– by Heidi Regier Kreider, WDC Conference Minister

As many of us prepare to enjoy Thanksgiving feasts this weekend, I am savoring the word “arrabon.”

In ancient Greek society, “arrabon” was a commonly used term referring to a down-payment in economic transactions.  In the New Testament, the Greek word “arrabon” (αρραβων) was used to describe the Holy Spirit, given to believers as a first installment, guarantee or pledge of the fullness of God’s salvation (see 2 Corinthians 1:22, 2 Corinthians 5:5, and Ephesians 1:14)

The concept of “arrabon” was central to the Worship and Arts Symposium at Bethel College last weekend, on the theme Many Cultures, One Worship: A Foretaste of a Reconciled Heaven in a Broken World.  Key-note presenters were David Bailey and the group Urban Doxology from a non-profit organization named Arrabon.  Based in Richmond, Virginia, this worship ministry equips Christian communities with the spiritual formation needed to faithfully practice reconciliation in the midst of ethnic, racial and socio-economic diversity.

At the symposium, the word “arrabon” was used to describe the church as a foretaste of God’s kingdom, because it expresses well the “already/not-yet” quality of God’s reign on earth – and the role of the church in that.  As Jesus taught us, the kingdom of God is here and now, among and within us.  At the same time, Jesus taught his followers to pray with longing and hope for God’s kingdom to come “on earth, as it is in heaven.”

We know that the church does not fully live out the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of God is not confined to the church.  The cultural expressions and social organizations that we call “church” do not yet fulfill the totality of God’s vision for creation.  Yet, the church is called to give the world a robust example, a glimpse of what it looks like, when we live according to God’s reign. Through creative worship, relationships of justice, stewardship of creation, and ministries of reconciliation, the community of faith gives visible expression of God’s shalom in the midst of a hurting and violent world.

At the conclusion of the symposium last weekend, participants were treated to the surprise gift of a lavish buffet of foods from different cultures: Curried chick-peas, hummus and pita, chai, couscous with fruits and almonds, corn tortillas, and more.  Conversations and connections lingered on as people gathered around to sample the diverse flavors on the table.   What a beautiful foretaste of the heavenly banquet that was!

As we enter this Thanksgiving and Christmas season – and in the year to come – I  pray that all our feasts and each of our faith communities may offer a similar foretaste of things to come.  God has given us the Spirit as an “arrabon” of shalom and we are an “arrabon” of the kingdom of God!