Archive for September, 2011
A recent conversation with my pre-teen daughter about the latest happenings in her world at her new school where she is seeking to live as salt and light led to some healthy thinking and great conversation. (I really love talking with this kid and am thankful that I get to be her daddy.) Anyway, the conversation is an important part of what it means to live on mission.
In the gospels we see numerous times where the religious leaders came to trap Jesus with their sophistry. Following these encounters, the questioners would be silenced, red-faced, apoplectic. On the other hand, we see genuine questioners coming to Christ that were deeply impacted and changed or struggled with the answers he gave. Each encounter makes clear that he was the wise one. He seems to be thinking, speaking and seeing things on a higher plane. So, if we are sent as he was sent then….
The same goes for peace-making. Jesus didn’t make a let’s pretend to be nice ignoring the elephant in the room peace, but more often a reconciliation of relationships that were completely severed with no hope of making things right. For example, there was no way that Mary and Martha were going to have another minute with Lazarus on this earth until Jesus went and changed all that. If that’s a bit too extreme then how about the prostitute at the well that Christ restored to a healthy standing in her community. So, if Jesus was a peacemaker and we are sent as he was sent then….
We have such a privilege and I believe it is fair to even say a huge advantage in interacting with others. We are sent as the wise ones, the peace-makers. We go out from our homes into our community, the places where we connect, our workplace and our schools with our eyes wide open. There is a purpose behind who we are, a mission that propels us forward. We meet and relate to our neighbors to bless them. When they are kind to us, we in turn honor them. If they curse us, we in turn bless them. If they hate us it is OK because we have enough love for both of us. When they want to speak only of mundane or immoral things, we have the privilege of elevating our interactions to things that matter and are lasting.
Lately I have been seeing and hearing some amazing stories that are so impacting less because of what is in the story but more of what is not. These are stories of giving–it seems it just actually may be better to give than to receive. These stories are about emptying one’s self of what was of value, at least it was of value once upon a time. You know the time when the fairy tales seemed better than the real story ever could be. Back when heroes were dreamed of more than walked with.
You know the story of the house with the white picket fence that was where a family could grow up and close together. This safe place would be where kids learned to be a blessing and the parents would be blessed. Where the kids would learn to play football and soccer and the piano too. And where the kids of the neighborhood could go to be safe when away from their own white picket fence trimmed world. Ultimately it was a place for people that looked like, thought like, behaved like, worshipped like and even earned as well as spent like us. This utopia may have been called a community with shared values, but that was code for a whole lot more expectations than we could ever say in a politically correct environment. This is where we wanted to establish the roots of our lives as well as those that would come in our future generations.
Now I continue to come across those that are trading in this American dream for one of uncertainty. Often the life plan can be seen only months out or maybe a year or two where a person knows that for the here and now, this is how and where God is directing. With this move to a new place in life, safety may be a little less than what one felt before. Language, culture and worldview may be a world away from what once was shared. Square footage may be divided by a factor rather than subtracted by a digit. It’s different, but when it’s part of the calling to make disciples, it’s freeing. It’s the only way to live and move and adopt a nomadic faithfulness. This is essential for those that are listening for the voice that would speak in our ear saying “this is the way, walk in it.”
Another story that is up for revision as some are living it out today is the family name. There has been great concern over the centuries for the family name to be upheld. More than a few kingdoms have been rocked by the need for lineage that would carry on the patronymic. Also, more than a few dad’s hearts have been broken by children that did not uphold the integrity of the family name. But there are some that upon hearing a call to the nations have to go and Google their name to see what is publicly available on the inter-webs about their life. Seeing that they are clearly identified in a way that would not be acceptable to the government and / or people of the place where they are moving, they take legal action. They change their name so that they can live among those who are open to the truth and love of Christ, but are not able to accept some of the cultural trappings that we have used to self-identify.
These areas of abandon are just a glimpse of the One who emptied Himself. Ultimately, His tale is the one that is the creative genius of all the once upon a time fables, but His mission is also the beautiful calling for the heroes that are living it out today.
Over the past months I have seen many news pieces on the development of flash mobs in the U.S. Using the twitters, groups have come together for the purpose of stealing merchandise, reeking havoc on places and at events, planning massive fights and beating unsuspecting bystanders.
The idea of flash mobs is not exactly new. Improv Everywhere has been pulling off innocent flash mob interactions for some time including the famous “No Pants” events in urban centers across the world. I am embedding a couple of my favorite Improv events just to share a laugh.
Normally I am not a fan of taking secular things that have grown successful or highly popular and making a Christian version of YouTube or Facebook, but I would offer that followers consider having a response to those that would bring about chaos, injustice and suffering through flash mobs. As the church is to be the wise ones, those that care and make a positive difference, some action on this would be in order. What if the gatherings of a particular city functioning as the collective bride of Christ in that city were to have flash-blessings to meet a social need that is identified. What if serve-mobs would serve a city, school, community or family that has need?
Believers should be the ones that bring peace, healing, justice and hope. So many are already doing great things in this area, but what if the speed of blessing matched that of destruction? It would be a beautiful thing and a clear example that “God reigns.”
This past week I spent in New York City with my lovely wife. Though New York was the destination, I actually feel like I visited the world. We were in Manhattan, Queens and the Brooklyn burroughs. We traipsed through Central Park, Battery Park and Times Square as well as made visits to Little Calcutta, a Hispanic region, Little Italy, Chinatown and the Jewish Quarter. Everywhere we went was via public transport. There we saw ethnic peoples in proximity, often engaging each other and sometimes maybe needing to get engaged.
The first generation immigrants were obvious, but so was the clear rise of so many peoples that could be identified in appearance as being from another country though their functional language was English–without a foreign accent by the way. Also their clothing, piercings and tattoos–or the lack thereof–indicated that they were identifying with their host country rather than the one from which their parents came. This is the birth and rise of transnationals. These people are as at home or more so in these global urban centers, the New Yorks of the world, than they are in smaller, non-global cities in the country from which their parents came.
This development is a stretch for current prevailing missiology, but something that must be taken into account in the near future.