Learning to Open One Hand

In the last post, we took note of Jeremiah’s role in helping the covenant community to transition from their state of theocracy to that of the Babylonian exile. Like the patriarchs of old, once again they would need to learn to engage with the world around them. Once again, they would become a pilgrim people. 

In this regard, Daniel could not have served as a better example to those in Babylonian exile. He stood as a role model, both as one who remained uncompromised in religious distinctiveness, and yet also as one who (in obedience to Jeremiah’s word) acted out a profound level of engagement with Babylonian culture (he essentially became the prime minister!).

This is significant, because as one who cared deeply for the the instructions that God had given through Jeremiah, Daniel knew and understood what needed to be done. He knew that he needed to live as the people of God had lived before their entrance into the land.  Or to put it another way, Daniel understood that they needed to learn to open one of their hands. Rather than have a “closed hand-closed hand” approach to cultural engagement, they now needed to be a people with a closed hand on theology, and an open hand on culture. 

Closed Hand, Closed Hand, Stay.

The goal of the current series of posts is to show the relationship of biblical theology and mission. At this point, we are about halfway through telling the story of scripture – and seeing how it should inform both our missiology, and our philosophy of cultural engagement.

Following on from the previous entry, we are able to see that as Israel finally came into the promised land, their principle of cultural engagement was altered. At a later stage, I will use the catch phrase; “Open hand. Closed hand. Go!” to summarise all that a well-developed New Testament missiology should look like. That is to say, the church is instructed to keep a closed hand on the sacred (theology and holiness); while it opens its hands on issues of contemporary engagement with common culture. However, at this point in the story,  note that the very opposite missional philosophy is in play.  We could summarise it this way: Israel’s missional model is, with propriety: “Closed hand. Closed hand. Stay”.

As the people of God (at this point in the story) obey in keeping completely separate from the world, and make sure to govern all of life according to a theocratic principle, God would bring great blessing upon the nation. This would indeed serve the purposes of mission. For one thing, it would show forth the glory of God’s theocracy to all the surrounding peoples, in turn bringing them to marvel in awe at the splendour of the foreshadowed kingdom. Here, those such as the Queen of Sheba, would stand truly amazed as they looked upon the people of God, and the place of his dwelling. But, the reality is that this would only be for a brief moment in history. After seeing this glory, the shadows would need to be stripped away in order to yield to the infinitely greater substance.

Secular Reflection

After delving into some of the ideas behind the title of this blog, we’re moving on to talk about the type of content that I hope to update it with. Yesterday, I mentioned that this is where the subtitle comes in: “Meditation on the sacred. Reflection on the secular”. We looked at the first sentence last time. In this post, let’s look at the second.

Reflection on the Secular

When I use the term “secular”, I use it as an umbrella term. In its broadest sense, it refers to the world that surrounds the sacred; inclusive of both the common and the profane. And while I feel no sacred calling to meditate on the secular, I do feel the ongoing need to reflect meaningfully upon it (as a tolerated sojourner, this is where the idea of reciprocal toleration really comes to the fore).  Put as simply as possible however, here is that part of my journal, web-log (or…blog) which serves to record my engagement with the world around me.

Regarding the nature of this engagement then, quite contrary to “my meditation on the sacred”, here I promise no focus or regularity whatsoever. I’ll only write on the secular every once in a while. When I write, I’ll ignore all blog-post length conventions. I’ll cover everything from the random details of my personal hobbies to the ongoing social and political rants in my head (well ok, maybe not political rants. But you get the point). Basically, when it comes to my reflection on the secular, it’s going to be a bit of a free-for-all; as it should be.

Theological-devotional material will serve as the clear mainstay of this blog.  The rest is of a secondary focus to me. At the high points, I hope that these reflections will demonstrate that the study of theology not only leads to a deepened devotion, but also a deepened reflection upon the world around us. However, even at the low points, these entries stay significant if only in that they provide the remainder content of my web-journal. That’s what this is: just “another web-journal of the great Christian journey”. And in that sense, even the worst of these posts will aim to do well in that they serve to record both the heavenly and earthly life of this dual citizen, and tolerated sojourner.

Sacred Meditation

Moving on from those ideas and issues pertaining to the blog-title, the next step is to think about the blog’s content itself.

So, what exactly do I want to write about, anyway? Well, hold your horses little pilgrim, I’ll get there when I’m good and ready.  First I need to say a bit about the greater categories. And this is exactly where the sub-title comes in: “Meditation on the sacred. Reflection on the secular”.

In this post, let me say a bit about that first sentence:

Meditation on the Sacred

By the term “sacred”, I have in mind Sacred-Scripture. Holy Writ. The Word of God itself: set against the profane, and set apart from the common.

By “meditation on the sacred”, I mean “writing of a theological-devotional nature”. Not the dry and dusty stuff. Not the shallow, fluffy nonsense. Rather, a true and experiential theology.

While I’m not at all against the need to think about the sacred at an exclusively academic level, that is not what I want to write about. Firstly, I know my station; I’m not an academic. More positively however, my calling is to the pastorate: a calling to preach and teach the Bible in a way that resonates with the heart and influences the soul. And whatever the value of academic theology (and there is indeed great value), my task is to bring it to the people and make it battlefield-ready. Sacred mind-engaging, heart-stirring, theological meditation. As a pastor, this is what I am called to do. As a pastor therefore, this is primarily what I want to write about. I’ll strive for a balance between brevity and substance. My focus will be singular: to write in such a way that probes your soul and leads you into further meditation upon the Word.  In this regard, while I look forward to the benefits that writing will bring to me; my great hope (by the pure grace of God), is that these benefits are eclipsed by any scripture-extracted blessings that you might experience.