Friday, June 28, 2013

Asheville, NC: The Open Table Conference

For the last several months I have awakened to, or have been awakened by the single thought that Jesus Christ is holding all things together—the entire cosmos, including you and me. The apostles John and Paul are emphatic about this reality. "All things came into being by Him; and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men" (John 1:3-4). "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Col 1:16-17). When we integrate these statements with Jesus' death on the cross—in a non-legal way—we begin to see the real gospel. For in dying at our hands Jesus has shifted 'the place,' as it were, of his holding all things together. In accepting our betrayal and murderous rejection, Jesus established the place of holding all things together not only in his Creative power as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, but as the One who has submitted himself to our hostility toward him. In his redeeming genius, our faithlessness became part of the way his faithfulness bonds the universe. He incorporated our betrayal and rejection into the way he holds all things together. Peter’s betrayal became the way that Jesus met him his broken humanity and embraced him forever. To broaden this slightly, since Jesus is the Father's Son and the Anointed One, his submission to the human race's rejection is the way of our inclusion in his eternally stable relationship with his Father (adoption) and into his eternal anointing in the Holy Spirit (recreation). Jesus himself, the Creator crucified and resurrected and ascended, is not only the place where the cosmos is held together, but as such he is the truth of all truths, our truth. He is the light of the world. Therefore, his very existence commands us to see ourselves held together in him. He commands us to see ourselves included in his relationship with his Father, and in his anointing in the Holy Spirit. Thus, the simple, yet searching gospel proclamation becomes a summons for us to take a break from our interpretation of reality and to take sides with him against the way we see God, and against the way we see ourselves, and against the way we see others. For in Jesus we see that his Father has embraced us forever, and we see ourselves not excluded, but included, and we see others not as outsiders or foreigners or aliens, but as brothers and sisters in Jesus. He is ‘the place’ of our togetherness. Who can fathom such grace and mercy and togetherness? Yet this is the command of the very being of Jesus. He is ‘the place,’ as Athanasius said, where the Father, the Holy Spirit, humanity, and all creation meet, and are together. Thus, Jesus commands us to a vast reinterpretation of ourselves, and of our vision of God, and of our vision of ourselves, and of our vision of others, and of our vision of the cosmos. The Open Table Conference, with John MacMurray, Paul Young and me, is about the free discussion of this vision of Jesus Christ—which I would argue is the New Testament’s vision of the Lord Jesus. The first OTC, as John calls it, in Antelope, Oregon, amazed me in the beautiful diversity of folks from around the country and abroad who wanted to be a part of this discussion. Personally, I was shocked and thrilled at the range of people and the backgrounds that gathered in the Oregon desert. We listened; we questioned; we learned; we cried, but mostly we were all thrilled to know that we are not alone in our journey in the Holy Spirit. So I invite you to join us at the next Open Table Conference in Asheville, North Carolina on August 30-September 2. Visit the web site ( for details. I hope you will join us for a gathering.