The words below came to me with clarity, and even a little urgency, this week. I do work in ministry and study theology. So, for many reasons, these words seemed important to me.
“The purpose of the church is the Kingdom of God. God’s gift is to the church is ongoing revelation.”
Community of Christ members who have a memory that goes back to RLDSism may very well recognize the impact of RLDS tradition on these words. Our belief in the Kingdom of God on earth, what we’ve referred to early as Zion, and God’s ongoing revelation are part of what makes the Community of Christ and its tradition unique. So, if you grew up RLDS, you might read these words with an “insider’s lens.”
But, I’m not sure I mean them exactly that way today.
I grew up in the Community of Christ. I’m a child of “the church.” I was nurtured, blessed, baptized, and ordained in it. I was loved and blessed by its people in extraordinary ways. The ministry of ordinary people in the church has had a life-changing impact on my life. It grounds my life with the stuff of testimony.
It was also through the church – its tradition, testimony, and unfolding story – that I felt led out into the world to search for God – amidst other traditions, amidst other testimonies, and other theologies. It was because of the church and the ordinary people that made it up that I believed I could find God just about anywhere, especially amidst new connections and new relationships. It was through the church that I learned to expect to find God there amidst other movements, people, and ordinary things.
So, when I write these words today, they have a much wider testimony and deeper meaning than they ever could originally.
“The purpose of the church is the Kingdom of God. God’s gift to the church is ongoing revelation.”
This is not some religious conviction. It calls to me as a way to live and view my life.
I think the broader meaning of these familiar words is precisely the spiritual challenge facing the Community of Christ today: Can we return to the new and revealing Spirit that first brought this church into being and made it a movement? Can the Community of Christ pursue the purposes of God’s Kingdom on earth with fervor and with others? Can we remain attentive and receptive to God’s ongoing revelation amidst us and coming through others? Can we be transformed in the prophetic Spirit that presents this challenge and grounds our faith?
I think it remains undecided.
And, yet, it’s central to everything we have ever claimed to believe.
To pursue the Kingdom of God, to pray on earth as it is in heaven, and accept Jesus is to accept the life of the disciples. We can accept this in light of scripture. Jesus was the the Kingdom of God among them. Jesus’ life ministry, death, and resurrection was God’s new revelation to them. Through the Holy Spirit, this same promise and this same challenge given to the disciples is also given to us: God’s purposes will continue to unfold.
To have faith at all, to believe in God amidst us and within the world, is to be on the verge of a moment of revelation. How else can God be God if God is not beyond our present scope, beyond our expectations, and not bound to religion and, instead, is released amidst God’s creation?