August 23, 2016
Written by Matthew Davis
Matthew Davis is currently living in Texas, USA, and recently served as the Scholar-in-Residence for East Mountain's 6-week intensive internship program, Summit 2016.
I want to think about a word 'perspective' for a moment.
What definitions come to mind? What images?
Perhaps the word brought to mind a definition or two, like "point of view" or a particular "attitude." Perhaps you went another step, thinking of an example from your own life or in recent events. And this is exactly what I want to talk about today.
It is an early morning here in Texas as I write this. Having recently returned from South Africa, where I was humbled to have served as East Mountain's scholar-in-residence for the 2016 Summit, the word 'perspective' has been very near to my thoughts and lips. Friends and family have asked about my time. They are eager for stories and pictures, and in the midst of it, the word comes back again and again. When I scroll through social media apps, again and again: perspective.
Here are some of those thoughts...
This year's interns came to Summit for a variety of reasons and from a variety of places. They all brought not just clothes, Bibles, and toothbrushes, but also their own stories. They brought every joy and trial, and every idea of themselves, of this world, and God. I did too.
Together we went through Paul's letter to the Ephesians. We wrote down every 'identity marker,' that is, every place where Paul tells us who we are (and who we were). We talked about the plan of God for this world and the direction of history. We talked about how we should live. And in the midst of it all, God began to adjust their perspective.
I know I keep using that word, but, honestly, maybe it's because so often it does not mean for us what we think it means. We think of 'perspective' and see our own point of view and our own attitude. When we do, we mostly look at our own feet and think our own thoughts; we reach out and try to grasp our own breath. And when we are not thinking of ourselves, we are thinking of the world and its direction. We seek its counsel or we see what events unfold day after day. Often we are left with a desperate, terrible glimpse. What, then, shall we do? How must we live? We need to live from God's perspective.
Living in a busy household where privacy is but a moment and every day of six weeks is planned, I witnessed the Summit interns practice the things that Paul preached in Ephesians (many of which weren't planned). Their humility and leadership were evident as they brought up issues and practiced forgiveness. They encouraged one another, each intern one by one. They prayed for one another. They gathered together many evenings singing songs of worship. They broke bread together. They laughed. They hoped.
Then they all went back home.
But do you know what they took with them? Pictures, memories, and a cool t-shirt? Yes, of course. But also this: a taste, a glimpse of God's perspective!
Perspective needs vision and distance. Grasping God's perspective allows us a peek into reality, because it alone offers the eternal vision and distance necessary to grasp who we are and where history is headed. If we look into our own past and what's going on in this world, we don't see hope or a future; we see chaos. But Paul offers to us the gospel's perspective of reality. He calls us to look much further back and much further ahead.
And this is good news! Why? It means that before it all began and after it all ends, it is God's perspective that will remain. It means that you have a hope and a future because of the death and resurrection of Christ.
It means that, because of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the church is now a cosmic witness of God's radical reconciliation plan. It means that we are, as theologian Stanley Grenz calls the church, a 'pioneer community.' And our Summit interns are back on the frontier, having taking with them that glimpse of God's perspective. They are the ones telling the world, "Come and see. For we are the ones that have tasted and seen!"