A look at the Abrahamic Paradigm of "Called and Sent"
For my application to Fuller Seminary's D.Min. program, I was given the task to reflect on a chapter from The Word That Redescribes the World: The Bible and Discipleship by Walter Brueggemann.
Brueggemann does an excellent job articulating that the God that calls people to follow him also sends them on mission. God calls individuals and communities to love him and to obey his governance over all things, and then sends these individuals and communities to proclaim the Kingdom of God.
As I reflect on what Brueggemann has written, I am deeply encouraged to create a missional community – filled with people who have heard the call and have obeyed the command to go – that will proclaim to the world through our “walk” and our “talk” that God is King, and, therefore, life as we have known it (with all its brokenness, injustice, and oppressive regimes) can now be transformed into the flourishing that God intends for his Creation.
Brueggemann looks at Abraham and Moses in the Old Testament and Jesus and his early followers in the New Testament to demonstrate how God operates through this “Call and Send” blueprint. Today, we'll look at Abraham.
Abraham is the paradigm of God’s missional call and missional mandate to humans. God called Abraham away from his settled life in Ur. “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you’” (Genesis 12:1). Brueggemann points out that with this command to go, “Abraham is propelled into an orbit of reality that completely preempts his life, and removes him completely from any purpose or agenda he may have entertained for himself before that moment” (p. 93).
Abraham’s call immediately was followed by being sent by God on his mission. Not just any mission, but, as Brueggemann states, “The sending of Abraham (and Sarah) is perhaps the overarching missional dispatch in all of Scripture” (p. 96). The dispatch: “Through you all peoples on earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
Brueggemann states that Abraham’s call and mission to be a “blessing” is central to understanding God’s mission in this world. “Blessing is that the world should be generous, abundant, and fruitful, bespeaking effectiveness in generative fertility, material abundance, and this-worldly prosperity. Perhaps the best way to speak of this mandate is to think of ‘shalom’ in the broadest scope. Israel’s life is to make the world work better according to the intention of the creator. That is the immense mission given to this one man and his family!” (p. 96).
God’s intention for the world is for Shalom. I have long loved Cornelius Plantinga’s definition of Shalom: “We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight…, the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” (Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: The Breviary of Sin, p. 10)
Abraham’s mission flows through the People of God in the Old Testament, is brought to fulfillment in Jesus Christ and thus becomes the mission of today’s People of God, the church. Abraham’s call and mission in Genesis 12 is the hinge of God’s mission, “so that the general condition of curse in the world is turned to a general condition of blessing, life, and well-being.” This, then, is the mission of all those who are “Abraham’s seed” (Romans 9:8), i.e., the people of who name Christ as Lord.
As a pastor, my work needs to align with this Abrahamic paradigm – calling people into relationship with God and into his mission to “go” into a new way of life, one that completely preempts the normal American life – an intentional life that sets aside our purposes and agendas for the sake of God’s. As a community, we are called to God’s mission of bringing Shalom into every nook and cranny of his creation, doing our part in reversing the curse so that every person can experience God’s blessing.