This was the title of a sermon I preached at Kendal Road Baptist Church last Sunday. Here are some points:
We all live within stories. If you’re a fan of the Jason Bourne trilogy you’ll have been absorbed by his story as he gradually discovers the truth of his identity, what he has done, what has been done to him, and how he resolves these things.
The three films, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum came out between 2002 and 2007 so we had to wait 5 years to find out the conclusion to his story. I remember coming out of the cinema after the final instalment, having witness the resolution of Jason Bourne’s story, and wondering to myself, ‘What story am I part of and how does my life fit into it?’
This is something we should be asking as a church: What is our ultimate purpose and identity? Who are we and what are we about? How do our activities relate to who we are and what we are here for?
The disciples thought they had lost their story – that they were ‘storyless’ – following the death of Jesus: ‘”He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.’ (Luke 24:19b-21, NIV)
Jesus’ death was not part of the plan; it was not part of the big story of God’s purposes as they understood it. But a little later on we read that Jesus, raised from the dead, visits his storyless disciples…
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49, NIV)
Notice how Jesus tells them the real story; they had misunderstood the story – as Jesus recounts what their Scriptures said he makes two points:
1. The Old Testament (i.e., their Scriptures) had to be read through a messiah lens – the Christ/Messiah God’s deliverer would indeed achieve God’s purposes but through his death and resurrection
2. The Old Testament (i.e., their Scriptures) had to be read through a mission lens – notice how the death and resurrection of God’s deliverer leads to the telling of God’s message of repentance and forgiveness to all nations
Jesus understood the Bible as portraying the big story of God’s mission of reconciling this broken world to himself, a story that reached its climax in the death and resurrection of Jesus. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible tells us about God’s mission. Mission, you see is not primarily something you and I do; first and foremost, mission is God’s activity. God has set about to reconcile humanity and all of creation to himself and he calls his people to participate with him.
This mission, therefore, defines who we are as a church. Let me give you two quotes I have found really helpful in reorienting myself to this story:
“It is not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world but that God has a church for his mission in the world.”
Or to put this another way,
‘It is not so much that God has a mission for Kendal Road Baptist Church in Longlevens and beyond, but that God has Kendal Road Baptist Church for his mission in Longlevens and beyond.’
‘We ask, ‘Where does God fit into the story of my life?’ when the real question is where does my little life fit into this great story of God’s mission?’ or put another way, ‘I may wonder what kind of mission God has for me, when I should be asking what kind of me God wants for his mission.’
This means, returning to the language of the Bourne trilogy:
- Mission Identity – mission is not just something we do, or something some of us do; mission defines who we are
- Mission Supremacy – because mission defines our identity it should also shape our activities; how do we as a church community fit into God’s mission to bless and reconcile those in Longlevens and beyond to himself
- Mission Ultimatum – are you willing to recognise your place, our place, in God’s big story?
Obviously, I am indebted to Chris Wright for a lot of this material, particularly the use of Luke 24 and the quotes.
If you want to listen to the sermon it will be available for a few weeks on Kendal Road’s website (link on the left hand side of the home page)