No Hands, No Feet but Yours

Christmas Day, and now Christmas season, have come and gone.  In this blog, in our podcast, and hopefully in your local church, you have focused on the Incarnation: God with us.  He came to bring joy and hope!  The God of the entire universe has taken on flesh and “borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Is. 53:4).  This is great news!

Yet, as we move into a new year, the Incarnation not only comforts us, but also calls to us.  It calls for a deeper commitment on our part. The God who became like us now asks us to become like those around us in order to more effectively share this good news. We are to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world.

Is that concept uncomfortable to you? I heard an author once who said we should retire that phrase.  “We cannot be the hands and feet of Christ to anyone,” he maintained.  “Only Jesus can be Christ to the world and it is heretical to assume we are in his place!” He does have a good point: only Jesus can save, and any language that begins to allude to us as doing any part of that is pretty risky.

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However, I believe the phrase is valuable and theologically sound.  The primary manner that God uses to reach this desperate world is through the Church!  We are his extension.  As the Father sent him, so He sends us (Jn. 20:21)!  In fact, the idea of us being his hands and feet comes not from some modern preacher or writer attempting to creatively inspire us in mission.  Remember 1 Corinthians 12:27? “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” This is pretty biblical, then, agreed?!

Perhaps the most eloquent expression of this reality was written nearly 500 years ago by a Carmelite nun, St. Teresa of Avila.  As you read it, be thankful not only that God became man for us, but that we, too, have been given the privilege to be his active presence in this world!

“Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

–St. Teresa of Avila

 

Incarnation – Moving into the Neighborhood

Yesterday (December 14), the Worthless Servants podcast published a new episode touching on an appropriately Christmas topic: the Incarnation.

When we speak of the Incarnation, we are referring to God becoming man.  This is the essence of Advent and of Christmas; these are the moments in the Christian calendar when we celebrate that God sent His only son in the form of a baby and in actual human likeness. That’s phenomenal and mind-blowing!

In present day, the concept of God becoming man is something that we as Christians accept by faith as a normal part of our story. However, 2,000 years ago, the average Jew could not have imagined that their sovereign God would put on flesh and walk alongside us.  Even nowadays this concept is astonishing and blasphemous for many other religions!

For the Christian, the Incarnation is of utmost importance.  God smashed himself into human flesh and came to earth, clothing himself in our own frailty.  It’s not like God hadn’t communicated with the people before the manger, but this was radically different.  These were not the words of a prophet this time; this was the very Word becoming man, coming alongside us.  Eugene Peterson famously puts it this way:

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” John 1:14b

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Many of us are used to the theme of Incarnation around Christmas.  But, what does all this have to do with missions? Could it be that the God who is with us would also send us to be with others? Does an incarnate God also, in some way, ask us to incarnate ourselves and become flesh in new cultures, new languages, and new neighborhoods?

Jesus moved into our barrio.  He identified with our needs and even our sickness.  Are you willing to follow his example? Are you willing to live and laugh and suffer with people from other races, cultures, religions, and languages if it means they will see Jesus in you?

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you…” (John 20:21).

Would you like to dive more into the topic of the Incarnation? You can listen to the most recent episode of the Worthless Servants podcast by clicking here: mesoamericagenesis.org/podcast/ or you can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher!

In this Advent season, may the Incarnation of Jesus Christ himself compel you to incarnate the Good News in your neighborhood and community!

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A Thousand Questions

The following video was published several years ago but still communicates powerfully to our reality. Have you ever had a time when you felt like God was not present? Have you ever questioned if there is hope for our hurting and desperate human race? May your passion be like that of Sharon Irving who performs this spoken word masterpiece.  And may your answer also be “Here am I.”

 

Anna Akhmatova

“The word landed with a stony thud

Onto my still-beating breast.

Nevermind, I was prepared,
I will manage with the rest.


I have a lot of work to do today;

I need to slaughter memory,

Turn my living soul to stone

Then teach myself to live again.”

