I was at a gathering of pioneers a while ago and the discussion came around to what we were trying to do, in the big picture sense. Some wanted to change the world. I thought about it and realised that I’m interested in helping the church to grasp its calling to change the world. I’m about changing the church so it can fulfil its calling, and also in changing the world directly by catalysing and offering plausible alternatives to the current structures and ways of doing things. God has enabled me to love the church and to be unwilling to give up on her, even though she may have wandered off in parts at present.
(Whichever end of the tradition you’re from, you’ll be filling that blank in differently. Some are thinking about the CofE’s ordaining of women bishops and conversations around homosexuality as the evidence of it having lost its way. Others see the wandering away from robes and liturgy by charismatic churches as a scandal. Others believe they are the only remaining part of a small remnant that has maintained orthodoxy and they need to stay clean and free from taint. Perhaps we all have some pieces of the jigsaw of truth and could all see it if we sat together and shared what we have?)
For me, loving people seems to have been top of the agenda of Jesus when he walked the earth, showing us how to live and also the character of the Father, and specifically what he told us to do in the two great commandments. The reconciliation and listening process that has produced a peaceable result at Synod last week is top of my agenda – how we live and behave to other people is the mark of how well we are communicating God to a sceptical world. Justice and liberation are desperately needed now and we have a role to play in bringing it. It saddens me that at times the culture sees more clearly what justice looks like. I came across this bit of a poem this week whilst teaching a session on the Mission Shaped Ministry course (it’s by Wesley Frensdorff cited in Reshaping Ministry J Borgeson & L Wilson, Jethro Publications 1990.)
It talks about a dream of what church could look like. I loved it and found it stirred my heart with hope. (I’ve only reproduced some as it was very long)
Let us dream of a church…
In which all know simply and surely God’s great love
And each is certain that in the divine heart we are all known by name.
In which Jesus is ever-present, our window onto God’s own heart
In which the Spirit is not a party symbol but wind and fire for everyone, gracing the church with a kaleidoscope of gift and renewal for all.
A church in which worship is lively and fun as well as reverent and holy and we might be moved to dance and laugh; to be solemn, cry or beat the breast. People may know how to pray and enjoy it – frequently and regularly, privately and corporately, in silence, word, symbol, song and movement.
Where the Lord’s supper is the centre of life, and servan-hood the centre of mission. The servant Lord truly known in the breaking of the bread, with service flowing from worship
A church which affirms life over death as much as life after death. Unafraid of change, able to recognise God’s hand in the revolutions, celebrating the beauty of diversity, rejecting the imprisonment of uniformity. Concerned about love in all relationships; denying the separation between sacred and secular, world and church, since it is the world Christ came to and died for.
With a radically renewed concept and practise of ministry, where all together know themselves to be part of the holy people of God. A ministering community, rather than a community gathered around a minister…
So salty and yeasty that it would really be missed if it was no longer around; where there is wild sowing of seed and much rejoicing when they take root, but little concern for success, statistics, growth or even survival…
Peacemakers and healers, abhorring violence in all its forms, as concerned with societal healing as with individual healing; with justice as with freedom, prophetically confronting the root causes of social, political and economic ills.
An open, caring sharing household of faith where all find embrace, acceptance and affirmation. A community under judgement, living its own proclamation, truly loving what God desires.
A finally, let us dream of a people called to recognise the absurdities in ourselves and one another, including the absurdity that is love; serious about the call and the mission but not much about ourselves, in the company of our Clown Redeemer, can dance, sing and laugh, cry in worship, in ministry and even in conflict.