Looking at times in the Church’s history, where God broke in, to remind her of who she was. This week I am looking at the Reformation as one of those moments.
At “the re-formation”, or deeper “formation” of His Son in His People- the further incarnation began. This was about a call to a new level of intimacy in the Church’s spiritual development.
His Son desired to be more fully in His People. A deeper baptism into His Name. It was a Song of Songs instant in history! From bread in the wilderness, into bread of life; from temple building to living
temple; from old covenant to new–all about a deeper incarnation of
God into His people.
For by the time of the New Testament, He speaks of us as having become living temples (1Cor3:16), places of “meeting” God. We ourselves are a meeting ground for the Most High and humanity. That was a huge metaphysical shift in history, when God decided to dwell in us. That is the New Testament. And God has renewed these vows at certain points in the church’s history. The early 20th C felt like a renewal, but the reformation period almost feels like a re-birthing Himself into His People.
His Love was so overwhelming that He died to be inside our very being. That level of intimacy is almost embarrassing. The Lover comes and makes sweet communion within us. Yet, without this level of incarnational intimacy, we would be unable to follow His ideas or law. That was His point. We were not able to follow the Mind and Ways of God, The Father; so He sent the Son to do it for us, and in us.
Lover becomes partner, becomes co-worker, becomes death together-this is the Christian path. If we do not know Him first as Lover, we miss out on all the fawning intimate affection of God, which ravishingly teaches us we are fully loved. Then comes a stage where we begin to want to serve. Since, we have been seen and adored, we want to bless honor and serve the desires of our Lover!
Chosen, broken, blessed as Henri Nouwen teaches. I would say the spiritual stages of development are: Rescued Lover, Companion, Partner in service, Fellow sufferer, Blissfully unioned (almost as if, we start as lovers and end as matured lovers, just as you can see in older couples in the park-another level of beauty and intimacy!). Others have named it as, Rescued and awed, courting God to know Him, Ravished and adored, wanting to serve out of returned adoration, willing to suffer in His Pains, eternally at One with Him.
Many miss one stage of development and need to go back to get know that stage of our relationship with God. Acceptance and belonging should come at the first stage, but we all often miss that part depending on our life experiences; and need to go back and know just how deeply we are seen, loved, and accepted, beloved (Nouwen) by God through His Son.
The shift from old testament to new testament, is in many ways a shift in the proximity of God with humanity. He broke His Lover-Self into time and space and history, to declare His intentions towards us. For God so loved the world, that He sent His Only Son… He was once again, courting humanity. Saying, I will come to you, and send my very Best. It is, in short, a shift from simile to metaphor; from literal physical symbols to spiritual metaphysical ones. I will Myself incarnate in order to show you how much I love you.
The Reformation was then, like a love letter, reminding us of how desperately our Lover wanted to be with us! What did it signal. I know there were many mixed fruits and mistakes, because we are broken downloaders of God; but what was God’s idea in this restorational moment in the Church’s history? That’s what we want to consider in looking at church history.
I want to suggest that God wanted to start another level of incarnation within His People at this stage in history. He wanted to start to shift from simile to metaphor in us. He wanted to become more tangible in us.
The entire Old Testament was physical/literal; the New Testament is spiritual/metaphysical. The bread of the old testament, becomes His Actual Body in the new. The temple building, becomes “we ARE His living temple” (I Cor 3:16). There is a shift to greater incarnation. The New Covenant is about God entering INTO His People rather than being “over there”. My words will I write on their hearts. The Kingdom comes nearer. My laws have I written inside them instead of on tablets.
The new covenant signifies an intensifying contact (His Kingdom “presses in”) between God and His Creation. His idea in birthing the church was to manifest His Actual Presence onto earth and above. (Col). That the manifest wisdom of God would be made apparent in the heavens and below (my favorite translation of that Colossian’s passage). He has wanted to be much closer and Real to humanity than we have allowed Him. The Church was one of His Ways of manifesting His Wild abandon and desire for intense contact with humanity. That He would make Himself so tangibly present, that it would be impossible to ignore His Presence. That is one of the missions of the Church–to manifest her Lover’s Presence and Love, so overtly, that even the angels are overcome by whom they are serving.
The Reformation was again a renewal of God’s vows to His church and a desire that we understand His Priesthood and entire identity as something we can enter-(some part of Himself, which, in fact, enters us!), and allow Him to inhabit. It was another offer or gesture, or overture of His Desire to become present in us, so as to manifest Himself so overtly that even the rocks would call out His Name.