About one year ago, Red Valley UMC began a journey of setting out to seek God’s mission for us. And we prayed, we studied, and we had holy conversations/retreated. And by God grace came to understand our mission strategy as: We are a community of faith Called by God, to Learn, to Befriend, and to Send Forth! Since the beginning of this mission strategy though we have continued to learn what it looks like to live into this mission. Though time and time again I am amazed as to how this mission strategy is nothing new to the church, but have found the tradition of the church (2000 years of it) continues to support it. So let me share with you my most recent finding.
I have been reading a book by Marva Dawn Reaching Out without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for This Urgent Time. As you can probably infer from the title of this book it is about worship and the purpose of worship. Dawn begins chapter 5 with a title “God as the Center of Worship: Who is Worship For?” And then she begins with a poem written by 4th century church father Augustine of Hippo. He writes:
Too late have I love You, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new, too late have I loved You!
You were within me but I was outside myself, and I sought You there! In my weakness I ran after the beauty of the things You have made. You were with me, and I was not with You. The things You have made kept me from You— the things which would have no being unless they existed in You!
You have called, You have cried out, and You have pierced my deafness. You have radiated forth, and have shined out brightly, and You have dispelled my blindness. You have sent forth Your fragrance, and I have breathed it in, and I long for You. I have tasted You, and I hunger and thirst for You. You have touched me, and I ardently desire Your peace.
Augustine of Hipp0, 354-430
As I read this poem these words, “You have called” stuck out to me. And as I continued to read just a few sentences into the beginning of this chapter, Dawn hit the nail on the head as to why these words stuck out, “Augustine’s poem makes clear this most crucial criterion for assessing our worship: True worship arises because God calls us.”
In our mission strategy at Red Valley United Methodist Church “Called by God” represents to us our mission of being the church in worship. It is through worship do we come to know that God calls us up out of the depths and into relationship with God. I am just simply amazed by how the Spirit continues to move from the time of Augustine to our little congregation out in the country. Thanks be to God who continues to move and shapes the life and mission of the Church.