“Though you weep/you will find comfort/though you bleed/you will find hope/though you run/you will find shelter for your soul/. Though you’re crushed /you won’t be shattered/ though you die/you will find life/though you burn with the deepest burnings/ you will be all right/ it’s going to be all right. /Though you feel like no one’s listening/ don’t believe the devil’s lies/ though his kiss may taste like honey/ it will steal your life/ he’s going to steal your life./ Though the cup that stands before you/ seems too bitter to drink/ though the road is marked with suffering/ it’s a step of faith/ it’s always faith.” (David Ruis)
Tell me, for God’s sake, where’s the hope?
What we need is a change of government! What we need is a new president - presiding over us! What we want is revolution!
“The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God..” (Mark 1:1) AH, here it is. There’s a new world coming, after all! There’s a new universe being formed, and hope itself is bringing about a new structure to this tired planet. And the glorious author and originator of this deliriously splendid world is none other than JESUS CHRIST himself. He is coming towards us in person to set free, to remove all oppression and restore his creation to pristine glory. Oh, come soon, Lord Jesus!
Mark begins his gospel straight in - no messing about. All we ever do, you see, in God’s world, is to step into what he is already doing, to catch up on the story he is already intent on telling. He is always working. It is his world, in which he shapes and fashions, stirs and inspires and keeps on straightening out all the crooked lines of people’s lives.
At the heart of the great good news is this wonderful Person - the freest being in the whole cosmos. The gospel is about someone - the peerless Son of God - who comes close to us, only to transform. Walking with him means progress is always made and transformation has to happen. No wonder the first Christians were called “followers of the Way” - we belong to him, and he is ever leading us on, ever onwards, until there is not one inch of this planet not filled with the knowledge of his glory, filling every crevice, saturating every atom with his manifest presence “as the waters cover the sea” - as the Atlantic is wet! “Of the INCREASE of his government and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
The gospel of Mark is the confession of faith in Christ who comes towards his people to heal, forgive, set free and restore.
• He ALONE has the power to REMOVE our sins far from us, so that they are buried in the deepest sea of his blood, shed on the cross
• He ALONE has the power to REVERSE the devil’s curse so that even death itself is robbed of its dread
• He ALONE has the power to RELEASE, to unbind, to set free his followers and loose them into well-being
The gospel is revolution!
So Jesus, the Son of God, comes not as a prophet of despair, a doom-monger. No, never! He comes full of joy and in the utter freedom of truth. He comes to disclose and reveal the grace-filled heart of God. He is for us. He is not mad at us. He comes towards us, embodying in himself his message of celebration: God is going to set everything right! Twisted souls and bodies will be made whole! Your lives will be completely satisfying! There will be justice! There will be revival and you will come alive with the the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit. In his person, by his person, through his person, the revolution begins. Best then to grab hold of the mercy which is available to you now - for God’s grace is greater than our sin.
And if we ask, what does this revolution look like - well we come face to face with the Kingdom. The Kingdom is God’s right to rule over sin, sickness, demons, death, disunity, disaster and devastation. And so we know what God wants done - for whenever we come across these things (sin, sickness, demons, death, disunity, disaster and devastation), we know he wants them sorted - he wants them out of his creation! They don’t belong to the new heavens and the new earth he is bringing about, and they don’t belong here either. When we pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” that’s what we are praying for: no sickness, no pain, no death, no demons, no sin, no disunity, no devastation. We even read that God will dig out (literal translation) every tear from the corner of our eyes - oh praise him! As Dallas Willard says, the Kingdom of God is “the range of God’s effective will”: in other words, ‘what God wants done gets done!’
And this Kingdom, says Jesus, is “at hand” - that is, just within reach, always ready to be known and experienced. Where the King is, there is the Kingdom! Touch the King and you will receive the Kingdom! The King is here and he is waiting for you. God is about restoring his creation so that it can recover and be renewed. The Kingdom of God, Hans Kung said, is “Creation healed.” Oh, that’s such good news! There is hope! There is healing! There is justice! There is freedom! All of which occurs as the King draws near. The gospel is all about Jesus Christ having done something DECISIVE. You see, in gracious gladness, God has taken the initiative - and he starts the revolution in us, we who have come under his just and gentle rule. The Revolution is here to reverse the course of our Hell-bound lives, and to bounce the world the right way up again, and to set about fulfilling his good and perfect purposes for every man, woman and child in this world. The Kingdom is here; soon it will cover the whole earth. Oh, of course, we live in that tension of waiting and longing for tomorrow to come - but at least we can say we have seen the future: we wait for the Day fully to come, but we have seen the dawn rising!
And if we ask what is the unique message we have to share? Well it will be something like this:
‘Tell the people you meet that I love them, says Jesus; tell them I died for them; tell them I am alive for them; tell them there is a new creation; tell them how to celebrate and make merry in my presence; tell them there is a God who made them and yearns for their company; tell them if they seek for me, they will find me. Tell them all this. Tell them the Kingdom is just within reach. Tell them justice will come. Tell them they can be forgiven. Tell them they can be healed. Tell them they can be set free. Tell them they will have no need of tears. Tell them broken lives will be mended. Tell them I am so for them. Tell them all this. Tell them I love them, above all.’
Didn’t Jesus say, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (John 20;21)?
And this is our task. This is our role. We are to tell of all we have seen and know. We are to proclaim all that we have heard. We are to tell a tale, then, a story wrapped up in the most truthful, trustworthy, liberated person the world has ever seen, or will ever know. And this tale, this story is inscribed in the very stuff of our lives - it is engrained in us, it is our lifeblood and our oxygen, it is so much part of us - this GOOD NEWS message - this PERSON OF CHRIST - it’s all one. We want as many as possible, not to sign the dotted line, but to join the story - so that they too may become apprentices of hope, part of the redemption and transformation we speak of, embodiments of God’s glorious grace, living demonstrations of the Kingdom, our very communities becoming outposts of God’s subversive life.
Like the first who followed Christ, we shall be remade, and our chief interests won’t be in programmes, or propping up institutions, or even religious activities. Like the first disciples who responded to Christ’s call, we are called in our common every day life - and we don’t have to be anything but who we are in Christ. We who have been transformed by the Revolution, we are reckless lovers of grace! We shall be members of the Holy Spirit Detection Club - looking for clues as to where life and love and joy and peace will break out next!
We shall be filled with giddy hope! We have seen the better world coming! We have tasted of the powers of the age to come. It will not be long before we see “a great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Revelation 7:9,10)
I see a new city (Gerard Kelly).
I see a new city, poured out from heaven Dressed for a party, blazing with beauty; Her rooftops are radiant, her trees trembling with laughter, And joy like a jewel shines in her streets.
From her walls and windows No weeping is heard; Through her gateways and gutters Floods of tears do not flow - For in her homes and houses no pain dwells, Bricks once broken down in mourning Rise again in song and celebration; Stones thrown down by enmity and envy Dare to dance in swirling swathes of mercy.
She sings: a million voices rising The long lost languages of human hopes, The secret praise of human hearts, released at last, Because her God is with her, Because His home is made Within her walls, Because her voice is heard - Gentle like the rains of Spring, Declaring: New! New! New! I am making all things new!
This is the city I see, The future I belong to; This is the blueprint my heart holds onto.
Even now, in streets that sing another song, Even here, beneath a darker vision’s shadow,
This metropolis of mercy, Promising future realisation
Pictured now in love’s imagination: This is my dream -
And though I wait, and though I long, And though the sacred city may seem slow Still I will hope Still I will pray Still I will today RISE UP AND BUILD.