Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kathryn Tanner on the Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service to God's Mission for the World

"It is as workers of the Father's will in the world that we go out or descend from the Father empowered by the Spirit in Christ's own image. The Spirit that is to sanctify us, make us holy as Christ is, is a commissioning Spirit, empowering us to participate in Christ's own mission of loving service to the world. 'As the Father has sent me, so I send you . . . Receive the Holy Spirit' (John 20:21-2). Receiving from the Father the gifts of Spirit-filled Sonship in unity with Christ, we are to do as he did when sent out from the Father.

"The Christian experience of service to God's mission for the world in this way assumes a properly trinitarian shape. 'The formula of the Christian life is seeking, finding, and doing the Father's will in the Father's world with the companionship of the Son by the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit' [Leonard Hodgson]. More specifically, service takes the form of trinitarian descent: from the Father to become the image of the Son in the world by way of the power of the Spirit, or from the Father to live a Spirit-filled live with Christ in his mission for the world. Those are two ways of saying the same thing.

"Son and Spirit are sent out to us in order to enable our return to the Father. But returned to the Father we are sent out with Son and Spirit again to do the Father's work of service to the world. The return brings with it another going out because in returning we are incorporated into the dynamic trinitarian outflow of God's own life for the world.

"Descent could be understood as service to the world that follows the ascent of service to God. There would then be two sequential movements here in different directions, distinguished by their respective goals or objects: a movement toward God in worship or toward the world in service to it. Worship itself models the relationship between the two. At the end of worship comes the benediction and we are then sent out like Christ into the world to do the Father's business in the power of the Spirit.

"Just as they did in the life of the trinity itself, however, the two movements should properly coincide. Worship—explicitly God-directed action—is an essential dimension of the task we are given for the world's sake. And in serving the world we turn ourselves to God, in service to the God who loves it. The whole of our lives, inclusive of both worship of God and service to others, becomes in this way an offering to God, a form of God-directed service (see Romans 12:1). The two coincide for this reason in Christ's own human life. Christ is both worshipper and worker of the Father. Both his prayers and his life's work are offered by him to the Father; and they both come back from the Father to him, in the power of the Spirit transformed—completed, perfected in the end."

—Kathryn Tanner, Christ the Key (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 205-206

1 comment:

  1. The best summary I have heard is that "Everything is from God, for God, and to God."