Monday, May 03, 2004

Mission and Evangelism

Matthew 28:19a Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...

Doesn't the Matthew 28:19a "Go!" text belong in the do first, believe as a result category?! Re: "whether we think disciple-making or evangelism is a good idea or not" ...that sometimes belongs in that realm of God's way being different than human ones, though in Jesus, the Risen One who gives us the "Go" command, we see and begin perceiving divine and human thoughts and activities completely in concord. Jesus' authority to tell us what to do comes from One with full knowledge of the heart of God and he knows we'll learn God's heart, too, by acting as God commands us.

We need to view everything about all creation through a sacramental lens. We're baptized into the "corporate" Body of the at once crucified and risen Christ; we meet and recognize the Risen Christ as together we break the whole loaf representing the One born in the Little Town of House of Bread, and it's together we share Christ's presence in the Festival of the Inclusive (ya'll coe now!) Welcome Table as it brings together the labors of many and the produce of the now-redeemed earth:

Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again, pass the Word around: loaves abound! (Fred Kaan, "Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ," New Century Hymnal 347), so our very corporate bodily-ness far outstretches the 6, 25, 50 125 or 500 gathered at that discrete timebound and spacebound eschatological feast. Like everyone I'm often tempted but in no way can any Christian go it alone. Not only can you not baptize yourself: even God, the baptismal actor insists on a representative!

Returning to the called/sent dyad, I'll agree it's never simply called, it's always called and sent, and since without the Spirit there is no witness, in Word, sacrament or action (each being a different expression of the other) both "called" and "sent" are the work of the Spirit; the response is ours, but always in the power of the HS. I completely agree the sacraments are highly political and they're about as subversive as any activity can get. ...This gets back to a few months ago when we said evangelism is one of God's attributes! ...Rick, now the mission field "begins at the church's front door!" Yes, amen! Meaning we need to learn a lot from those we're evangelizing, and not (again) fall into the horror of cultural imperialism guised as Good (not!) News. Beyond each of our various ecclesiastical traditions we need sensitivity to current as well as slowly (and fastly) encroaching local cultural and social concerns and expectations without selling out to them or selling Jesus short.

I trust Jesus sends everyone "out [into the world, whether to their very local neighbors or to a wider geographic area] to preach the good news." With God, word and action are one and the same, and though the HS doesn't call everyone to an officially-authorized and sanctioned (made "holy" by that denominational decision!) ministry of Word and Sacrament in terms of administering the sacraments, writing and preaching sermons or teaching theology, God does call everyone to proclaim the Gospel by living the good news daily with compassion, love and mercy, and God calls some of us to social and political activism and witness, too. You remember Paul called himself an "apostle" because he'd seen the Risen One: prior to that he was *only* a disciple, he explained. With Paul I agree: since we've met the Risen Christ, in whatever outward guise or disguise, people can call us apostles because we are apostles. As J├╝rgen Moltmann explains Paul, "It's not simply about the discipleship of the earthly Jesus, but also about the apostleship of the risen Christ." To that I'll add we've met the Crucified One, because once again, for Paul, the Gospel is death and resurrection, and for us, as for Paul, Christ Jesus always is both crucified and risen at one and the same time.

Christians cannot be ethnocentric, terracentric or claim any other kind of centricity because God, the Wholly and Holy Other, has crashed all the divisions and boundaries and stereotypes of God-ness by invading human history, living and dying as one of us: not remaining God-centric as the popular image of "God" would have it. God loved creation so and deemed creation to be of such immense magnitude and importance to create humans in the Divine Image and to reconcile all creation (rivers, mountains, prairies, deserts, oceans, cats, turtles, crawly critters (remember the *type* of creation's redemption we find in the covenant with Noah?). You get the idea!

Just as Matthew's saying the nations – the ethnos, "peoples" – will be judged, I believe 19a means we're called and sent to disciple-ize those same peoples who are called to service and compassion for the Christ they meet during their daily walks in the world. But the "make disciples" part of this mandate is more obscure than the "whom." Since I'm convinced all creation is born, lives, dies and is raised to new life in the overwhelmingly inclusive Christ Event, my idea of discipling isn't quite the same as that of some of our more theologically conservative sistern and brethren, but for me it's also about the way of life of all those "nations." How frequently our stewardship of "the mysteries of God" means not explaining what always will remain mystery to us humans but simply proclaiming the Gospel of God-with-us, God-for-us and God-among-us!!!

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