And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

I believe the theology of the cross teaches us that God’s suffering that leads to hope is the ultimate form of ex niliho. “Karl Barth has suggested that the structure of these opening verses [in Genesis] deliberately create the condition of a void in order to show that only when God speaks is there a response. The word of God creates the response. The void – the ex nihilo – is the necessary condition for the Word to bring for God’s creation. “ (from The Soul of Ministry by Ray. S Anderson pg. 38) If Karl Barth is right and the void is necessary then in-between gap of adolescence is a void that God’s word is ready fill today. The great commission gives a perfect example of a “with us” God who speaks into the void by empowering us to GO and be with others. In these great words of promise we see relationship, and presence born out of Christ’s suffering and all of humanity are invited to be with God and with others to be a part of it. Mike Yaconelli said shortly before his death, “the mark of the church in the 21st in America will be that they will have time for people.” This type of this presence is a radical response to our great commission in a world truncated text message world.

Douglas John Hall worries that these verses endorse or are at least can be misinterpreted for overly expansionist views of Christianity versus one that focuses on sacrifice and God’s concern for all. I would argue that here Bill Easum, church growth author is at least partially right when he asserts while it’s not about numbers, reaching out to the nations reaches out to people not statistics. The fatal flaw is when our goal is to create tally marks instead of doing what the great commission invites, to go and be with as Jesus says, “behold I am with you.” When we see the great commission as a vocation that involves sacrificing with and an invitation for us to invite others to see how God’s suffering has produced hope then we can really begin to reach out to a generation that feels abandoned.

Hall reminds us that that “Christianity makes the astonishing claim that God, who is preeminent in the only unqualified sense of the word, for the sake of the creature’s shalom suffered-suffers-the loss precisely of that preeminence.” (Hall pg. 83) This type of theological lens on the great commission gives of sense of the theology of the cross even in the great commission. So the triune formula for baptism is more than just simple ritual, it’s a reminder about the communion with God that we are being invited to. This type of perichoresis (inter-relational nature of the Trinity) that Hall describes denotes deep relationships where community was broken by suffering for our sake and is now replaced by the fullness of community. Or as Andrew Root put it, “The cross is the godforsakenness of ultimate aloneness, it is the betrayal of God to Godself.” I submit this type of lens on the great commission gives us a call for outreach that is both far reaching and deeply connected to a community born out of suffering. So the thin tradition works it way into the call of the Great Commission and into the lives of teenagers today.

NOTE: I first wrote this (along with part 1) in 2007 parts of which are included in my thoughts on the Great Emergence: intro, part 1, part 2, part 3, & part 4

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Comments
  1. […] About Me & This Blog ← Theological Proposition for #youthministry …Part 2 […]

  2. Kathy says:

    Inisthgs like this liven things up around here.

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