My Theological Center



In my class at SMU I’ve been asked to write about my “Theological Center for Ministry.” Part of the challenge of this assignment has been limiting it to the four pages we were allowed. To those who don’t like to write much, that may seem like a lot, but boiling the essence of your theological convictions down to 1200 words is not easy.

Through this process I have continually thought about the concepts of Story, Community, Love and Mission. And I couldn’t help but think back to several sermons I preached during the Foundations season where these aspects informed much of what we discussed.
Since most of what I’m writing for class is inappropriate for the blogosphere for one reason or another, there hasn’t been much opportunity to share what I’ve been working on. So I didn’t want to miss this chance.
I made a few revisions to first draft I posted last night…

The Story of the Community of Missional Love

Before the beginning there was Community. This Community of what we refer to as Father, Son and Holy Spirit had a perfect relationship of mutual love and respect. This Community was not incomplete, it was the definition of completion. It needed nothing, it lacked nothing.

However, the relationship of the Community, being rooted and established in a deep indescribable love, felt compelled to create. For that is what love is and what love does, it continually creates expansive opportunity for love to be expressed. 

So the Community created. God brushed away the darkness, stepped into the midst of chaos and brought forth solid foundations. God molded and formed an unbelievably expansive and expanding universe and in an inconspicuous section of all that he began to paint with beautiful strokes a landscape that was begging to be enjoyed. 

God walked in the garden he had created. He knelt down and from the same material that formed mountains, deserts and jungles; the same material that made up the fish and birds and lions and bugs, he began to mold something new; something that would see and know and laugh and love. He began to form something that would walk with him, that he could teach and love. He formed out of himself – using his own image as a mold and model. This new thing he was making would be the pinnacle of everything he’d created. He would be able to point out the sunrise and this new thing’s breath would catch; when a thunderstorm would pass through this new thing would come running to God for protection; God would hold this small creature and explain that everything would be okay.

God formed this living being. He breathed his own life into this thing. The Community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the relationship that was full, complete and needed nothing – invited these new small frail children to share this powerful community. And it was so very good.

God could have formed these creatures without the ability to choose their course. That was a decision that God made with the stars and planets and mountains and streams. None of these had been given the freedom to choose – planets and moons are in their orbit and have no ability to choose to do otherwise. Mountains are tall and strong and they will never think, “I want to be a valley now.” Gravity does not choose whether it will influence objects or not.

This decision allowed the universe to be orderly, but it also ensured that no planet would ever decide to write a song about the Father. True, God created great beauty in the planet, a beauty which is itself a kind of song, but it isn’t a song that the planet created. In humanity, God has created something which is able to create as God creates – not on the same level; neither as equal nor rival, but as something which understands, as God does, that when love is present beautiful things result.

The children could not be like the stars or the trees, they had to be able to choose. 

Some say that God was disobeyed and so his wrath was stirred. I think its much more sad and tragic than that. The Lord had created these children to live in the trusting, loving relationship that he enjoyed as himself; God had created room for the Community of Missional Love to be experienced. In the moment of choice, the creation rejected both Community and Love. The course of the Story was altered from its intended trajectory.

This crisis was devastating and cataclysmic, but it would not have the last word. It WILL not have the last word. Even in the midst of great crisis, when the creation rejected the relationship of love and community and instead launched into selfishness and isolation…The Creator continued going to his creation. He called a man named Abraham and made a covenant with this man. The Lord God blessed Abraham and promised that through him all peoples on earth would be blessed…in fact all of creation would be blessed.

As the children of Israel continued year after year to cycle through seasons of confusion and clarity, The Lord kept going back to them seeking to restore and reconcile community with His creation. He patiently taught and corrected and reminded and invited and urged and groaned and pleaded. Community could not stand to see Creation languishing in isolation.

The sending relationship with great leaders and the inspiration of great prophets continued until the Community of Missional Love decided that ambassadors would no longer suffice. Once again, God would walk in the garden with his creation. Once again the missionary God sent himself – which is the nature of true love and true community. And Jesus the Christ walked among us.

He gathered a community and continually invited the broken, overlooked, forgotten and oppressed to rejoice because the Community of God was at hand; it was here and they were invited in.

When the time came for Jesus to return to the Father, the Spirit was sent. The Spirit wasn’t sent to wander aimlessly. It came to form and cultivate community in the Church in anticipation of experiencing Community on earth as it is in heaven. The Spirit called for the community of believers to be sent to the ends of the earth; continuing the ministry to which Jesus had dedicated himself, continuing the ministry to which God had called Abraham, continuing the ministry which God initiated in the first garden, continuing the Act that began in the beginning, continuing the character of the One who was Community before the beginning.

The Community of Missional Love cannot be understood as something that exists somewhere off by itself. The nature of True Community is expansive. It is dynamic. It is always growing and bringing into itself everything around it. The Community is not located somewhere behind closed doors, it sends itself to the Other.

Speaking of theology through narrative is more than just a device for communication, the medium is part of the message. God as a Community of Missional Love is understood best by participation in the Story. Story is relational; it is communal. This language of community is essential to begin grasping the centrality and reality of Love in the character of God. 

God’s revelation to humanity as Love, as the One full of loving kindness, the gracious and compassionate, begins losing its grip on our hearts and minds unless we understand it as an orientation toward the Other. This is, I believe, why it is so important for Jesus to teach his disciples about the eternal community of mutual engagement and submission he experiences with the Father. This is Love. There is no love without it. We cannot love unless there is an Other.

As the Image Bearers, we make a lamentable mistake if we see mission as something we are called to “do.” Mission is active, but it is more than doing; it is an essential part of our being, because it is part of the revealed nature of God. The missionary God who sends himself as Love has sent us.

God’s mission is to restore relationship and expand Community. As we lift up prayers for the poor, oppressed and forgotten; for those who care for them and those who have failed to do so, we do not say something new to God. Rather we join him in his mission of reconciling relationships, restoring community and healing the broken creation. This is love.

We are the people of this Story. We are the rememberers of the Story of the Community of Missional Love. Not only this, we are the story of the Community of Missional Love in action. 


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Posted on June 21, 2009, in community, doctor of ministry, Love, mission, smu, story, theological center. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Dr. Bret, I love this reading. It is so much of what I think about God. It gives me chills. I just pray that I can live up to the community God wants me to be in, both with Him and with others. Very well said.wt

  2. Hopefully that Dr. was an abbreviation for "dear"…I think the most exciting part of this picture as our center is that it alleviates the pressure to "live up to" standards and frees us to simply experience the loving Community that has come near to heal us.The reality is that each and every individual and community that God has sent himself too has failed to respond properly – thus Paul says, "we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" And yet, God has continued to send himself. Where we get in the most trouble – short of open rebellion – is when we forget that God is the one who has already come near, we don't have to impress him, convince him or manipulate him. We receive him and are received by him. And so Paul finishes that previous sentence with "and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ." thank you for your comment and encouragement Wendy. It means a lot for a writer to appreciate your writing.

  3. You're getting awfully artsy-fartsy in that writing there, babe. Love it! It's been such a blessing to watch you grow in your writing…

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