Saturday, 25 May 2013

Pentecost and Mission

Pentecost puts down a marker that God engages with us, that God makes a difference.  As one writer (Kirsteen Kim) puts it: “The Spirit is the catalyst and impulse of mission at Pentecost and subsequently at each decisive point of the story in Acts.”  As Rowan Williams put it: “Mission is about finding out what God is doing and joining in.”  That is so important.  We often make the mistake of thinking that we need to make the plans.  There is nothing new in that.  I rather suspect that to be how Peter operated.  We think we need to go and do things.  Well, we do – but let’s never forget that God is there before we arrive.  God doesn’t tag along behind us.  Rather, God is there, hoping that we might join in with what he is doing.  We might put it like this: “Mission is not just something the church does; it is something that is done by the Spirit, who is himself the witness, who changes both the world and the church, who always goes before the church in its missionary journey.”  (Lesslie Newbigin).

But how are we to describe this mission – and how are we to say something about how we fit in? 

If we say about some experience that ‘they treated us just like family’, that is an expression of how warmly we have been received.  This is something special.  It puts us on the inside.  We are part of what is going on.  “To be a member of a family confers upon a person certain privileges and responsibilities toward other members of that family that are among the closest of any human ties.  To be a member of a family means one shares with others a common life shared in mutual interdependence.”  (Paul Achtemeier).  We should be so engaged with God that we are family. 

But then what does that mean?  What do we do?  What is the mission?  How do we function?  What is the task for those who are God’s children?  How do we discover what it is that we should be doing, what it is that will take us into responding, as we should, to God’s call.

Well, needless to say, there are many ways in which we can describe this.  There are many definitions of mission, many descriptions of the task that we should take up as one of God’s children.  But essentially what is needed is that we should discover the Holy Spirit empowering us.

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