Saturday, May 22, 2010

REFLECTIONS ON BEING MISSIONAL

When thinking about what it means to be missional, I become both excited and disquieted. It brings to mind Phillip’s experience when he was called upon by the angel of the Lord to “Go south, down the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza”. With no more information than that, Phillip sets out on the journey. Though not expressed in the text, one can certainly imagine a tension in Phillip’s inner self, between wanting to be true to his calling and a hesitation due to the lack of details about what may lie ahead, around the next bend. Nothing in the passage indicates that Phillip knew from the outset that the Ethiopian would be waiting there in that chariot. The eventual encounter and what we generally interpret as a successful outcome, was a validation of Phillip’s faithful obedience, but it was not a precondition for his response.

My excitement about being missional has its source in the tremendous potential of being involved in a commitment to and an engagement in what God is about in this world. The open horizon is there, calling me to, here-to-fore, unexplored opportunities. I have the freedom of seeing things from a new perspective. Yes! That is really exciting! But, from exactly the same source comes my disquietude. There is a considerable amount of unsettledness in not having things clearly mapped out all the way to a predetermined destination. The landscape is unfamiliar and at some points along the way, there is no GPS signal. Being realistic, I have to admit that such uncertainty produces genuine anxiety.

Assessing my own understanding of missionality (being missional), I am drawn back to the foundational principal of being invited to participate in God’s redemptive and restorative purpose. Having received this invitation I cannot simply ignore it and regard it as being insignificant. On the contrary, this calling has become integral to my life, and now I have to be concerned about how to express my calling.

As I contemplate how to respond to this invitation, I cannot do so without considering other people—these people with whom I interact day by day in the normal course of life. Is this not where God really is at work? Is this not where Jesus invested himself? There is this question which is never far from my mind: “How can I be the presence of Christ among these people, in these particular environmental circumstances, as our normal courses of life intersect and interweave and sometimes collide”? I understand now that the environmental circumstances of people change; sometimes suddenly and dramatically, but sometimes more gradually. I must be willing to make adjustments in response to these changes so that the message of God’s love and grace remains authentic and applicable in the midst of all kinds of circumstances.

Making adjustments, as just mentioned, suggest that I do not have an immediate and prescribed answer for every situation. Learning to be a listener is preferable to insisting that they should always be the listeners, therefore constraining the idea that my insights and experience have more substance than do theirs. I must try to be sensitive to the serendipitous opportunities as they are presented, even though I am not able to predict the final outcome.

During recent years, and more often than in times past, I have ask myself, “How should I interpret and apply the words of Jesus in the parable of the Good Shepherd, about his having come to bring a more abundant life to those neglected, and left to live on the fringes of society. My response must be based on something other than advancing my own position of authority and power. (Remember that I am working on an invitational basis). For me, being missional is about relating as fully as possible to life in their context, rather expecting people to relate to life based on some other contrived religious or cultural standard as a prerequisite to what Jesus has to offer. As I understand it, what Jesus offers is grace and a relationship based on nothing but love. The development of that relationship is, of course, a continuing process and a process into which I have been called, not to direct or dictate, but to assist and facilitate when appropriate opportunities arise.

That’s where I am at the moment, but my missional journey is not yet finished.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Watercolor for CBF General Assembly 2010

Here is my watercolor that will be in this year's Art Auction at the CBF General Assembly in North Carolina next month. It is the picture that I used for our Christmas cards last year. This one isn't framed yet, but goes to Zlatko (frameshop I use here) next week to be framed in a handmade matt & frame.

Shelia