Anna Akhmatova

 

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By Scott Armstrong

June 23 is the birthday of the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, born in a suburb of Odessa in 1889. In 1912, when she 22 years old, she took a pen name and published her first book of poetry. It was a volume of love poems, and it made her a celebrity. But life in Russia was changing. Before a decade had passed, the country had lived through World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution, and Akhmatova’s poetry changed as well. She lost her husband in 1921 when he was executed for allegedly taking part in an anti-Bolshevik plot, and the next year, she was told she would no longer be allowed to publish her poetry. She set it aside and worked mainly on criticism and translations.

But when her son was repeatedly imprisoned in Leningrad, she found she couldn’t remain silent any longer. She stood among the women outside the prison, all of them trying to send in packages of food and hoping for word of their loved ones inside. One woman recognized her. “A woman with bluish lips standing behind me … woke up from the stupor to which everyone had succumbed and whispered in my ear, ‘Can you describe this?'” Akhmatova later wrote. In 1935, she began what would become a 10-poem cycle for Stalin’s victims, called Requiem (1935-40). She couldn’t publish it, and didn’t even dare keep a written copy, so she and her friends memorized the poems and then burned them. She finally published it in 1963, 10 years after Stalin’s death. She died in 1966, and a complete collection of her poetry wasn’t published in the Soviet Union until the late 1980s.

Talking Points:

  1. Even though we read the stories and hear the news about suffering around the world, what can be done? How can we involve ourselves in helping refugees, those persecuted and tortured?
  2. What does the memorization of poetry by Akhmatova and her friends teach us about Scripture and “hiding the Word in our hearts”? Does the spoken and written and living Word hold more meaning and influence when we memorize it?
  3. What is courage? Oftentimes we think of bravery as a lone soldier taking a stand against an entire army in an action movie.  Yet, could it be that sometimes the most courageous thing we can do is write and describe the world around us, where evil is present and where God is present also? 

 

To read the complete Requiem, clic here: Anna Akhmatova Poem

Compassion for the Lost

Rev. Ken Childress

Isaiah chapter 6, verse 8: “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, here am I! Send me.”

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Is it possible, after we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit, to be satisfied with what we see? What made Jesus weep over Jerusalem? He had a heart of compassion. There are sin-sick souls everywhere. We need a baptism of love that goes to the bottom of the disease. We need to cry to God until He brings us up to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

Jesus told a parable about “a certain man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves” (Luke 10:30). Who among those who passed by and saw his predicament was his neighbor? The one who had mercy on him and helped him (vv. 36-37). Are we awake to the great fact that God has given us eternal life? With the power God has put at our disposal, how can we rest as we look out upon our neighbors? How we have sinned against God? How we lack this spirit of compassion! Do we weep as we look out upon the unsaved? If not, we are not full of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was moved with compassion. Are you?

We have not yet grasped the plight of the unsaved. Since my seminary days, I have had several friends who went to the mission field, I have a little less dim idea of what it meant that God so loved the world that He GAVE Jesus (John 3:16). God gave Jesus. What does that mean? COMPASSION. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). If you have no power, you have not repented. You are thinking, “That’s hard language.” It is truth.

Who is your brother’s keeper? (See Genesis 4:9). Who is the son and heir? (See Galatians 4:7). Are you salted? (See Matthew 5:13). Do you have a pure life? Don’t be fooled; don’t live in a false position. The world wants to know how to be saved, and power is at our disposal. Will we meet the conditions? God says, “If you will, I will.” God will do it.

Daniel knew the time in which he was living; he responded to God, and a nation was saved. Nehemiah met God’s conditions for his time, and the city was rebuilt. God has made the conditions. He will pour out His Spirit on His people.

If we do not go on, we will have it to face. It may be up to us to bring the Gospel to the nations and our city. We can win the world for Jesus. We can turn the tap on. What is the condition? It is unconditional surrender. “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” Zech. 4:6). Holiness opens the windows of heaven. The Spirit of God will be poured out without measure, until the people say, “What must we do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).

With the baptism of the Holy Spirit comes a demolishing of the whole man and a compassion for the world we live in.