High, Low, Wide, Deep
A week ago I attended and supported the first ordinations in the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) conducted by Bishop Andy Lines, currently Mission Director of Crosslinks, but recently consecrated a missionary Bishop for AMiE. It was an historic occasion, simple, but memorable, likened to the exhilarating proclamation of the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration in Jerusalem at the first Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in 2008. GAFCON has gone on to establish itself across the world of the Anglican Communion as a renewal movement. After a second GAFCON gathering in Nairobi in 2013, a third GAFCON is being prepared for 2018 back in Jerusalem. I have been privileged again to have been invited as one of the 100+ delegates (out of about 1500 from around the world), and St Peter’s has again contributed to the Bursary Fund to enable some from impoverished areas (such as South Sudan or northern Kenya) to get there.
One of the spin-offs of attending a gathering such as the AMiE ordinations was to meet old friends and kindred spirits, so many who in different parts of the country and situations have been partners in the gospel, contending shoulder to shoulder for the advance and defence of the gospel. Another spin-off is to join in the praise and prayer of such occasions – there is something about the global context and culture of the faith and fellowship being expressed that is extraordinarily uplifting and – yes – exhilarating.
Yet another is to hear the Scriptures that are chosen and expounded at such an event to feed, fuel and nerve the faithful. Particularly on this night it was the eight being made deacons and the one being ordained presbyter, but all of us were addressed and engaged by the Word of God. The text was Matthew 28.16-20: the King’s power, authority, command and promise. But it was part of the introduction that arrested me and I pass on to you who are reading this Blog.
An allusion was made to the late John Stott’s exposition of the four gospels in just four words: high, low, wide, deep. Can you guess which word fitted which gospel?
High – John’s Gospel. The opening verses say it all – here is the infinite, majestic God of Creation, the Lord of glory, the Sovereign God high on the throne over the entire cosmos, engaging with and entering into human history. The light of his glory and reign is finally and truly seen in his ‘hour of glory’ as he ‘reigns’ on the Cross.
Wide – Luke’s Gospel. This careful researcher records so many encounters of Jesus with the poor and weak and marginalised – lowly shepherds or handmaids, children, Gentile foreigners, outcast sinners, the poor and needy, women on the fringes of society. There’s a wideness in the love and mercy of Jesus that reaches everywhere and everyone, and when such love is received there is great joy.
Low – Mark’s Gospel. Here is the Servant King, one who came not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10.45). He came into his own world and kingdom displaying all his power and authority, and yet he stooped low to conquer, emptying and humbling himself even to death. All was poured out into his calling to ‘suffer and be killed’ as a ransom for many.
Deep – Matthew’s Gospel. Hidden away in the depths of the centuries and Scriptures of God’s people were the truths of God’s promises and purposes, now revealed in Jesus – the genealogy in chapter 1, the birth-place in chapter 2 and the hostility of the powers-that-be, the herald in chapter 3, the light in the darkness in chapter 4, and so it goes on, unfolding and illuminating all that was there deep in their past.
The high King of all glory and majesty – the wide love of the Saviour and good Shepherd – the suffering Servant stooping so low – the deep truths revealed in the long-awaited Christ of God …. it is all there focused in Jesus born in Bethlehem
It has been an eye-opener to me and a great refreshment to have this insight and overview. It has helped me notice in the first song that Luke records in his ‘Christmas Playlist’ (Mary’s song in 1.46-55), that Mary’s joy and the praise and proclamation of the angels go back to the foundational promises made by God to Abraham (1.54-55). The child who was born is at last the fulfilment of God’s mercy and promise to his people to provide a Saviour and salvation. What centuries of faithful waiting and looking there had been! And now there is the overwhelming relief of revelation and fulfilment – all is to be restored in this one who has come. He is the ‘Saviour who is Christ the Lord’.
Happy Christmas – when it comes ….
David Banting (15.12.17)
Previous post: Christmas at St. Peter's