Monday, January 4, 2010

Pointing and Building

Missio Dei exists to point to and build for the Kingdom of God in tangible ways as we embody the life of the risen Jesus Christ.
- Missio Dei Mission Statement

So the mission of God is to announce and expand the Kingdom of God. How then is it announced and expanded? What is our role as the church of Jesus in this work? Here is where we begin to speak of pointing to and building for the Kingdom.

There is a very real sense in which the Kingdom of God is a present reality. Jesus told us to "repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand." That is, the Kingdom is upon us. It is here. Now. Perhaps closer than we think. We see it in every act of Spirit-filled act of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We sense its new ethic in every Christ-empowered sacrificial act of service. We sense its beauty and power in every breath of new life blown into some dark corner that death or despair had claimed. The mouth of Jesus' empty tomb proclaims a new hope over all of creation. This is all the work of God. Our role in this present Kingdom is to point. We point to this outworking of God's Kingdom like a local who knows all the best spots in town. We are to help others see these mysteries that are hidden in broad daylight. God is at work. Our role is to help others see that work and understand something more of it. We point to the present Kingdom.

But there is a very real sense in which the Kingdom of God remains a future reality. God is accomplishing His will, but there is still much resistance to that will. There is still much that is not good, beautiful, or true. There are powers that are visciously working against these very things. Death and decay still seem like the final word. But they are not. God's Kingdom will come; it will be fully realized. As Samwise Gamgee observes in The Lord of the Rings, everything sad will come untrue. All things will be made new. This future Kingdom is what we are building for. Notice that we do not build the Kingdom itself (which is God's work alone), but we build for the Kingdom. N.T. Wright makes this distinction in his book Surprised by Hope. He gives this illustration: Suppose we are stonemasons who have been given the task of building a statue for a great cathedral. We are aware that other teams are busy working on other structures (coats of arms, columns, turrets, etc.) and that other entire departments are busy about completely other tasks. We have not seen the overall blueprint, but we do our work trusting that the architect knows exactly how our work will fit into the whole. And when our statue is complete and is placed in its proper place within the cathedral, it will take on the full measure of its beauty and worth such as we could not have imagined when we were chiseling it back in the stone yard. We did not ourselves build the cathedral, but we built for the cathedral. In the same way, when we work for truth, goodness, beauty, and justice, we are committing acts that matter. When we serve others in love, when we tell of Christ and His mission of restoration, when we display unity as His body, we are building for the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is here. The Kingdom of God will come. Until then, we will point and build.

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