Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mission and missional: Why “a” and “l” are way more than a typo part 2

Last week I provided a piece on the difference between mission and missional and why that “a” and the “l” were much more than a type. I sought to draw on resources from the Bible and church history.

Today I found this wonderful personal story of what it means to be missional in Pete Ward’s Participation And Mediation: A Practical Theology for the Liquid Church.

I set myself the task of journeying into the world of young people and meeting them in situations where they felt at home. The idea was that I went to their territory. The meant that I was the visitor in a context where they were in control and they set the rules. Needless to say this was not at all easy, but interestingly almost from the start I felt that this kind of ministry was a deeply spiritual practice. Going to young people, rather than asking them to come to me, gave me a strong sense that I was in some way sharing God’s love and concern for the world. In fact more than that, I was struck by the conviction that the Holy Spirit was there with the young people even before I arrived. So I wasn’t just meeting young people, there was also a sense in which I was meeting God.

For more on this book and it’s application to mission.

Posted by steve at 03:54 PM

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

cartooning history: some thoughts on Margaret Mahy’s Awesome Aotearoa

I leafed through Margaret Mahy’s new children’s history of New Zealand last night. Given that she was banned from Christian radio, that I’m currently doing research on the cartoon genre and also lecture a course on Being Kiwi, being Christian, I was interested. Here are some random thoughts

- I liked the concept – New Zealand history for kids.

- I liked the way that space was given to tell of the Maori and French beginnings.

- I thought the missionaries got off lightly, noted for their role in Maori language learning, nor directly tagged with the supply of muskets to Maori.

- I was surprised in a book put out by a commercial press, to find grammatical errors, for example full stop instead of comma on page 18.

- I am not convinced of the mixing of cartoons and history. Cartoons often work by highlighting a particularity. What does this distortion do in a book titled “history”? So for example, the cartoon on page 39 referenced Samuel Marsden as the flogging parson. He was, but given that he exercised most of his ministry in Sydney, is this particular detail worth half of one page of a 125 page book about New Zealand history?

- And if it’s a book titled “history,” do things have to be true? So the cartoon on page 44, referencing the Treaty of Waitangi, has an army officer saying “Just how small can you make the small print Williams?” It’s sort of funny, but in a kids book, will kids get the joke? Or are they meant to laugh at all the cartoons, and so the cartoons are simply eye-candy, and not “history.” If so, that seems to me to be a trivialising of the genre of cartoons.

Posted by steve at 08:25 PM

Saturday, May 09, 2009

being human in U2′s no line on the horizon part 2

So the new U2 video for their single Magnificent is out. It’s all North African and white sheets. Ho hum. And the lyrics seemed to make no sense. “Only love, only love can leave such a mark” as the white sheets are pulled off buildings. They are all drifting and the bird is flying overhead unnoticed.

Which makes no sense. How can sheets leave a mark? They billow and drift. What a dumb graphic for a visual, I think.

Or is it ironically subtle?

You see, I have already suggested that the song Moment of Surrender includes a wonderful theology of being human. Take those lines:
I was punching in the numbers at the ATM machine
I could see in the reflection, A face staring back at me
At the moment of surrender, A vision of a visibility

- and consider that the face looking back at the ATM is ours, transformed by the moment of surrender. Only then does the human person become fully human, fully visible. This is God en-fleshed, for the silence of the incarnate sound finds voice, and thus visibility in us. In so doing, the two lines of the horizon are integrated, for vision has become visibility. (for more go here).

So is this theology of being human at work again in Magnificent. As the sheets are pulled away, do they not actually reveal the real thing, the real Africa, the real shape of buildings and people. Is this the mark left by love? Layers that once obscured and masked are in fact removed. Such is the mark of love.

Theologically, this would have echoes with Genesis 1, in which humans are made in the image of God. Then in Genesis 3, sin enters and so clothes are worn, obscuring and masking that which God has made good and whole. Then in the Incarnation, Christianity affirms Christ as fully human and fully divine. Thus the invitation to be in Christ must be understood as the invitation for us to enter fully into our humanity, to refind ourselves as the image of God. Such is love, the return to full humanity.

