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November 28, 2012

What Jesus Started: It Starts with Seeing

A journey through Advent, brought to you by David A. Zimmerman.

Eleven months out of the year we think of Jesus and we think of the crucifixion, the resurrection, the atonement, the propitiation for our sins. That's all well and good: Jesus shouting from the cross "It is finished" was an epochal event, a moment that lasts forever. But eleven months out of the year it's easy to forget that Jesus didn't just finish something; he also started something.

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What Jesus Started, a new book by Steve Addison, tells the story of exactly that: the movement that began with Jesus' incarnation, the event we celebrate each Christmas season and anticipate each Advent. Over the next four weeks I'll be reflecting on each of the themes Steve explores in his book: seeing, connecting, sharing, training, gathering, multiplying. I'll do this with an eye toward Christmas and, shortly thereafter, the Urbana Student Missions Conference. This year's theme at Urbana is "It Starts with 12"; What Jesus Started will be featured as a "book of the day." 

Advent 2012 begins on Sunday, December 2, and spans four Sundays, the last of which is Sunday, December 23. Steve's six ideas make a four-week Advent series a little challenging--though not as challenging as God taking on flesh and comporting himself to the limitations of humanity and the social restrictions of first-century cultural Judaism under the Roman empire. So we'll give it a shot. For Steve, Jesus' movement starts with seeing.

We see all the time, of course. Right now I can see my computer, my books, my coworkers, my undone work, my three empty coffee mugs. I can see a lot. So could Jesus' contemporaries: they could see all sorts of things clearly, and yet in Jesus' eyes they were wandering around befuddled, lost and confused, like sheep without a shepherd. He regularly lamented the selective blindness of his people; here's just one example.

When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, "It's going to rain," and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, "It's going to be hot," and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time? (Luke 12:54-56)

By contrast, God sees everything clearly, most notably the need of his creation--the need for a saving act, for a God who intervenes. In Jesus, having seen, God acted.

Jesus also saw the end of the long story of creation, with him on his throne and his creation gathered around, flourishing in peace and wholeness, and the joy of it allowed him to endure so horrifying a human invention as the cross.

Jesus' followers are called likewise to see not with eyes jaded by the ways of the world but with eyes of faith. We are not to be deceived by what we see with our eyes; we are to fix our eyes on him as the author and finisher of our faith, and to act on what we see by his light.

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What we see is a world in need of a gospel that proclaims the Lord's favor, offers good news to the poor and oppressed, sets captives free and makes the blind to see. Jesus' movement starts with God seeing and acting, and continues with God's people seeing and acting in expansive, healing ways. We see because God saw; we act because God acted. And the world is better for it.

It starts with seeing; it continues as Jesus, and his followers, make meaningful connections to the world that surrounds us. That will be the subject of part two of this series and, may I propose, the first week of your Advent.

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Start reading What Jesus Started by Steve Addison. You can get it in print or digital here.

Fast from speaking for a day, and just observe the world around you. What needs do you see? Where do you see God acting? Where do you see God directing you?

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at November 28, 2012 8:17 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a writer and copyeditor on the communications team for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. She likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a founder of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs occasionally at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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