Becoming Radiant People

Lake Avenue ChurchOver last weekend I had the privilege of preaching at the historic Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, California. This church is now guided by the terrific leadership and great preaching of my dear friend Greg Waybright. I talked about becoming radiant people. I think these wonderful folks at Lake Avenue are indeed a radiant congregation. What a wonderful time.

I focused my remarks over the weekend on the great biblical literature of exile. I have come to believe we have so much to learn from this great writing. These are the writers we call the prophets—Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Esther, Daniel, and some of the Psalms—some of the greatest writing in all of human history. This extraordinary writing comes out of the sixth century B. C., one of the darkest moments ever for God’s people. God’s peculiar and special people had been deported into exile in Babylon, removed from their homes, their land scorched into wasteland, their precious city Jerusalem reduced to rubble.

The big question for these writers, as the Psalmist says, was “how can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” By the rivers of Babylon they wept, the Psalmist says; they had been tempted to hang up their harps on the willow trees. This was a hard time, a time of mourning for what had been lost.

But it was also a time, says Jeremiah, “to be radiant over the goodness of the Lord.” This must be our new posture in exile.

How do we sing the Lord’s song in our own time? I suggest that is our question in the twenty-first century too. The eminent sociologist James Davison Hunter says “ours is now, emphatically, a post-Christian culture, and the community of Christian believers are now, more than ever—spiritually speaking—exiles in a land of exile.” We have to “come to terms with this exile.”

With breathtaking speed our culture has completed its centuries-in-the-making secularization project. Nietzsche finally won the day: God has been pushed off the stage in our culture. Christians have been banished to the sidelines of influence. We are indeed in exile in our own land. Our culture is now profoundly, and proudly, it seems, secular to the core.

We must ask honestly: Has this been a good thing? For us as individuals? For our society? Has this secularization project provided a society that is life-giving? The British historian Christopher Dawson says: “The civilization that finds no place for religion is a maimed culture.” It is a culture that “has lost its spiritual roots.” It is now “condemned to sterility and decadence.”

This high-stakes game of secularization, that began somewhere back in the fifteenth century, has created devastating results, don’t you think?

I have come to believe, maybe even in the last five years, it’s over. Christians have lost the culture. It’s time to regroup. It’s time to start over. It’s time to go local. It’s time to think small again. It’s time speak our vision for human flourishing into this culture in very different ways. It’s time “to offer up a new starting point for thought,” as Lesslie Newbigin says. It’s time to announce the arrival of a new king. Jesus is Lord indeed. God’s kingdom is breaking in.

Indeed, it’s time to become radiant people, radiant over this goodness of the Lord.

More of this to come later. If you get a chance to watch the video, though, I’d love your thoughts.

Should you want to watch some of the video, here it is: [button color=”#COLOR_CODE” background=”#COLOR_CODE” size=”medium” src=”http://www.lakeave.org/”]Lake Avenue Sermon[/button]