Our mission as Christians is to offer the world a positive, hopeful vision of human history. We are not to be prophets of gloom, a holy huddle of ‘the saved’ looking out with disdain on the world and the sad events of secular, human history.
A basic theme of our Scriptures is that God acts in and through history. The biblical God is discovered in historical events and human politics and institutions. The story includes the emigration of Abraham and his clan out of Mesopotamia, the exodus from Egypt, the development of legal codes, the evolution of monarchy and its constant battles with the prophets, the Assyrian invasion, the trauma and pain of exile, the poetry of Isaiah, the life of Jesus, the struggles of the early Christians to discover who they were and to resolve their relationship with the Jews - to mention a few things.
And an important feature of this history is that it is not confined to explicitly religious events and persons. The history of salvation ruptures the wall between the sacred and the secular. It demands a broader horizon that can recognise the presence of God outside the zone of the sacred or the confines of Israel or the church.
In the Old Testament and more especially in Jesus and his preaching of the Kingdom of God we have a positive view of history. We are not blind believers in relentless progress. We recognise the power of evil. But we do believe that history is moving towards fulfilment, completion and salvation. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we believe that at the end of history evil and death will be defeated, creation renewed, reconciliation achieved and justice and peace realized. The final word will be life not death, good not evil, despite our present divisions, our selfishness and inability to resolve even the most obvious political disputes, despite natural disasters, wars and the power of some to wreak evil on those weaker than themselves.
The second thing we believe is that the history of salvation is precisely that, a history over a long period of time. The significance of Abraham’s faith was not known until Jesus and even then not fully. We are making perfect the faith of all those who went before us. We are all part of one story, one act of salvation. God seemed to be in no hurry over the Incarnation. Christ built on millennia of creation and redemption history and the church is still completing the work of Christ two millennia after his resurrection. (Eph 1: 19-23).
We must be ‘ancestor’ conscious. Christianity is cross-generational. It is not completed in one generation and probably will not be in ours. We must also be ‘future’ conscious. Conscious of our real, if limited, role in history. It is not our job to save the world. God will save the world. It is our role to be faithful to our ancestors, to play our part, to be relevant and involved in building the Kingdom of God and to remain hopeful and positive.
Fr Noel Connolly