If this is so, it’s no wonder Bono also sings in Magnificent: And sing whatever song you wanted me to, I give you back my voice, From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise

Is this what it means to get “in the sound”, as each human, in response, finds their own unique voice, that which was a gift in the womb? This is love, and this love is twofold; for not only is the original voice re-found, but is found, for “Justified till we die, you and I will magnify, The Magnificent” Is this justification theological, the invitation to be fully human, revealed in all our honesty by love.

Or perhaps it’s simpler to accept, dumbly, that the visuals of the video really do have nothing to do with the lyrics. And that the lyrics of one song really do have nothing to do with the other songs in the album.

Posted by steve at 11:27 PM

Friday, May 08, 2009

It’s all in the story

Hat tip to Paul Windsor for a creative spark.

It’s all in the story – It’s the advertising byline for TV3 news. It includes billboards with fatigued reporters in Afghanistan and well-groomed presenters in city streets.

The news is to find the story and tell the story. This is not “story” as in fictional, fairy story, but story as in an eyewitness account that has implications for how then we might live.

On Sunday I start a series on the gospel of Mark. The purpose of Mark is found in 1:1
This is the Good News about Jesus Christ, the son of God.
It began as the prophet Isaiah had written … (GNB)

Mark has found a story and is telling a story that has implications for how then we might live. It’s a story rooted in God’s big story – from Adam, through the liberation found in Moses, to the unifying leadership of David, to the passion for justice and the gentle comfort spoken through the prophets.

It’s a story which turns the spotlight on Jesus who is the new Adam and the real liberator and the ultimate unifier who is both comfort and passion.

Might be a story worth reporting, in person, using the best of contemporary technologies, through us as embedded journalists ready, live, with some implications of how then we might live ….

Posted by steve at 01:12 PM

Thursday, May 07, 2009

hello carey folk

Hi, I’ve noticed quite a few visitors coming from Carey Baptist College, in particular an online learning discussion forum. It feels strange, this sensation of probably something on this blog being viewed and discussed, but because the forum is closed, I can’t hear the conversation.

Posted by steve at 06:42 PM

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

mission and missional. Why the “a” and the “l” is more than a typo

There is some useful discussion rolling on in the “What is community ministry?” post. I’ve just written a comment, which I think is worth clarifying as a separate blogpost.

It regards the difference between mission and missional. You see, missional is about mission and mission is missional but mission is not missional. Clear aye! :)

The Christian impulse for mission is for all time and all place. It emerges from a God of triune love who dwells in relationship, celebrates diversity and is unified in love.

But mission is outworked in different ways. We know this because Scripture give us diverse pictures of mission.

Ruth is the story of God’s work through the outsider; Lamentations is the story of faith in black; Daniel is a story of marketplace faith in exile; Jesus is the wandering prophet; Paul is the community builder; Revelation is the persecuted dreamer.

Or take the book of Acts. In chapter 2, mission is at work as people flock to Jerusalem interested in God and when there are spaces in society where people notice the church. But later in Acts, Paul takes this gospel on the road, is tentmaking and creating cultural connections on Mars Hill. And then he is the suffering prisoner, using his chains to proclaim faith. In each of these, the Christian impulse is mission, but the outworking is diverse.

This is made most clear when we consider the relationship between church and society as it it played out through the Bible. The task of the church is to reform in Dueteronomy, to protest in Mary’s song, to be counter-cultural in lifestyle in 1 Peter. This response is based on how much society listens to the church and whether society has the ear of the powers that be.

This relationship continues to be played out through history. David Bosch in Transforming Mission looks at mission over 2000 years and notes how at different times, different Scriptures became commonly used to describe the mission of the church.

