A Tale of Two Cities Continued
Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the Lord: Look to the
rock from which you were hewn, And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.
The prime purpose of the incarnation…is to lift us up into the life of communion, of
participation of the very triune life of God.
(J B Torrance in Worship Community and the Triune God of Grace)
I want to embark on this next part of A Tale of Two Cities by venturing into that which I
believe is the womb of all of life, in fact of all of creation be it human, animal, plant or the
cosmos. Without allowing it to progressively become the context from within which we live,
we will remain locked into focusing on many things that are valid and laudable, even in
Christian ministry, but they will always be part of a bigger whole, hence we will continue to
make that which is part to be the whole and pursue it.
It is also the only principle from which Jesus as our elder brother, shepherd, bridegroom and the last Adam lived. It is that which he modelled for us and invited us into as his disciples. It forms the heart of that which he meant when he said we can only be his true disciples if we pick up our crosses daily, or put differently, if we are willing to lay down our way of thinking and living and follow his example. Discipleship does not find its primary expression in trying to copy his deeds. It finds its expression in focussing on that which he focussed on and the deeds will flow from that. To only aim to do that which he did is a classic example of making something which is a valid part, the whole.
What did he focus on? The answer is a very simple one. He lived as a beloved son from the
bosom of the Father, being totally surrendered to Him in whatever circumstance he faced,
being enabled by the Holy Spirit to do so. J. B. Torrance said: The heart of the New
Testament is the relationship between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.
He modelled Trinitarian life for us or revealed the Trinity in action. The first Adam lived in
this state of Trinitarian wholeness in the beginning as an outflow of God’s ultimate intention for us as people. Adam chose to relinquish that and he embraced independence; something that is still our inheritance. Jesus came to save us from this state of being bent into ourselves and to return us to that which was God’s creative intent - to live from within the ambience of the Trinitarian circle.
Salvation means nothing more than that.
My own experience with the term salvation or the need to be saved has not not always been all that positive. Mostly it had quite a negative connotation in the sense that it had undertones of shame, inadequacy and fear.
One of the universal truths about us as human beings is that all of us are somewhere on the
spectrum of self-centredness, There simply is no exception.
Isaiah says: "All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all".
Jeremiah echoes this: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn
themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water. We have become our own
We have lost our Trinitarian lodestar and we therefore have no frame of reference for life
other than our own respective ones. We look for meaning and understanding of everything,
engage in relationships and by that I mean relationships with God, our self evaluation and one another, take care of our very real political, economic, social, ecological and even spiritual needs by structuring them from a self referential position. As a result we end up with the world in which we find ourselves.
Our lives are often filled with quests for fulfilment even though we might not be cognitively
aware that it is so. Sometimes we seem to be driven to be more, to accomplish more, to
experience more, and to have more. At other times it seems as though we are plodding along without much zest for life, having seemingly settled for just getting by.
Gilbert Bilezekian stated it as follows in his book Community 101:
Each one of us hides an awful secret. Buried deep within every human soul throbs a muted
pain that never goes away. It is a lifelong yearning for that one love, …. the languishing in
our inner selves for an all-consuming intensity of intimacy,….. a heart-need to surrender all
that we are to a bond that will never fail.
When we take time to become silent and to listen, we may hear the scream from the depths of our being, the clamour to bear our souls and to reveal the mystery of our true selves. Just
listen, listen closely….It is the distant echo of the wail in the garden at the loss of innocence,
of the grieving after the remembrance of shared freedom, of the release of body and soul to
the embrace of absolute oneness.
Our mourning is for the closeness that was ours by right of creation. Our grief is for the gift
lost in the turmoil of rebellion. And now whenever there is hope, our hope is for paradise
And that is our inner quest: Paradise must be regained. The comforting truth is that it is a
quest that is realistic because that is what God had in mind for us from the beginning, it is
our call to come home. We must regain our vision of it and not fall into the trap of
mediocrity, settling for just getting by.
I had a profound dream a few years ago. There was quite a lot of content to it, but I only want to share that part that applies to the topic that I am talking about. In the dream my oldest grandson and I were looking at a spectacular stellar event in the sky. We saw stars
disappearing and other star-like bodies falling to the ground. He said to me, Oupa this is a
comet rain. It must be the end times. After this we saw something wonderful and deeply
meaningful. There were three figures involved in an amazing circular dance with one another.
Their movement was very rhythmic and very deliberate. I was deeply struck by their
connected interaction, their unity and the peace that emanated from them. It was an other
worldly sight. I realised that that which we were witnessing was the perichoresis or the dance of the Trinity.
The message that was conveyed was that this is the sole imperative on God’s agenda. It has always been the case, but even more so for the times that we are living in.
In discussing this with my friend, Stephan Vosloo, he made the observation that circular
movement causes both centrifugal and centripetal forces; forces that draw to an inner centre and forces that are ecstatic or move outwards. The impact of it is that as we draw all of life from the perichoresis into ourselves it will radiate outwards. This describes the heart of the life and ministry of Jesus on earth and the lifestyle that we are called to as His disciples.
God’s sole rallying cry that we should hear and respond to is: find your true Origin, the true Fountain of your life, the Rock from which you have been cut, return there and be re-
integrated with it. It is only in and through that quest that you will find true rest and with the rest, discover your identity, purpose and destiny.
We have to be willing to engage with the one single thing that is important and that is to get
back to the Rock from which we have been hewn, to our Origin.
Where did we come from?
What is the heart of the creative Trinity from which we sprang like?
Why are we here?
What is God really busy doing?
We have turned away from our Rock and now we have to re-turn, it is God’s sole agenda, nothing else. That is at the heart of what is called repentance.
I would like to take this a bit further in the next instalment.