5.12.13

Mission on a Global scale

Sue Richardson Christian Aid and advocate for Fairtrade

Today we look at Global mission, which has in many ways become a discussion about how we actually define mission. I remember this being the problem with the Continuing Indaba process - no one could actually quite decide upon what Mission was - perhaps the reason fundamentally for why conversation needed to happen.

 We consider the Five Marks of Mission as one way that the church has sought to define Mission.

...and before you ask, if you read my post yesterday, I do keep my focus until the lunch break, where I find my spare half hour to engage again with Ind's book.

So I return today to considering how we share the gospel by action and proclamation. God would have the two diverge. After all there is no gap between speech and action with God. He speaks and it is action: he speaks the world into being, and so I guess the two should closely converge for those made in his image.

This is what Milbank says in GSMisc 956 Sharing the Gospel of Salvation:

The task of Christians is not to persuade others of the truth of the gospel story through propositional argument (which, he claims, always carries undertones of violence) but to “out narrate” other, rival and less attractive narratives. Christians must so live out their faith, in communities which embody the gospel (especially in practices of worship) that others are attracted by the sublime beauty of God reflected in the Church. Conversion, he suggests, is a matter of “taste” – but in a much more profound sense than that expression is usually used.

Generous Love speaks helpfully of ‘embassy’ and ‘hospitality’ as two ‘heart’ movements of the mission of God: embassy, as the necessary consequence of the outward moving nature of the love of God expressed most fully in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and in the work of the Holy Spirit; and hospitality as the welcome and openness that is at the heart of the God who is love. Both these movements should be observable in the life of Christian communities as they relate to those amongst whom they live, not as means to an end, but as a natural outworking of lives oriented to the gospel.

Missio Dei – the outward movement of the God who is love towards the creation that is the focus of that love. From this understanding of the nature of love and truth in Trinitarian relationship comes an approach to mission that gives the Church a central role but one which is subordinate to the overarching and prior mission of God.

Sharing the gospel is always done in the context of the lives of other people who are created in the image of God. There is always a context of place and time, of relationship, of history and of mutual knowledge or ignorance. Without a whole hearted attempt to enter into such contexts, the risks of the gospel being misunderstood, unappreciated or rejected outright are greatly increased. ‘Guarding the treasure that has been entrusted to us’ is not a responsibility to be taken lightly and for the treasure to be appreciated and desired requires as much understanding of situation as can be achieved.

 We are exploring mission exchange and prophetic mission particularly today with Christian Aid's Sue Richardson. 

We explore how if we are a part of God's intentional movement living in the 'Broken Middle' (Gillian Rose) there is a need to speak God's story by sharing memories and those that we share we need to re-present. We need to inculterate. What was can not now be because time is always moving on, translation needs to occur. What does the past look like re-created in the present so thatit can speak into the future?  

We recreate community but we are also to recognise community where it is breaking in before we have arrived and say 'here is the Kingdom of God!' We need to pray for a Holy imagination in order to see where God is at work and then we need to join in. This is the kind of approach Sue is proposing: a generous attention to where God is already at work, a holy patience, an openness to reverse mission, a right humility that we have much to learn from those whose Christianity is more difficult to immediately recognise.

 The five marks of mission that the Church works towards are these:

  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers 
  • To respond to human need by loving service 
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society 
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth (Bonds of Affection-1984 ACC-6 p49, Mission in a Broken World-1990 ACC-8 p101)

We are encouraged to use the Emmaus road story as a framework for our own thinking (Luke 24:13 to the end).

How does the encounter start?

With the encounter with the stranger, the encounter with the other, the Buber I/thou: this stranger will become Jesus Christ.

This strange Jesus asks the grieving wanderers to share their take on things. 

There is an urgency to their telling: their relating of what has happened. Jesus lets them tell it. Jesus lets them! Maybe this is a part of Jesus' ultimate condescension to us – he lets us tell his story. We need to hear people's stories too in immitation of his generosity: their stories of what God has being doing amongst them. We should let people everywhere tell his story of the ways that he has revealed himself to them.

Jesus helps the disciples to reframe their story and to put it within the context of a bigger narrative and to give it its purpose, that there is hope.

This then creates their request in response: 'Stay with us.'

Then in the action of the breaking and the sharing of the bread comes recognition, their veils come off.

The counter-cultural nature of breaking and sharing in a time of scarcity and possessiveness is at the heart of the gospel's call to action in the world.

Jesus disappears and they go off to tell the story again: a different story now. And so we get to tell it again, each time probably a little differently – to remember it and to tell it again, the anamnesis, to allow it to live and become applicable to each of the contexts it makes its home in.

How do we resource ourselves to tell this story?

Worship
Prayer
Gathering
Relationship
Abiding and dwelling

Is the resourcing of others then the task of the Christian minister? 
Is this our task? 
How shall we go about it so that it truly translates to people carrying God's mission into God's world to win God's people for himself.

Some books that might be worth looking at from today are:
Beven et al, Prophetic Dialogue (Artist on the front - Paula Mary Turnbull has drawn the trinitarian prophetic dance.)

Gillian Rose, The Broken Middle (Oxford). 

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