Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Vol 3:15 Missional Living: Forgetting to Make Room for the Spirit

I had a great weekend at the Illinois Mennonite Conference Annual Assembly in which we focused upon being Co-laborers with God in God’s Service.  There was great preaching, great conversation, great engagement in workshops, great food – it was a very good weekend.

And then I came home – and I began to be overwhelmed with the tasks and “duties” of ministry.  I received emails and phone calls that presented life as it normally is – with struggles, issues, and problems.  Monday was still great as I took a Sabbath day to rest, hike, and reflect on the weekend, but then Tuesday morning came and I felt overwhelmed entering into the day.

I received some email and phone communications that added to the weighty-ness of the day – and all I wanted to do was go home.  I worked on my usual Tuesday agenda preparing for my next Sunday morning message, preparing for an evening meeting, and so forth – just wanting to get done so I could get out of the office for a few hours before the evening meeting.  But then I remembered:  there is still Missional Matters to write, putting my message from Annual Assembly on the internet so those who requested it could have access to it – this day is just getting heavier and heavier.

And then I looked at my bible sitting there on my desk and I realized I was taking charge of my day – failing miserably at it – and I was not making room for the Spirit in my life.

I set everything aside – stepped out of my office, and opened Scripture to read and to pray.  I needed to be reminded that it is not about me, it is about what God is up to in the world.  I needed to be reminded that I am not about my tasks, but about what God would have me notice, what God would have me say and do.  I needed to be reminded that I am called to participate with God in what God is doing, whom God is embracing all around me – and that to be open to participate with God, I need to make room for the Spirit of God, for the Spirit to take hold of my life, my issues, my day, my tasks and re-rhythm them in light of the rhythm of the Spirit.

Days often get the better of us, but if I am to engage each day as a gift from God – including this Tuesday, then what better item can there be on my “to do” list than sit in the presence of the Spirit of God, being open to being in communion with Jesus, talking to Jesus about what is going on in my day, the people I am called to serve, walking with Jesus who invites me to find rest in him as I take his yoke upon me. 

I am grateful that the Spirit got through to me today so that I might make space for the Spirit in my life.

May the Spirit of Christ fill you with the peace and presence of Jesus as you respond to the Spirit’s overtures in your life.  Shalom.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Vol 3: 14 Missional Living: Focusing on What (Whom) God Notices

What makes us missional? 

Being missional I am realizing has less to do with focusing on the task of God’s mission as it does focusing on what God notices.  Or perhaps, it is better stated, whom God notices.

This coming week I am speaking at the Illinois Mennonite Conference Annual Assembly.  The theme for the assembly is 1 Corinthians 3:9 – Co-workers in God’s Service!

As I was reflecting on what God was putting on my heart and mind to share, I began to realize that in being a co-worker with God means that God is at work – God is at work in the world to make things new – God is in mission.  Now that understanding is nothing new for those of us who exploring what it means to participate with God in God’s redemptive mission.

However, what was new for me came in asking the question of what the nature of God’s work, God’s mission is.  I realize that God’s mission is not merely about what God is about doing – rather God’s work and mission has less to do with what God is doing and more to do with whom God notices.

What I mean by this is that people matter to God.  John 3:16 (“for God so loved the world . . . ) is not about God’s abstract love for the world, but God’s deep and personal love for all who inhabit the world – God notices people, God notices our neighbors, God notices us, God even notices our enemies.  But more so than merely noticing – God seeks to relate to each one of us personally – that is why God took on our humanity to walk with us, alongside of us, to be Immanuel – “God with us.”

God’s mission is not merely about performing redemptive tasks; God’s mission is about encountering people, engaging people, setting people free.  I think I miss that at times.  I get focused on trying to discern how I and the community I serve are to participate with God in what God is doing – God’s mission, that I get up in the task of ministry and lose sight of to whom Jesus came to minister. 

I think for us to rediscover that God’s mission is about people, more so than the task of mission, we need to re-color our Bibles.  Many Bibles have Jesus’ words in red – to point out their importance to us.  However, as critically important Jesus’ words are (Note: so are his actions – they ought to be in red as well), I think Jesus would have us notice more so than his words or actions – the people he has come to touch and seeks to continue to touch through the Spirit of God who indwells us.  If Jesus were to publish a Red Letter Bible, might he not highlight all those he came to set free in red?

This Easter season, as we focus on the resurrection work of Jesus Christ, may we have eyes to see whom God sees, who matters to the heart of God, whom Jesus came to set free.  God’s mission is people! 

May this insight be transforming of us and our ministries as we seek to participate with God in God’s mission – may our hearts be shaped by the people who matter to God.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Vol 3:13 Missional Living: The Ultimate Reorientation of Resurrection

What makes us missional? 

I contend that it is not having a missional attitude or perspective, nor reading missional books, nor holding to a missional theology, nor having a missional agenda, nor being a speaker on the missional circuit.  Being missional is an act of the Spirit that comes through our being reoriented in all of our life through participating with Jesus Christ in his resurrection from the dead.

Being missional is not our activity, but the activity of the Spirit in us, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (cf. Romans 8:11).  When we seek to participate with God in what God is doing in the world, we are apt to participate in ways in which we set the agenda for how we are engaged – i.e., we seek to be missional in the ways we want to be missional.  However, being missional has very little to do with our desires, and all to do with God’s redemptive purpose for humanity and the world.  Just as we cannot crucify ourselves – crucifixion is an act that requires another, so too we cannot become missional by ourselves – it requires the action of the Spirit of God in our lives.

Being missional, becoming missional is what God does in us – as we participate in Christ’s life, crucifixion, death, and resurrection.  We become participators in what God is doing in the world, participating with God in God’s mission as a community being sign, foretaste, and instrument of God’s present and coming reign, not by our own efforts, but through the action of the Spirit.

Being missional is a gift given to us by God as we are resurrected with Jesus Christ – so that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives through us (cf. Galatians 2:20).  It is the indwelling Spirit within our lives that leads, guides, directs us in living missionally, our lives and our actions being shaped by the purposes of God’s mission in the world, in noticing those whom God notices, in loving those Jesus came to set free (cf. Luke 4:18f).  Being missional is something we receive in our lives as we yield to the work of the Spirit of God in our lives – and as we learn to walk in the ways of the Spirit – we will walk in ways that participate with God in God’s mission.  This is the way Jesus lived – in the power of the Spirit, he did not carry out his own ministry agenda, but as the Gospel of John repeatedly expresses, Jesus did what he saw his Father doing, and speaking what he heard his Father speaking (cf. John 5:16-30; 7:16; 8:28; 10:17-18; 12:44-45, 49-50; 14:10, 24, 31; 15:10).  Similarly, as we participate in the life of Christ Jesus in the presence and power of the Spirit, we participate in the ministry of Jesus (in Christopraxis – as Ray Anderson puts it), just as he participated in the mission of God.

Therefore, let us open our lives wide to the working of the Spirit in our lives – and in so doing, our living, our being, our doing will overflow in being the missional people of God.