Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Zion revisited

Since I wrote the last post, there’s been a certain amount of discussion about the term “Zion”.

On the one hand, it’s a term that is charged with a certain amount of vision and emotion for many in my church (as I explained in the last post).

On the other hand, as a word in its own right, it clearly has some much less positive associations – like blowing up Palestinians in the Middle East, for instance.

(And for some it’s that place in The Matrix...)

In other words, it’s a loaded word. And it’s also rather fuzzy – what exactly does it mean (even to members of the Jesus Army who tend to use it, rather loosely to mean “us”)?

Scripturally, it’s fairly clear. “Zion” is a frequently-used Old Testament word. Strictly it is the name of the fortress in Jerusalem, but it became synonymous with Israel as a whole. This is the way we find the word used in the Psalms and the Prophets.

In the New Testament, it seems clear that the word “Zion” (along with words like “Israel”, “kingdom”, “nation” and “Jerusalem”) came to denote the church as well as the literal, physical nation of Israel or city of Jerusalem.

Galatians 4:26, 6:16; Hebrews 12:22; 1 Peter 2:5-10; Revelation 1:6 etc. etc.

Such words sometimes took on a spiritual meaning and applied to the church and sometimes still referred to the earthly or natural city/nation. (At times, it can be a tad difficult to distinguish with certainty which is which, especially in “difficult” bits like the book of Revelation...)
Perhaps the part of the point of the word “Zion” is that it is mysterious – and highly-charged (it wasn’t for nothing that the writers of The Matrix called their city of freedom “Zion”). Zion is an ideal. It is the vision of the kingdom coming in. A taste of heaven on the earth. Reaching out for a better society, a Utopia... the kingdom of heaven.

We can’t fully have it this side of eternity. But nor should we just sit about waiting for “pie in the sky when we die”. We live in the creative tension between “now” and “not yet”.

When we speak of Zion, we should do so with care. We’re really not into blowing up Palestinians (or anyone) – but we do want to press into the kingdom of God as much as possible and live the prayer:
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.


newheart said...

Zion to me, (the newheart), is about the 'dwelling' of God. It's the place He likes to be most. ie with His people. Being Dad, King, Elder Brother, Jesus with his disciples. To me it's about the 'here and now
presence of God' who responds to born again, Holy Spirit filled Christians who are willing not to just 'leave all and follow Him', but are willing to become His group, His culture, His Kingdom Community. When He sees such a primary commitment in a group of Christians to being together as His, (practically, geographically, spiritually), then He draws near, and dwells with them in a presence and help that is the closest expression of His Power and glory found anywhere else on earth.

dee-braveheart said...

zion is home...
a place of safety a place where I can give and be given
where I can bring healing through friendship and be healed
where |I can worship the father and creator and centre of my life
where i can find freedom and bring demonstration of freedom
where I can be taught and teach
a place where I can breathe and dwell in hte holy of holy places
where restoration comes.
where I can be discipled and disciple
where I can give more than I ever thought possible and learn about receiving
it is home

Piers said...

One expression that captured my imagination years back was 'perfected humanity', and I guess we felt that we had found a road to the fulfillment of dreams. It is common to man to long for perfection, in contrast to so much imperfection around us. But maybe that is also why some left after a while because reality could not live up to the dream. Well I still believe we can touch something of perfection as a foretaste of the eternal fullness ahead, and I do see it often. Humanity can be changed by grace, including our church 'society'. Every spark of unselfish love, every bit of forgiveness or healing, every holy insight, every heart agreement, every sacrifice of obedience to the Holy Spirit.. these are the stuff of 'Zion'.