Saturday, July 28, 2012

spirituality in mission

Not merely by the words you say,
Not only in your deeds confessed
But in the most unconscious way
Is Christ expressed

It is a beatific smile?
A holy light upon your brow?
Oh, no – I felt His presence while
You laughed just now

Beatrice Cleland, in David Bosch’s, A Spirituality of the Road 56

This offers a way to understand a spirituality for mission, the way Christ is transfused among people, across cultures. Missiologist David Bosch suggests a number of ways to frame this. He contrasts a pipe with a branch.

Regarding the pipe

We often call ourselves channels or instruments which God uses to communicate His message to people. Our understanding of such a channel usually is that of clean water pipe which does nothing but allow an unrestricted flow of water. In order to guarantee this flow, the channel or pipe has to be cleaned regularly. Transposed to the missionary sphere the suggestion seems to be that the message has got to be kept aseptic in the process of communication. It should in no way be contaminated but remain absolutely pure. (A Spirituality of the Road, 41)

Regarding the branch

He draws from John 15, the image of the vine and branches.

A channel remains unaffected by what flows through it, but a branch has, first of all, to absorb the nutritive power which comes to it from the roots and trunk. It has to make all this a part of itself, and allow itself to be affected, and renewed and transformed by that power. Only after having assimilated such energy can the branch impart it to the fruit.” (A Spirituality of the Road, 42)

I think this intersects with what I was reflecting on earlier this week, reading Matthew 9:36ff, reflecting on the importance of emotions in the mission of God and the formation of people. A pipe suggests our mission, our engagement with people, should be free of emotions, cleansed of us. A branch suggests that our emotions are essential, are part of the God transfusion. This is a much deeper, much more interesting way to understand our growth as humans, and the formation of leaders. It is consistent with Jesus, in whom emotions of compassion, anger, joy, were not “cleansed” but were integrated into acts of commission, prophetic justice and partying at weddings.

It suggests a theology of Incarnation and embodiment, that the mission and message of God can only be communicated through and in us, in our emotions and being and bodies.

Posted by steve at 01:36 PM

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