Being with God (III): Being with God and the Creation

Being with God (III): Being with God and the Creation

Samuel WELLS

This last essay concerns “mission”, which is primarily directed to the creation that is not the church, and describes what the whole of the Christian life as prayer means, now that there are four players: God, the self, the church, and the other. “Presence” is about “being with”, not “working for” , nor “working with”, nor “being for”. The church is in the world, and thus the church prays “with” the world as “we”, not “for” the world as “them”. The entire congregation should encompass organizations, institutions, government and the oppressed; and if not, should take steps to be with the others who are underrepresented. “Attention” is especially significant for appreciation of complexity and the flawed nature of the world; and for our encounters with those we may call the seekers, the lapsed, and people of no professed faith, and the church is called to pray “with” them at least as much as “for” them. The dimension of “Mystery” arises in relation to being with God and the creation most pertinently with regard to the other faiths, especially the Jews. What Paul wrestles with in Romans 9-11 is something the church must inhabit “with” the Jews, not a “problem” she solves for them. “Delight” means that the prayer of being with God and the creation must begin and end with sheer wonder of the created world; and that involves the capacities for feelings of unremembered pleasure and the blessed mood. “Participation” is “being with” in its simplest form . Yet, so much attention in interpreting the creation accounts focuses on humans as being made in the image of God and about subduing the earth and having dominion over it. What needs recovering is the sense in which humanity is part of the creation, not first of all its owner, controller, or conqueror, but its companion. Likewise, the church's response to the socially disadvantaged is often a choice between a being-for approach of advocacy and campaigning, and a working-for approach of seeking to solve others' problems. Yet, the church must allow herself to be changed by those with whom she prays. On the other hand, we are required to develop appropriate relationships with organizations in the commercial and working world, institutions in civil society and various levels of government. “Partnership” means understanding and respecting what another body can and should do, establishing and articulating what the church can and should do, and developing a healthy and appropriately challenging relationships between the two bodies. “Partnership” is also the place where a congregation learns how the Holy Spirit acts through agencies other than the church. “Enjoyment” crystallizes what it means to be with God and the creation; consider how a pet dog enjoys its master as much as its master enjoys it as a constant friend. The goal of being with God and the creation is to enjoy the world as God enjoys it, to exult in the sheer abundance of the world and the universe beyond. Revelation 21-22 is the most vivid account of what Christians understand by “Glory”: here is the reassembling of creation arrayed around the throne of grace. This is the climax of the church's prayer with God and the creation: that every person, every element of the sentient and non-sentient creation, indeed the whole universe, find its fulfilment and its ultimate role and purpose in discovering the revelation that God is with them. Thus prayer becomes the gateway to eternal life.

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