It is this plurality that makes our task exciting today. What Biblical and historical pictures will most accurately encourage and challenge us in this time and place? In Christendom, when the church is at the centre, then “temple models” of being large and attractional work. But the church is no longer at the centre and so we are back to Scripture and church history, wondering what are the texts for our time.

This is what the word “missional” means. It is prophetic voice. First in flagging mission for what is essentially a Christendom church and second in pointing to cultural change – that the 2000′s are not like the 1970′s, and that the relationship of church and society has changed. Given these two factors, missional is a Biblical voice, seeking to excavate the Scriptures that will serve a post-Christendom church.

Hence: missional is about mission. And mission is missional. But mission is not missional because “missional” is the attempt to speak of “mission” today.

Have I confused or clarified myself?

Posted by steve at 10:57 AM

Sunday, May 03, 2009

the work and worth of prayer, thoughts from Dorothy McRae-McMahon

I snuck out of the office on Friday and sneaked into the back of a liturgy workshop by Australian, Dorothy McRae-McMahon. Most of my experience in writing prayers and creating worship has been intuitive. I simply started writing and creating and the more I have journeyed with people, the more I have seen the power of entwining symbol and tactile experience around creative words.

So it was very stimulating to be able to listen to someone else reflect on their experience. Lots of creative suggestions, lots of helpful framing and a great discussion with Dorothy in the break about words and how they work in community. Above all the encouragement for me to just keep writing words and keep creating spaces. Here are my notes. (more…)

Posted by steve at 11:18 PM

Saturday, May 02, 2009

waltham gathering gathers

Over the last months, as a church, we’ve had some real joy in terms of our relationships with our local community. There’s an ever increasing sense of partnership with other local groups. There are church people choosing to work less in order to voluntarily serve amongst the needy. There are more local community folk part of our church life, saying yes to Jesus and journeying with us.

A lot of this is down to the goodness of God’s Spirit at work in the intentionality of our mission, in which we have deliberately put resource and focus into building these partnerships.

Throughout the early months of this year a lot of behind the scenes talk and prayer has been happening. Given this sense of God at work, what are the next steps?

As a result, the Waltham gathering kicked off on Thursday. About 14 people gathered, not at the church, but at the local community cottage. It was a mix of church folk and community folk, and they gathered around soup, scripture, discussion and prayer for healing. It’s a trial for 10 weeks, to see if this might provide a point around which discipling and caring can happen, in a way different from our current church services.

We’re not sure whether it’s a small group or a congregation, so we’re simply calling it a “gathering”, and we’ll see what happens and if it can take root as a genuinely Waltham community thing. My job was to bring the soup, and just to be present.

There are other things taking shape, including the possibility of a sort of voluntary local missionary order, a clear pathway by which people might decide to work a day less in order to serve more, and to do that in accountable partnership with others and Scripture. But that’s still taking shape.

Posted by steve at 01:16 PM

Friday, May 01, 2009

some swine has trotted off with Catholic chalice: updated

I’m preaching on communion (1 Corinthians) this Sunday, so this caught my eye – that with Influenza A and Swine Flu having been identified in New Zealand, the Catholic bishops have urged caution with regards communion. According to Diocesan website, the following actions are to cease: communion on the tongue; communion from the chalice; shaking hands at the Sign of Peace.

Break out all those little separate Baptist cups, some swine just trotted off with the chalice!

It feels a bit like an April Fools joke, but hey, this is the globally conscious world we are part of. Ironic, given that disease and hygenie standards were appalling in Romans times and worse through the dark ages.

Update: Here is Rodney Stark on hygenie in the early church: So you still had to live with a [sewer] running down the middle of the road, in which you could find dead bodies decomposing. But what Christians did was take care of each other. Their apartments were as smoky as the pagan apartments, since neither had chimneys, and they were cold and wet and they stank. But Christians loved one another, and when they got sick they took care of each other. Someone brought you soup. You can do an enormous amount to relieve those miseries if you look after each other.

Posted by steve at 05:28 PM