The ‘upside-down Kingdom’
In his 24 years of pastoral ministry, Brian McLaren said he “spent too much time focusing on peripheral issues rather than the Good News that Jesus proclaimed” during his earthly ministry. McLaren, a noted Christian leader, thinker and activist, revisited the dynamics of the “upside-down Kingdom” that Christ represented in the annual Augsburger Lecture Series April 1-2 at Eastern Mennonite University.
The world of Jesus’ day and the contemporary world are “pretty much facing the same crises,” he told a large audience in Lehman Auditorium. “And, the same stories are being told in response, none providing the answer to our global crises that Jesus offers.
“The basic needs of people everywhere are prosperity – not riches, but having basic means for survival – security and equity,” McLaren said. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, if you will,” McLaren said.
The speaker identified the biggest global crises as:
* Human population growth and demands on the environment that have created a worldwide prosperity crisis. “We can only grow to a certain environmental limit,” McLaren noted.
* An equity system that can’t keep pace with the growing gap between the rich minority and the poor majority, resulting in suffering resentment and fear.
* A security system that arms the rich with more and more catastrophic weapons, resulting in vicious cycles of crime and increased violence around the world.
McLaren identified the “primary stories” that individuals and nations run by: domination, revolution, purification, victimization, isolation or accumulation, or a combination of these, all of which “seem to be recurring themes in the gospel narratives.
“This was the world that Jesus entered, and these same stories are at work today,” he stated.
“The world’s religions have failed to provide a ‘framing story’ to deal with these crises,” McLaren said. “The world runs on stories, but only one story has the power to heal and transform. What is the story that we live by?
“Jesus came proclaiming a radically different story – Prosperity is achieved through service and stewardship, security through reconciliation and peacemaking and equity through justice and the pursuit of the common good. Jesus said ‘Repent, therefore, and believe’ – and act – on that good news.
“This is the right moment for people in the Peace Church tradition who believe that Jesus is right in his message – to reconcile with God, one’s neighbors and enemies,” McLaren added.
Jesus said, “Now is the hour, not someday, but now. Come, follow me.”
McLaren closed his main presentation by inviting persons to do exactly that – to come to basins of water positioned around Lehman Auditorium, to touch the water, wash hands and anoint their foreheads, if they wished, as an act of re-dedication to active participation in the Upside-Down Kingdom of God.
The Augsburger Lectures were established by EMU president emeritus Myron S. Augsburger and his wife Esther to bring noted speakers to campus to address topics in the areas of Christian mission and evangelism.
– Story by Jim Bishop