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Mission Blog #2 - Where in the World is Mission?

In this blog, I want to us to reflect further on the nature of God’s mission as comprehensive in scope, expanding our awareness that the mission of God touches all of creation, all of human life and culture. Last time, I borrowed Christopher Wright’s definition of mission. Mission “is all that God is doing in his great purpose for the whole of creation and all that he calls us to do in cooperation with that purpose.” Nothing in God’s good creation, nothing in human life and culture, can be thought of as outside of God’s Mission to restore and heal his creation. Mission is a big, big story.

Wright’s definition keeps the whole drama of Scripture before our eyes. It puts the emphasis in the proper place: God doesn’t have a mission for the Church—God has a Church for his mission. Because God himself has a mission, and because this God is the Creator and therefore “the earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it (Psalm 24:1), the scope of God’s mission is exhaustive and universal. There is no “where” where God’s mission does not, cannot, and should not reach. God’s mission extends to and encompasses all aspects of his creation. It concerns all of creation, human life and culture because all of it is in need of what only God can give—reconciliation, renewal, and the very life of God breathed into them.

Keeping the whole drama of Scripture before us also dispels the faulty notion that mission is something missionaries do “over there.” By compartmentalizing mission to mean missionary, and then elevating missionaries to heroic status, it becomes easier for us to not live out the mission of God wherever we find ourselves. Elevating missionaries (which I have done!) might actually be evidence that we ourselves have not lived out the mission of God in our own lives, having made it other people’s responsibility. The mission of God is not constrained by geography or limited to so-called “unreached people groups.”

The whole drama of Scripture impresses on us that the “where” of God’s mission is everywhere and pivotal for all aspects of our lives. Which means, of course, that the whole story is also pivotal for the life of this congregation. As Christians, we are all called to participate in the mission of God where ever we find ourselves. If we think that mission is not comprehensive for our lives, it is almost inevitable that we will fail to see that mission is intrinsic to the Christian life. The mission of God shapes who we are, where ever we are, what ever we are on about it (who we are being the subject of next week’s blog). From that perspective, mission is integrative.

So, the mission of God is for every where because God is an everywhere God. And hopefully it is clear that we are attempting to think of mission as something far more encompassing than geography. The where of mission extends to business. To economics and medicine. Bakeries and restaurants and airports. Art and entertainment and all the various ways human culture manifests itself in different places around the world. The where of mission extends to the structures of government and society that oppress the weak and enable the powerful. The where of God’s mission extends into economic practices that exploit impoverished societies and ethnicities, at home and abroad. The where of God’s mission is at the intersection of the lives of people desperate in their addictions, struggling with mental health, and the work of places like Place of Refuge and Union Gospel Mission. The where of God’s mission is at the intersection of the ecological crises and the joy-filled love and caring practices of organizations like Arocha.

The church is missional in its nature and many of the things that FUMC is involved in are expressions of both the Church’s nature (capital ‘C’ there) and the character and story of FUMC. That is, the where of God’s mission is happening right here, on 52nd and Fraser, at the community dinners, in the middle of all the noise and silliness and relationship at the drop-in, in the prayer that is offered for each other here on Sundays, or the coffee brewed after the service. God’s mission plays out here with Gerardo and the MCC Refugee office in the education building, as well as Kingcrest.

It might be helpful here to make a distinction between what is called missional dimension and missional intention. Everything the church is and does has a missional dimension. All aspects of the church, from the Sunday morning service, to the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, to Triplets and hospital visits, have a missional dimension. Missional intention though means that some aspects of church have specific missional focus or concentration. The drop-in and community dinners are intentionally missional. They are ways in which we are contextualizing and trying to embody the gospel for this neighbourhood.

The character and mission of God shapes the particulars of what mission looks like in any given place. For us, that place is in and around this neighbourhood, with the people here, in all the mishmash and malarkey that goes on, the beauty and sadness and pain and broken relationships. Revitalization means all of us taking responsibility to renew our sense of mission in this context with its particularities and difficulties. If FUMC continues to take on the hard work of renewing our sense of mission right here, in this where and this time, what might it look like in a year or two from now? I don’t think we can know before hand—we have to go through the process—but I do think that is what faithfulness to God and his mission look like for us right now.

As Christians, we take as basic reality that God is the Triune God of grace, whose work of creation is a work of love, who through Jesus Christ reveals himself and “gives himself in love to restore and fulfill all creation,” and who pours out his love through the Holy Spirit “in endless transformation and fresh creativity.” This is the God who calls us each, right now, into his mission. This is the God with whom we are on mission here. This is the God to whom we look for “transformation and fresh creativity” as we pray for and seek revitalization. And it seems to me that what we are really seeking through revitalization, is not just a revitalization of our congregation, but more broadly, a revitalization of life for this neighbourhood, and for this city.

In our next outing, we’ll consider the who of mission. The character and mission of God shape the people who are on mission with God. Just who does mission? Is mission more about doing things or is it more about the kind of people we are? Are we a missional people?