer for the Archdiocese if Indianapolis and Central Indiana. Tomorrow morning I will have breakfast with a long-time ecumenical leader and friend, Richard Hamm. Pray for these visits and my journey home.
- Pray for the seed sown ten days ago when a group of us met with Governor Bruce Rauner to suggest ideas for a commission on non-violence led by faith-based ministries. My passion, along with that of some friends, is to teach and practice non-violence. It works.
- I found out two weeks ago that I need to have a torn rotator cuff repaired surgically. I will have this surgery on October 25 and take four weeks in a sling to recover. Then begins physical therapy but I will be able to travel again after Thanksgiving. Your prayers are appreciated.
- As ACT3 becomes The Initiative over the next three weeks (September 1) we face growing financial concerns as we run out of money if we remain on our current pace. We are praying that our Father provides. Please consider helping us by sending a generous gift to ACT3 at P.O. Box 88216, Carol Stream, IL 60188. You can also give at www.act3network.com.
John H. Armstrong