A Common Story for the Church
Stories are important; they help inform us about who we are and where we are going.
Any good story will likely have dynamic characters, a strong plotline, interesting subplots, a visually captivating setting, and well crafted details.
We each have our own individual stories, comprised of our past, offering us a context for where we currently are and where our paths might lead to next. God’s revelation is extended to us in a common story that traces back to the very beginning of time, to where we are today, and to whatever is to come. This is a common living tradition we have with one another as God’s creation—God’s revelation at work, or unfolding story, is extended to us always, no matter the setting, plotline, characters, or details.
Our common Christian story can be traced to formative creeds that the Early Church helped bring forth, like in the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. How God’s revelation continues to speak to us through these creeds is important for us to consider as we live into our common story, our common Christian tradition, as the church.
Let’s take a look at a line from the Nicene Creed as an example of the importance of living into our common Christian tradition. The Nicene Creed states, “And we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.” In being one church our challenge is to be in service to others and in connection to the many forms of faith communities that exist throughout the world, meaning Christian and non-Christian faith communities. In being holy, this is our living into God’s image through growing in grace with one another. John Wesley once preached, “Stir up the spark of grace which is now in you, and he will give you more grace.”* In order to stir up grace we need others with us. In being catholic, as a church, we are universally tied together through embracing the many different ways that faith communities around the world seek to witness the Gospel. In being apostolic the church is unified in being “sent out” (apostollein) as ambassadors of Christ bringing God’s love to one another through the Spirit.
Our common story with God is offered for all persons to share in. The church at its core seeks to reflect the love that is present in all three divine persons of the Trinity. We seek to reflect the same care and preservation of the created world that God produces in creation. We also seek to reflect the radical love that Christ chose to live throughout his lifespan. Finally, we seek to reveal God’s Kin-dom by living as sources of justice and truth like the Spirit consistently does amidst the immense pressures that we face in life. Our tradition invites us into the mutual love of the Trinity, which calls for the church to always be moving towards caring for one another as modeled in God’s story as we are eternally cared for.
We are called to carry forward the story of our tradition and in doing so we realize that we are not solely isolated to just an institutional representation of the church, but at the same time, realize that we are in community with a much larger parish, the world. As we find in the Wesleyan tradition with Wesley himself echoing, “I look upon all the world as my parish.”**
Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:
What traditions are important to you and why?
How have traditions played a role in shaping your understanding of the Christian faith?