What on EARTH … ? Yes, earth is one of the most proper points of reference for whatever God is up to. The gospel of Jesus our Lord is truly comprehensive and expansive. It extends to the whole earth—the one that once wasn’t but now is, along with all that it has been along the way and all that it will be when God is finished, or rather begins again. Humans sinned and all hell broke loose from that time to the present and from that place to all places, with continuing, deepening and ever widening consequences beyond human reckoning. But, wonderfully, Another Human entered the picture and reprised the Human Role in the story. His entrance set in motion the great reversal, as far as the curse is found, as deep as the trauma has plunged, and promises ultimately Everything New—for people who will be gathered up into His Story, who will become enthralled and embraced and enfolded in His Person and Way, and also for all of reality.
When Jesus was born it was glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among potentially all persons and places. Though Jesus’ ministry was limited during his life among us, still it pointed toward a geographically, ethnically, culturally, socially limitless scope for the Kingdom he embodied and commended to all. Thus, when Jesus finished his work, dealing death itself the death-blow and birthing an indestructible life in this still here and now world, he vindicated his insistence on another way to be human, family, and people. Whether one started out in Galilee or Judea or Athens or Rome, on the way of Jesus one joined, or was joined, with others to become NEW—persons, communities, BODY. All of this in the service of showing the world what its creator, redeemer and healer God wants to do.
So, though the people of this new way began in Jerusalem and environs, they did not stay there. Soon they were in the outlying regions of Pentecost’s “ground zero,” only then to be launched to the very ends of the earth. Thus, the center of the Jesus-Kingdom-Universe began to shift—from Jerusalem to Antioch to the Greco-Roman centers of civilization to Egypt, North Africa and Rome itself. Then, the movement shifted to Europe and eventually North America. After a number of centuries the center once again has shifted, this time toward the South and East. In 1900 the continent of Africa was truly the Dark Continent if the true light indeed shines in Jesus! Something like 1% of the population subscribed to the way of Christ in any sense. One hundred years later, approximately 50% of the whole continent now claims Christ as Lord. Similar stories can be told for South America and Asia. This massive and multiplying shift amounts to a modern series of Pentecost-like events. Not just once, but again and again the wind and fire of the Spirit has visited recent history with enormous impact.
From our perspective in the Western world we often are unaware of these massive God-movements. As we sometimes pray for a bit of Pentecost here where we are, Spirit movement abounds elsewhere with atomic and viral effect. Quite literally the human, social and cultural landscape is shifting in Kingdom directions in other places. Quite literally it does seem as though the whole earth is targeted for rescue and renewal.
Then, when we become aware of such movements of the Spirit we want to know what about us? Why not here? What’s wrong with us? Why have we lost this favored position in the center? Indeed! These are good questions to ponder and pray through. But we shouldn’t wring our hands, throw dust in the air and cry, “Ichabod!” Instead, let me note the obvious: We are not in charge of what God is doing, God is. Graciously, God lets us see some of what God is doing, not to satisfy our curiosity but mostly to draw our attention to the ways in which we might enter in to what on EARTH God is doing. We enter in by seeing what we can see, by getting as expansive a view of these movements of God as we can. (It’s called Google or Bing or …, you get the idea) We enter in by celebrating who God is and what God is able to do. We enter in by receiving our growing awareness of how God is at work as an invitation to imagine and seek ways to participate in these ongoing acts of God. We enter in by giving not only our attention, but also whatever else God has entrusted to our care—time, money, gifts, experiences, connections to other people and places. We enter in by claiming our own “piece of the action” by using these things in ways that assist others on the front edges of the God movements. We enter in by focusing on the people whose worlds are being challenged and changed by the Person and Way of Jesus as these are being lived out before their very eyes. We enter in by joining with others we know who, like us, can hardly believe the powerful transformations occurring in other places, and then with them prayerfully imagine how we-together might participate in some of these movements.
In short, we enter in to what on EARTH God is doing, by forgetting about what we think he is not doing here and focusing on what he is doing elsewhere, and giving ourselves to every form of participation that opens before us. We enter in by losing ourselves in such seeking and sharing. And we do it until we find ourselves as we’ve never known ourselves before, and in places where we’ve never before been. Don’t’ be surprised if some of those places turn out to be near. And don’t be surprised if some of it doesn’t start happening in these places that are near now.