In his final days of transitioning to glory, Tim Keller prayed to the Lord, asking Him to send him home – a prayer that reminded me of the Lord’s initial sending of Tim to New York and the world. Tim faithfully served God in his first sending, and finally, he was ready to be sent to his glorious heavenly home.
This reflection prompts us to consider our “sending” today as we think about God’s commissioning of us to the world and our ultimate journey to our heavenly home. The initial sending needs to precede the final one. Those who are ready for heaven are the ones who actively respond to God’s mission on earth. How are we engaging God’s calling and purpose in our lives now and here? Are we actively participating in his mission, sharing the love and truth of Christ with those around us?
We have a unique gift and sphere of influence where God sends us to make a difference. It may be within our families, workplaces, communities, or across borders. It is essential to discern and embrace our specific role, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us today in fulfilling God’s purposes before the eventual sending to our heavenly home.
Understanding God’s Sending Mission
When I think about the word mission, my thoughts take me back to the days when we served with Norwegian Lutheran missionaries who were pioneers in spreading the Gospel in my hometown in South Ethiopia. Their presence left a lasting impression, as “mission” became intertwined with various aspects associated with their work, such as Mission River, Mission School, and Mission Campus.
The term “sending” in the Bible has its roots in the Hebrew word “shalach” and the Greek term “apostello,” both meaning “to send away” or “to dispatch.” This concept is closely related to the idea of being chosen and commissioned by God to fulfill a specific purpose.
The Bible describes God’s mission as God’s sending posture and activity. God the Father sent his Son and his Spirit (Gal 4:4, John 14:26). God the Son sent his people (Matthew 28. 18-20). God the Holy Spirit sent his church (Acts 13:2-3). God moves ‘from creation to new creation’ to enhance his saving work in the world. The mission is His initiative. He is the author and sustainer of his sending. Scripture describes him as the missionary God who, in Christ, is the sender.
Joining God’s Mission
God, the sender, invites his people to join him in his mission to the world. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21). In this text, we can see the central role God claims to have on a mission in the following ways:
1. God is the author of the mission. He designed and owned it. He shared it with his Son. And the Son passed it onto us. We join his mission.
2. God sent his Son to set an example: Jesus showed us how to obey the Father doing his will in his mission field. He was humble and courageous to take on the task sacrificially.
3. God provides strength. He empowers His people to accomplish His will in their localities and beyond. Thus, the people of God need to respond to such a compelling invitation with obedience and joy.
The Power Base of Mission
Throughout history, the power and centrality of Christ in mission work have guided God’s people. St. Paul emphasized the message of “Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23) and resolved to know nothing else (1 Corinthians 2:2). His unwavering focus on Christ shaped his ministry and laid the foundation for the early church.
St. Patrick, in his missionary journey, exemplified devotion to Christ. His famous prayer, “Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,” exemplifies his commitment to keeping Christ at the center of his life and work, echoing Colossians 1:17, “He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.” St. Patrick’s Christ-centered approach transformed Ireland’s spiritual landscape.
Similarly, Pope Benedict XVI, in his farewell remarks, emphasized the joy that comes from putting Christ at the center of life. This sentiment aligns with Jesus’ words, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). By centering lives on Christ, believers experience true joy and effectively share the Gospel.
The power base of the mission lies in Christ, who enables and empowers us to proclaim the Good News. Keeping Christ at the center shapes our perspective, drives our actions, and transforms individuals and communities.