Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Church in Motion

Quoting from Dr. Naomichi Masaki's article in the Holy Trinity 1998 issue of Logia (VII, 3) titled "Confessing Christ: Office and Vocation":
...It is clear that the church does not stop. From the Father to the Son to the apostles to the office of the holy ministry to all people. The movement is that of the Holy Spirit delivering the forgiveness of sins. And yet this movement can be halted when the work of missions is halted. Wilhelm Löhe says it well:
For mission is nothing but the one church of God in motion, the actualization of the one universal, catholic church.... Mission is the life of the catholic church. Where it stops, blood and breath stop; where it dies, the love which unites heaven and earth also dies. The catholic church and mission—these two no one can separate without killing both, and that is impossible.
Werner Elert affirms that this statement of Löhe’s was “exactly what Luther thought.” He continues: “The motion of the one church—church is motion, for it merely expresses the endless dynamic of the Gospel.” This motion of the church is further urged by William C. Weinrich:
To reflect upon “mission” or upon “evangelism” is to reflect upon the Church itself, for the act of mission or of evangelism is not accidental or coincidental to the Church—like the activity of golf, tennis or horseback riding is to this or that individual—but the act of mission belongs to the very “core” of what it means to be the Church.... The Church evangelized because it had to. This assertion is to be understood in the strictest possible sense. The early Church did not begin the work of evangelism simply because Christ commanded it (cf. Matt. 28:19); mission was not simple obedience to a high authority. Nor did the Church evangelize out of a sense of gratitude for God’s love, out of a sense of responsibility in light of the last judgment, or out of a sense of concern for fallen man’s destiny— although these may be considered “emotive causations” for the Church’s mission activity, as we shall note below. Rather, the Church evangelized because it could not do otherwise, and it could not do otherwise because in the Holy Spirit the Church had been taken up into the very activity of God in Christ whereby the final purposes of God are fulfilled. The early Church did not understand mission as a merely human action done in response to the good things God had done. Mission was perceived christologically— as God acting for the salvation of fallen mankind, but God acting only in union with mankind. The early Church understood mission to be the very expression of the Lordship of Christ in the Holy Spirit.
Thus a christological understanding of missions is to be found in the way of the administration of the means of grace through the office of the holy ministry. In the book of Acts, as the faithful celebrated the sacrament and prayed continually, “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). It was the Lord’s doing; they could not claim any credit by their founding mission societies, organizing city missions, or writing books on dynamic evangelism. As the liturgy through preaching and the Lord’s Supper continues to move us from within to without (toward God in faith and toward the neighbor in love), so the church itself moves toward all people. This is the flow of God’s sending.

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