Thursday, 7 October 2010
Economy of Abundance
Ann Morisy, writing in “Foundations for Mission”, part of the preparatory work for the Edinburgh 2010 conference talks about the need to have confidence in what she calls the “economy of abundance” in order for mission to do its transforming work. She recognises that we have tended to be committed to the “economy of scarcity” – and that has been to the extent that we find it hard to believe that there is also a reliable economy of abundance. But how can we work this out in an authentic way – because we surely don’t want to go a prosperity gospel route that tells us that God will look after us, and hard luck, everybody else? And, of course, all these things need careful defining, for us to be pointing in the right direction. Ann Morisy suggests that this looking for how mission authentically transforms things will brings us to Jesus. Jesus shows us how to live. Jesus points to the right kind of abundance and she suggests that Jesus lived his life in a very distinctive way and identifies six particular contributing elements. First, we see Jesus eschewing power. Jesus was aware of how easily he could have sought power and, on occasion, the disciples tried to push him in that direction. But he made a point of resisting the world’s kind of power. Secondly, we see Jesus being willing to risk being overwhelmed. He didn’t always choose the safe option. In fact, far from it. Often he lived dangerously. He was willing to take risks. Then, thirdly, we see Jesus subverting the status quo. He wasn’t one to accept things because it was always done that way. Even clearly established religious practices could be subject to his challenge. Just because everybody else took something for granted didn’t mean that Jesus would support that perspective. Fourthly, Jesus engaged in wide what we might call ‘fraternal relations’. Jesus refused to conform to the social and cultural taboos of his days. He was not willing to restrict his circle to those who would be seen as fitting in. He looked beyond his immediate groupings and was ready to offer God’s love to all and sundry. Fifthly we see Jesus avoiding ‘tit for tat’ behaviour. This seems so obviously a part of our Christian ethos and yet an area where it is so difficult to emulate Jesus’ example. We live a culture of revenge. We want to get our own back. Walking second miles or offering other cheeks is so alien. But so often we see Jesus avoiding escalating differences when we would be left trying to get our own back. We would want to have the last word. And yet it is not that Jesus allows folk to walk all over him. He knows when to stand his ground. And then, sixthly, we see Jesus investing in the most unlikely. Look at the twelve disciples. That is the obvious place to start here. Is that the kind of group you would choose if you wanted to entrust them with a world-changing mission. Probably not. Indeed, Jesus often went for folk whom others had written off. An economy of abundance is about making a difference – and these six characteristics point to how that might happen in a surprising, yet powerful, way. We are called to follow Christ. We are called to follow Christ’s way. Here are some big challenges as to how that might effectively happen.