This is the way

David Ruis, Mar 12, 2024, 7:11 PM
David Ruis National Director
This is the way.png

I have muesli pretty much every morning. One thing I love to do is throw a handful of fresh blueberries into the mix before I chow down. A couple of days ago in the midst of my noshing, I noticed a very subtle, yet pervasive, slightly metallic and rancid taste. It wasn't enough to stop me eating my cereal, but it did leave me feeling slightly off. I ended up being ok for the rest of the day, in fact I still quite enjoyed my morning chew, but I did go back to the fridge and do an inspection of my blueberries, the end result being a toss into the trash bin.

There can be a tendency to ignore, or misinterpret  the various signals we can pick up that leave a bad taste in our mouths. At times it is to our peril and at other times it ends up being innocuous and just a faded memory. Walking this precarious tightrope of discernment can be challenging. Not wanting to overreact on the one hand and yet aware that ignoring the niggle to pay attention, could prove to be just as fatal a misstep on the other.

Here's a take from the words of Isaiah in the 30th chapter of his book, verses 18-22; 25-26 :

"... the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are those who wait for him! People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.' Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, "Away with you!" ... in the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted."

As we continue to navigate these times of challenge, upheaval and house cleaning in all facets of society, in which the Church is far from exempt, I am finding encouragement from this ancient prophecy.

The Lord's compassion is drawn from the wells of mercy and justice and His ears are attuned to our cries for help. Even the Gadarene demoniac who would encounter Jesus centuries later, amidst the sounds of rattling chains and foaming shrieks, was not only able to cry out for help, but was heard and liberated by the just power and healing balm of Christ. Instead of this tormented soul finally completely going over the edge, the diabolical hoard that was torturing him were cast into the sea.

The Lord is listening. The Lord is guiding. The Lord is with us. He is at work. A pruning, purging, and cleansing work. Something is "off". Something just doesn't taste right.

So, the Fathers redemptive discipline is upon us right now. Binding up our bruises and healing our wounds as His pruning shears work their way through our vine. Grafting us into Jesus and His Way. What is the Father doing? The Gardener - the "vine dresser" - is about His work of pruning right now. All that is "off" - all that will not release the aroma and flavour of His fruit in us - is to be removed. Doesn't the Father discipline - prune - those He loves?

"Live in me," Jesus says, "Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me." (John 15:4 MSG).

The Way.

The Truth.

The Life.

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'"

I had a DM exchange with a dear friend in Europe the last couple of days.

"There is ground the Vineyard can reclaim." He says to the sound of more wheels falling off the bus of the Church right now, "The Radical Middle - with Orthodox Christian Theology AND the gifts and manifest presence of God."

My response was this: "Agreed. My only thought is that I'm not sure if it needs to be reclaimed (although certainly there have been aspects of this reality that have been lost in the shuffle of the recent years) as much as the Vineyard staying faithful here. In some ways we have been holding steady in this space and that is partly why we've been knocked out of the spotlight in the church world, particularly in some of the charismatic spaces, as our worship, ministry style and understanding of the Spirit working in community can appear less sexy and appealing than some other approaches to theology and orthopraxy. In fact, to many, we may appear to be mundane and even having "lost" the Spirit. This has been some of the impact of trying to hold this ground."

My appeal is that we continue to stay true to our lane. Stay uncomplicated and attuned to what obedience to the Spirit of Jesus looks like for us as a family. Yes, have we said this before?, step by step.

We can taste and see that the Lord is good. There is a good way that we can lean into as we stand at yet another crossroad and choose the ancient paths. The good way Jeremiah invites us to discern. The place where we find rest for our souls in the midst of unrest and chaos all around us.

For us it is the radical middle.

When you think of it, this actually is somewhat of a paradox. Isn't being radical to go to an extreme? Radical in the truest sense of the word, can appear to be extreme and beyond moderation, but to be really radical is the idea of getting to the root of a matter. Back to the centre - the core. It only "feels radical" when the status quo has lost its connection to the tap root  - the essence - of what should be going on. Its true source. Getting back to the root, where the "new normal" is actually where it all began anyway, disturbs everything.

The Way.

The Truth.

The Life.

Jesus summarises in John 15:17, "... remember the root ... love one another."

Paul then muses in 2 Corinthians 11:3-6 (MSG), "... you are being lured away from the simple purity of your love for Christ. It seems that if someone shows up preaching quite another Jesus than we preached—different spirit, different message—you put up with him quite nicely. But if you put up with these big-shot "apostles," why can't you put up with simple me? I'm as good as they are. It's true that I don't have their voice, haven't mastered that smooth eloquence that impresses you so much."

The Way.

The Truth.

The Life.

Payam Akhavan says in the Massey Lecture Series book, "In Search of a Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey":

"Extremism begets extremism. Its stripe and shape is irrelevant because radical evil is always committed in the name of a greater good, whether clothed as progress or tradition. In an interdependent world, the atrocities beyond our imagined borders do not solely express the cruelty of others; they are also connected with our own beliefs and actions, our glorification of greed, our cynical geopolitical games, which we sanitize and justify with our political sophistication."

There is a sweet spot. Yes, a radical middle free of extremism and fundamentalism.


The Way.

Jacque Ellul, in his work "The Presence of the Kingdom" gives us some food for thought, "We must be convinced that there are no such things as 'Christian principles.' There is the Person of Christ, who is the principle of everything. But if we wish to be faithful to Him, we cannot dream of reducing Christianity to a certain number of principles (though this is often done), the consequences of which can be logically deduced."

Beyond "getting it right", or "getting it done", does it smell like Jesus? Taste like Jesus? React like Jesus? The way matters as much as, or more than, the activity we're engaging in. Let's take this thought one step further. In the light of this kingdom and its King, in this way, the end doesn't justify the means. As Wimber used to say, "the way in is the way on."

"I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it's like to be a leader, in on Christ's sufferings, as well as the coming glory. Here's my concern: that you care for God's flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way.
"When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he'll see that you've done it right and commend you lavishly. And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for—
God has had it with the proud,
But takes delight in just plain people.
So be content with who you are, and don't put on airs. God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you."
(1 Peter 5:1-7 MSG)

Do we really believe this? God has had it with the proud. He takes delight in just plain people. So be content.

And this, this really puts a good taste in my mouth. "Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you." I long to live this way each day. Carefree because He is most careful with me. Yes Lord. I can follow in your way. I can discover the peace and rest my soul desires here. I am cared for and care free. Let Your kingdom come. Let Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The Way.

The Truth.

The Life.

Step by step.