I do not find it at all coincidental that I preached a sermon on Psalm 67 over the summer, only to find out a few weeks later that both GEMS and Cadets for this year have selected “Be a Blessing” for their theme this year. This also took place independently of the choice of the elder’s visitation theme for this year – which is also “be a blessing”. These occurrences often cause my eyes to sharpen and ears to perk up to pay closer attention to what God may be up to.
A week after we had reflected on Psalm 67 together, I was also reading from the devotional My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers prior to reflecting on Psalm 139. This was a favourite of mine in my early Christian years and hadn’t picked it up in a long time. However, that morning, for some reason, I decided to pick it up and this is what I read:
Our Lord’s teaching is always anti-self-realization. His purpose is not the development of a man [or woman]; His purpose is to make a man [or woman] exactly like Himself, and the characteristic of the Son of God is self-expenditure. If we believe in Jesus, it is not what we gain, but what He pours through us that counts. It is not that God makes us beautifully rounded grapes, but that He squeezes the sweetness out of us … God spilt the life of His Son that the world might be saved; are we prepared to spill out our lives for him? (bold emphasis added).
Going from a text one week reflecting on our call and identity (“May God be gracious to us and bless us … so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all the nations …” Ps. 67:1) to be a blessing to others to the (seemingly) self-reflective text of Psalm 139 (“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me …” – Ps. 139:1), this reflection from Chambers links the two beautifully.
In recent years you have no doubt heard the catchword “missional” used in a number of contexts. For many churches, it has been the battle cry for a movement away from self-reflective and insular Christianity to an outward-focused and welcoming vision of what it means to be the church. Conversations about personal salvation and Bible knowledge (doctrine) have given way to conversations about social justice, activism, and embodying the love of Jesus to the world. As is often the case in social transitions, many movements are often strong reactions to the one previous – much like the swinging of the pendulum. I see this “missional” movement as no different. As Western Christians, we are (intentionally or unintentionally) reacting against the church handed down to us by overemphasizing the things that were sacrificed in the past (“missional” activity) for the sake of the church’s preservation and identity. Now, we are sacrificing some of the things we have inherited to make up for that lack and can still be the worse for it. The reality is, to be truly be “missional” in a biblical sense is “both/and” but so much more.
Our God is a missionary and missional God. He is a purposeful God who always has reasons for what he does. His mission began all the way back at the Garden of Eden in Genesis, and will continue until the coming of the new heavens and new earth of Revelation. Along the way, he chooses to partner with human agents to carry out his purposes: Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, the nation of Israel, the apostles, and now you and me. Those whom he chooses to partner with are indeed truly blessed. To be able to approach the great creator God of the universe as “Father” and to be the recipient of his love and redemption in Jesus Christ is a truly blessed thing. But God does not intend for us to simply keep this blessing to ourselves, he intends for us to share it with others. We are blessed in order to be a blessing. But we are only truly a blessing when we are acting in God’s behalf – as followers of Jesus Christ, and embodying the Gospel message that he preached. And we are both called and invited to do this for everyone-who-isn’t-me. Our children. Our parents. Our grandparents or grandchildren. Our neighbour. Our community. Our country. Our world.
When you have in your possession the most wonderful piece of news in the history of history, it is not something you keep to yourself. You share it with others in whatever ways you can. The blessing you receive is the blessing you give, and all in the name of Jesus.
God is not concerned with making you into the most beautiful, well-rounded grape there is – that is not the Good News. We might think of Jesus as that perfect grape who was squeezed for our benefit. If that is how God intends to use the life of his blessed and perfect Son, how can we expect him to do anything different with us?