holistic. MISSIONAL. christian. community. Pt 2

by Mary Ann Holtz on November 18th, 2013

September 8, 2013,  we began a four week conversation dealing with what we hope will be the DNA of Missio Dei. There are four interwoven strands: Holistic, Missional, Christian, Community.

Here is a recap of Joe's talk on the second strand: MISSIONAL.

 “Missio Dei” is a Latin term meaning “mission of God”.  (The phrase was coined in the early 20th century by a theologian in the field of “missiology”, and has been used more recently by a number of theologians.)

This is the story of God’s expanding mission to include more at the table by invitation.

Some imagine that mission is God’s response to sin.  That mission is God’s hope to right what has gone wrong. And while I agree that mission includes at least this much, I believe that this is too limited an understanding of mission. If you believe that mission is simply a response to sin, you then have to hold that:

Mission has a distinct beginning and an end.  In responding to sin, once God conquers sin, mission ends.  God’s nature is not missional since mission has a beginning and an end.
Mission serves a purpose (often understood to ‘get people saved’), and is not itself the purpose (as in an eternal mission of love between humanity and God and vice versa).

However, many of the early mothers and fathers of the faith held with Iraneus that “Jesus would have become human even if Adam did not fall”.  

This is not mission as response to sin.  This is mission without end.  This is mission that includes response to sin and death, but is not encompassed by it. This is mission that invites all of creation to move into the infitinite depths of God…not by any merit of our own, but by sheer gratuitous invitation.  

What then is mission?

Mission in God , the life of the Trinity; 3 persons, one substance.  A community of outpouring  (“kenosis”) of one into another, in a Divine dance (“perichoresis”) of Love. 
“Ubuntu”. Archbishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa writes: ”Ubuntu is a concept that we have in our Bantu languages at home. Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We cannot be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence, we are made for family. When you have ubuntu, you embrace others. You are generous, compassionate. If the world had more ubuntu, we would not have war. We would not have this huge gap between the rich and the poor. You are rich so that you can make up what is lacking for others. You are powerful so that you can help the weak, just as a mother or father helps their children. This is God's dream.” 

Further, creation itself is a Missional act of love.  Creation is not God, but is upheld at every moment by God and given its being by God.  God makes space for the other.

God is Missional by nature, inviting us to become by grace what God is by nature: Love. And this is truly the ground of all being.  “For in God we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28.

Let’s hit the pause button for a sec.  Why does any of this matter?  Because we become like the God that we see.  Our practices, our hands and feet as it were, will be informed by the way we understand our relationship to God, and by who and how God is in the world and in Godself.  So…pay attention because this stuff really matters.

God includes humanity in God’s mission.  But we don’t have a mission, we participate in God’s own mission.  

This is the story of God’s expanding mission to include more at the table by invitation.

Call of Abram—blessing in order that…all the nations of the world will be blessed. Genesis 12:1-4  

In fact, Missional love marks Jesus’ disciples as his:  

John 13:34-35 34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." 

We are all in agreement that we should love one another (“allelon” – one another – us here in this room – we disciples – those who are attempting to follow the Way) as Jesus has loved us.

That is, we disciples should put one another ahead of ourselves.  We shouldn’t exercise your own rights at the expense of the other.   We should care for those in our midst who don’t have the means or capacity to do so for themselves.  

Indeed, we make room for those who are not like us (We sing together - It’s so easy to bless the people who reach out to me, The harder thing is loving those my instincts say reject. So Center my heart…)  

If you ‘throw a party and invite those who can never repay you with their own party’-- Luke 14: 13-14 – this is what the kingdom of heaven is like.  (I.E. – this is what I have done for you!)

But is that it?  Does mission love only extend to “allelon”? Oh, right…we are also called to love our neighbor as ourselves…so does that change the game? In what way?

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18, NIV) In the Hebrew scriptures, however, neighbor did mean just those in my camp.  It did not include ‘enemies’.

So Jesus spends some time correcting and fulfilling the law: "You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons and daughters of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48, NIV)

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect?  WHAT COULD THIS MEAN?  Perfect in what?   In love.  And what does that look like?   I would suggest that it looks an awful lot like Philippians 2. 

But Jesus has to take this even further doesn’t he? Jesus corrects and fulfills the law again: Mark 12:25-37, the story of the man robbed and beaten on the road to Jericho and the Samaritan who took care of him.  So, now how far does mission extend?  Love your neighbor…who does that include?  It extends to the person in your neighborhood that is most unlike you.

Why mission?

John 20:19-21  19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.   21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.   [Metaphorically this is very poetic—at creation, how does God create humanity? He breathes into the dirt…and so it is that Jesus goes about breathing new creation wherever he goes once risen.]

Holistic, Missional—holding these together: Holistic (all of creation - Spiritual/Material bound up together)  with Missional (love).

So we set out to stumble forward together in the way of Jesus - toward being a missional community.  And let me assure you that this is a messy endeavor.  

This is the story of God’s expanding mission to include more at the table by invitation.  

Unity in diversity
Radical Hospitality
Caring for the fragile
Loving our neighbors – which extends well beyond “allelon”—even encompassing those that are most unlike us.

Why would we do this?  

We believe that God is at work doing reconciling all things.
We believe that God is working to bring all people to God’s table.
We believe that we are invited to become by grace what God is by nature and therefore, God’s work is also our work – by invitation.
We believe that ‘we are not yet who we will be in Christ’.
We believe that we follow after the One who showed us a different way.  A way of love. In antithesis to the normal ways of being in the world (which means we have to learn this way in part by unlearning the ways and habits of the world).
We believe that we are blessed in order to be a blessing.
We believe that we are elected in order to elect others (see Barth for more on this ;)!

Bottom line for me?  We are not yet who we will be in Christ.  But we are invited to become it.  And we cannot become ourselves without our neighbors becoming themselves too.  The undeserved love of Christ compels us.  The sheer gratuity of undeserved invitation demands that we extend the invitation far beyond our comfort zone.  

This is the story of God’s expanding mission to include more at the table by invitation.

So, I invite you to chew on this for a bit and take it with you for your week:

For the kingdom of heaven is like throwing an awesome party – and inviting people who you know can never repay you by inviting you to their awesome party. That is what the kingdom of heaven is like. So, now, how do we do everything we can to imbibe, extend and enable the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven?  That is the work we have been invited to.  So let’s step into the messy, difficult, rewarding and awesome work of co-conspiring and co-creating a future filled with the fullness of God’s love.




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