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As in Heaven – President’s address 


In an address that mixed challenge with encouragement, new President Dianne Tidball called on Baptists to 'to wake up, seek God, share good news and punch holes in the darkness'


Dianne Tidabll700

Dianne was inducted to the role of Baptist Union President (2017-18) during the opening session of this year’s Assembly. Her theme for the year is “As in Heaven”, and it was one she began to unpack in a 15 minute address on Saturday morning (13 May).
 
When we pray “As in Heaven”, we have a sense of what could be, she began. But as we pray these words, we recognise the ache of our hearts, the hunger of our souls, the thirst of our spirit. ‘We are so aware of what is not heavenly around us: selfishness, hurt, pain, pride, conflict, anxiety, hatred and violence,’ Dianne said.
 
We seek heaven because that’s what Jesus tells us to pray for, she continued, and because we hunger for heaven for our communities.
 
 


As in heaven – impossible to articulate?

 

But it’s impossible to articulate what “As in heaven” is. ‘The problem is that we don’t actually have the words to articulate who God is – yet alone heaven,’ Dianne said. We therefore need imagination to begin to think of God as he really is, and to seek heaven on earth in our daily routines.
 
She said that Scripture gives us some insight. Heaven is the reign of God, his rule here on earth. The Kingdom of heaven has broken in, but not yet taken over.
 
Heaven is God’s presence pervading all things – ‘his compassion, justice, kindness and forgiveness giving hope to the despairing and life to the hopeless.’
 
God’s reign is also joy. Whatever gives you joy, Dianne said, whether that’s 'a piece of sublime art, a cake to ensure you get a Paul Hollywood handshake, a Jamie Vardy goal', all of these things point us to the perfection and beauty of God’s design and creativity.
 
God’s reign is also seen in his 'outrageous' generosity, and in his holiness and sacrifice – seeing the human need for forgivenss and offering his son. 
 
Therefore, when we pray for God’s Kingdom to come As in heaven, we are praying for:
 

  • God’s presence at the heart of all we do

  • God’s mercy, grace, love, truth and justice motivating all we do

  • God’s power providing all we do

  • God’s joy and beauty reflected in all we are

  • God’s sacrifice and holiness underpinning all we are

 
 

Our response to God’s call to create heaven on earth

 
Dianne addressIn light of this, Dianne called on Baptists to recognise the following areas as we responds to God’s call:
 
We need to wake up to our collusion with the Kingdom of this world
‘Your citizenship is in heaven and your role is to co-operate with God’s spirit and bring communities of heaven here on earth. Confess our lack of imagination, thinking you have received all that God has for you. Confess being satisfied with a compromised and second rate experience of God and his kingdom.'
 
We are called to seek God, worship him, profoundly and deeply, mind, soul and spirit. As we seek God, we will increase our faith and hope. Heaven comes as we seek God in prayer and reflect on Scripture.
  
We are called to share good news of God and his Son Jesus. We are all priests, all called to share the gospel. The crossroads of history are found in the death and resurrection of Christ. ‘In seeking heaven on earth we must never lose sight of this. We must know this, celebrate this and share this.’
 
We are called to punch holes in the darkness. ‘How do we see heaven on earth?’ Dianne asked. ‘By bringing God’s presence into people’s hell.’
 
She gave an international, national, and local example. Dianne had recently visited a school in Nepal run by Baptists and others for children with special needs, where disability is stigmatised. 'The love and joy in that school is punching holes in the darkness.'
 
The example of the charity Hope into Action. A Baptist who was given a vision by God to help churches house the homeless. After opening seven years ago, they now have more than 40 houses, housing more than 120 people.
 
And Sue, a member of her church, recently diagnosed with serious cancer, praying that she might take God’s presence with her whenever she goes in for treatment, and having wonderful conversations offering comfort and hope.
 
 

As in heaven - conclusion

 

Dianne said she is only just learning the depth of what "As in heaven" means, and hopes to learn more during the course of her year.  
 
To help, she finished by quoting a poem from Baptist theologian Steve Holmes:
 

And I think about heaven on earth.
I think about love that cannot be conquered.
I think about justice that will not be denied.
I think about joy that can never be repressed.
I think about an incomprehensible future when justice and joy will reign.
I think about the passionate kiss of righteousness and peace.

I pray “May your Kingdom come your will be done on earth As in Heaven

 
Baptist Times, 13/05/2017
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