By Larry Duggins
Thoughts on Our Theological Task #4
Our theological task is contextual and incarnational.
It is grounded upon God’s supreme mode of self-revelation—the incarnation in Jesus Christ. God’s eternal Word comes to us in flesh and blood in a given time and place, and in full identification with humanity. Therefore, theological reflection is energized by our incarnational involvement in the daily life of the Church and the world, as we participate in God’s liberating and saving action."
― from "The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2016"
God’s greatest gift to humanity is the fact that God chooses to interact with us directly. One of the most incredible and obvious manifestations of that choice is the flesh and blood incarnation of Jesus Christ. God chose to enter the world as one of us to teach us and guide us. Jesus lived a life immersed in God’s grace, pouring himself out for those around him and for all of us who followed them. Jesus modeled life, death, and resurrection for us all.
God’s deep engagement with us did not begin nor end with the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The first chapter of John reminds us of the presence of the Word at the beginning, and the first chapter of Romans calls us to see the presence of God through creation. Acts 2 heralds the active presence of the Holy Spirit—God with us in daily life. In Revelation 1:8, Jesus reminds us that he is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. This paragraph of the Discipline encourages us to rely on that constant incarnational presence of God as we reflect theologically and it calls us to see that presence in both the church and the world.
We are charged with transforming our understanding and reliance upon the active presence of God within the church and the world into participation in God’s liberating and saving action. In Matthew 25:31–46, Jesus—God Incarnate—teaches us to care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner. Our service to these, and to the poor and marginalized of all descriptions, is service to our Lord Jesus Christ. His liberating and saving grace can literally flow through our hands to those whom we serve. This stance encourages a broadening of our view of salvation from intensely personal to broadly communal. In John 17, Jesus prays for us to become one with him and with each other as he is one with God. That unity invites us to be co-workers with God; to dedicate our daily lives to walking with others that they might grow closer to God and to addressing the wounds of people in the world.