“God, mark us with grace & blessing! Smile!” (Psalm 67)

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“God, mark us with grace
    and blessing! Smile!
The whole country will see how you work,
    all the godless nations see how you save.” (Psalm 67 MSG)

Like my seventh grade Gym teacher, Psalm 67 is only short, but it is very powerful.

He was a Welsh guy, as I recall, rippling with muscle, who locked eyes grimly with some of the fellows in our class who were a little taller than him, daring them to, so-to-speak, look down on him.

And this little psalm works the same way. Tiny, but dominating. It’s a brief statement of a powerful theme that forces its way to the top of the agenda in the life of every church everywhere. Here’s the theme:

Be blessed, people, so that you can be a blessing.

Centuries ago, those who wrote the original liturgy for the Church of England decided that this particular psalm should be read in every single worship service. The psalm reflects the blessing that the Aaronic priests were to pronounce on Israel (Num. 6:24-26), “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.”

And it is rooted in that crucial covenant promise that God made to Abraham, “And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen. 12:2-3)

In you all the families of the earth will be blessed! Imagine that!

The theme expresses Jesus’ instruction to us, that we are to pray “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). You begin to realise that this simple verse is a major theme of the whole Bible.

We are marked with grace so that our sheer enjoyment of God will be caught worldwide.

So there are two elements here: the enjoyment of God and the sharing of that enjoyment on a widening scale until it is “caught worldwide.”

It comes down to how you understand the roles of worship and mission within the life of the church. Heaven forbid that we should understand either or both as a “department” or as a “program.” They are rather the joint ethos of the whole, living thing: it’s the people of God with their hands raised, rejoicing in the presence of their King, and sharing the reality of their joy.

When you hear a really, really good joke, there is simply no way that you can keep it to yourself. And when something utterly amazing transforms your life, you just have to speak of it. It’s why we invite friends to the wedding, after all.

Mission is not a program in the church. Rather, it is the program of the church. But as John Piper has noted: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.” He adds “The goal of mission is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God… All of history is moving toward one great goal, the white-hot worship of God and his Son among all the peoples of the earth.”

That’s why one picture (in the book of Revelation, as in the stories of Jesus) of the final consummation of all things is a wedding: for that’s where friends gather to share the joy of something new and wonderful.

And that’s the point where mission and worship roll into one.  

“God, mark us with grace
    and blessing! Smile!
The whole country will see how you work,
    all the godless nations see how you save.

This is how local church -even if it’s ten people in a rented room- should understand itself. We are simply relaxed and smiling, marked with grace, unselfconsciously enjoying God for what He’s done, and knowing that the reality of that enjoyment is the vital factor of how we live towards the world.

In fact, it’s the precise thing that we have to offer.

“God! Let people thank and enjoy you.
    Let all people thank and enjoy you.
Let all far-flung people become happy
    and shout their happiness because
You judge them fair and square,
    you tend the far-flung peoples.
God! Let people thank and enjoy you.
    Let all people thank and enjoy you.
Earth, display your exuberance!
    You mark us with blessing, O God, our God.
You mark us with blessing, O God.
    Earth’s four corners—honor him!(Psalm 67 MSG)

 

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