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What the heck is “God’s Mission,” and what am I supposed to do about it?

January 31, 2011

The Mission of God (or the mission of the Church) is like the weather: Everybody talks about it, but nobody seems to do anything about it. If the Church is to regain its relevance to modern, American culture, that has to change.

My notions of “mission” have changed a lot over time—and they continue to do so.

My childhood notion of mission had to do with people whom I rarely saw, who were always asking for money, and who lived and worked in places I could barely find on a map.

I outgrew that notion, but began to conflate mission with evangelism. Moreover, I conflated both those concepts with “church growth”—more butts in the pews.

My seminary professors (John Dreibelbis and James Griffiss) disabused me of those notions.  They introduced me to the concept of the “mission of God” (misio Dei, as the Latins said). This had everything to do with our relationship with God and with others and, thereby, our role in advocating for love, peace, justice and reconciliation. I was finally starting to get it—or so at least I thought.

Lately, I’ve begun to see the Mission of God being very closely linked to the Image of God (the imago Dei since I’m dropping Latin tags). If God is love, and peace, and truth, and beauty, and justice, and acceptance, and forgiveness, and more; and if I am created in that image; then I am called and empowered through God’s grace to live more fully into those attributes of which I am an inheritor. I am a child of God, and I am called to live into the covenant established with God’s children by God through Christ.

A few weeks ago, I heard Krista Tippett interview Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain on her National Public Radio show, On Being. Rabbi Sacks said, “It’s by being what only I can be that I give humanity what only I can give.”

So because of who I am (created in the image of God and a beloved child of God), I have unique and special gifts to share. I have a role to play in helping to bring the reign of God more fully into the world.

But while I am created in the image of God and am a beloved child of God, I ain’t God. I’ve only had a glimpse of the beauty, love, peace and justice that is God, and what little I share is, as Paul said, in an earthen vessel. Nevertheless, I am part of a great cloud of children of God—the Church—and I can work in concert with others to engage in the mission of God. My unique gifts, combined with the unique gifts of many others, can make a pretty big contribution to the world. Sharing common goals with God—love, peace, truth, beauty, acceptance, forgiveness—we undertake the shared mission of God.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Scott B permalink
    February 2, 2011 8:25 pm

    Powerful, humbling, and inspiring. I will tell you again how much I miss hearing the in-person version of Fr. Scott’s musings! Thanks for blogging.

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