God’s Mission, Not the Church’s

Posted on October 27, 2009

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I had a question on Sunday about the current news that the Catholic Church will welcome whole congregations and dioceses into their community. After giving the back-story on this and my analysis of the impact to Anglicanism, I reflected afterward that we need to keep a sense of perspective in all the stuff that is going on. That’s what the Third Way is meant to do, give perspective.

Whenever you look in the Old Testament, there are texts to be found that declare that YHWH, the Lord God of Israel, is the one and only universal God of all the earth or of all the nations or of all humanity. YHWH made all, owns all, rules all. The uniqueness and universality of YHWH are foundational axioms of the Old Testament faith, which in turn are foundational to New Testament Christian faith, worship and mission.

If YHWH alone is the one true living God who made himself known in Israel and who wills to be known to the ends of the earth, then we must understand that the Church is is used by the mission of God to this goal. God has a mission: to be known to the ends of the earth. The mission has a Church. The Church is a means to an end – a sign of God ushering-in His Kingdom, but not coterminus with that Kingdom. The goal is a renewed creation which is filled with the glory of God. When we confuse ends with means we have a problem.

Just to keep a sense of Third Way perspective in all the other stuff going on, art is the best resource. I found this song by Bruce Cockburn. Cockburn brings us back to the bigger picture of God’s mission (with echoes of St Augustine) in the beautiful Lord of the Starfields:

Lord of the starfields
Ancient of Days
Universe Maker
here’s a song in your praise.
wings of the storm cloud
beginning and end
you make my heart leap
like a banner in the wind.

O Love that fires the sun
keep me burning.

Lord of the starfields
sower of life,
heaven and earth are
full of your light.
Voice of the nova
smile of the dew
all of our yearning
only comes home to you.

O Love that fires the sun
keep me burning

[In the Falling Dark (1976)]