I have made a big deal out of the book, Flipped, by Doug Pagitt, in recent weeks. In his promotional material, Doug says the following:
One of the flips I play with in the book is what it means to “live, move and have our being in God” rather than trying to connect with God through any kind of transactional system. I hope the people you share the book with will be encouraged to flip from an “If/Then” faith to the “In God” way of life.
It is this flip that has spoken most to me, and I think it clearly speaks to what my ministry has been all about. I look for the flip in any reading of scripture, and I am confident that, when we are “In God,” we will move from believing in a God who endorses our values, biases, dreams and vision (and is thereby limited by what we can imagine or dream in our own minds) to living In God who then imparts God’s values, biases, dreams and vision to us. In other words, instead of a God that is reduced to what “I believe about God,” we follow a God who turns our world upside down and embraces us in a vision that is far beyond the limits of our own imaginations.
We are people who tend to draw lines among ourselves. We are divided by lines that separate us according to the color of our skin, our economic status, our sexual orientation, the language we speak, the cultural heritage of our families … and on and on the list goes. When we live “In God,” however, we find ourselves in a place where, according to the Apostle Paul, there is no distinction between slave nor free, Jew nor gentile, male nor female. The peaceable kingdom imagined in scripture is the kingdom where
“all are welcomed and all are accepted.”
And that phrase has meaning for us at Wellspring because that is the motto by which we seek to live every day. The vision that goes with that motto is a vision of full inclusiveness. It is a vision of hope for those who live daily with little or no hope of any improvement in their lives. It is a vision of a kingdom where we, who live “In God,” take the lead in our culture and show our world just how full life can be when we live and move and have our being in this God of our salvation.
In Acts 17, Paul is standing in front of the Areopagus speaking to the Greeks about an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” It is then that he begins to proclaim the message of our God and his work in Jesus Christ. And he tells the story of creation and the work of God to create all people and all nations. Then he says:
From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:26-28a, NRSV)
And that’s what it means to live “In God.” Searching for God even while worshiping at altars to unknown gods. Looking for an answer and seeking to hold it in our hand only to discover that we are the ones being held … in the hand of God … where we live and move and have our being!
What is exciting about this for me is that the church no longer has to be constrained by the limits of it’s own imagination. I have served churches where our imaginations were limited to trying to attract people with newly revised programs to get them to come into the church. I have served churches where it was all about us and our needs … charity begins and home and we were about as “homelike” as we could get. I have served churches where our goal was to get as much religion in our children and youth as we could because the world out there was going to be working hard to take it right back out of them. I have served churches and done mission that is only to assuage our feelings of guilt for having too much, yet we have never tried living in Christian community where resources were shared and where those who were recipients of our endeavors were respected for the gifts and strengths they bring and then invited into true community with us.
When I live in Christ, the scales fall from my eyes. I now see a vision of church that has little to do with me … or us … or how big a building we can have or how many people we can stuff into seats. God has shared with me a vision of a church that is vital to our community and our world. It is a vision of a church that is less about who gets to be in charge of the church and more about how we can pour ourselves out in service to others. It is a vision of a kingdom where there is no need to try and rationalize our ignorance and our prejudice by distorting scripture and actually living in the kingdom of peace where no distinctions divide us … ever again.
So what does it mean for you to live “In God.” I invite you to read Doug’s book and discover the power that comes from getting “Flipped” by a Christ who came to turn our world upside down and help us live, not with God in us, but with us “IN GOD!”