Today, Anchor Gaslamp (the church where I pastor) met together at the Keating Hotel in downtown. Vince, one of the founding pastors, preached a great message on our identity in Christ as believers. Today we focused on the missionary/ambassador aspect of the identity that God has given us in Christ. And today, God reminded me that the burden of mission is God’s, but the blessing of mission is ours.
The concepts of mission, I am familiar with. I have preached sermons about Jonah. I have taught “bible study in a bag.” I have been on mission trips to Kenya and India and Costa Rica. But today, God reminded me of the heart of mission. We have an identity of missionaries and ambassadors of God’s truth; we have the commission to go into all the world and make disciples; and we have all of this because our God is a missionary God.
Ever since Creation, when God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden, enjoying unbroken relationship, our God has longed to be close to his creation. But when Adam and Eve chose their own way instead of God’s, just as we try to create our own identity outside of God every day, that relationship between God and humanity was broken… and remains broken today.
But God has always had a redemptive plan, and throughout the course of history has moved closer and closer to the hearts of those he has created. As you read through the bible, you see God’s grace from beginning to end. God is with Adam and Eve in the garden. God is in the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that leads his people out of slavery. God is in the tabernacle, in the middle of the camp, with Israel in the wilderness. God is in the temple, in the middle of the city of God, in the middle of the country made of the people he called out to show his ways to the world. God is in Jesus, who comes to live and dwell among us (The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.) When Jesus is on earth, God is with us.
But then when Jesus leaves, and ascends to the Father, our options have changed. God is no longer just “with us,” but as those who follow Jesus, God is now in us. No longer are we only able to be AROUND God, but we can know that he resides WITHIN us… that we are his tabernacle, his temple, as it were. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you.”
The progression is God’s grace overcoming Humanity’s brokenness and rebellion. A God who pursues his people. A God who is in the universe, in the garden, the tabernacle, the temple, the Savior, and now in the Saved. The God who is above all creation, and yet dwells in the hearts of his creatures that open their lives to his way.
We talked about reaching out to those who don’t yet believe. We talked about being on mission at work, in free time, in rest, and in sleep. We talked about mission as an identity and not merely an activity. And I was reminded yet again of all the ways I have fallen short of proclaiming and demonstrating the Gospel. All the ways in which I have fallen short of proclaiming the truth of Jesus’ message.
During Communion, I looked at Nick and Vince, and I told them how much communion was reminding me of my need for the gospel. The sermon reminded me of my need to have the truth proclaimed to me, and my need to continually share God’s message with those around me. But the beauty of it was not only in my need, but in God’s provision for me in Christ. My need for the Gospel is met by God’s provision of Grace, ultimately expressed in Christ on the Cross. I began to cry as I thought about all the people that need to hear the truth of God’s message, overwhelmed by God’s grace and yet filled with hope; knowing that mission is God’s idea, not mine. Knowing that disciples making disciples is his only plan… using broken humanity to preach the message of reconciliation is God’s plan… his only plan… there is no plan B. And my God always accomplishes his purposes. The Burden of Mission is God’s, but the Blessing of Mission is Ours. God will accomplish his ulitmate purposes, and I am blessed because I have the opportunity to be a part of God’s purposes.
You may be thinking, “I’m glad Kenny had some sort of ‘mental conversion,’ and was once again in awe of God’s grace (in an intellectual sort of way).” But the story gets better. God took the time to bring the message to life.
After the gathering, our church walked to Horton Plaza for a hermeneutical prayer walk. We walked in silence, praying about ways in which the Holy Spirit might have us bring the message and ministry of reconciliation to downtown San Diego (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). At the end of our prayer walk, we stood in a circle in front of the mall, and talked about what God was telling us.
That’s when Frank walked up…
(contintued in the next blog)