Skip to content

Location, location, location

July 8, 2018

Acts 11: 1-18    2 Corinthians 4: 1-11

I want to pick up the theme of missional church from where Susan left off two weeks ago. “Missional church” sounds like theologian’s jargon… that’s because it is. So let’s start with some definition groundwork. Missional church isn’t a building… a building you go to. It isn’t the people … the people who go to church.  Missional Church is something God is doing… It’s work. God’s work. Last week we baptised Emily not into a building, not into some people, but into God’s work.

The idea of missional church is the idea that God is gathering a bunch of people together for the sake of the world and for the sake of a new world. To be more specific. Jesus is gathering a bunch of misfits together … for the sake of the new world that God is creating. Missional church is not a particular kind of church. It’s much more important than that. It is what Jesus is doing in the world…

Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

I want to take you all back to two weeks ago when Susan preached. She took us in our imagination into Auschwitz where people were being hung as an ‘example’ and the inmates are standing forced to watch. And one man asked ‘Where is God in this?’ And Susan reminded us that if anyone can respond to this question it should be Christians. After all we have a God is is on the gallows. We have a God who suffers with us. Susan suggested that God is with us on the gallows… hanging… The God we have encountered is suspended by nails.

She also suggested that if we are going to hear this cry of suffering and desperation (where in this hell! is God) without sinking into hopeless cynical despair, if we are not to lose faith, we don’t just need a God who suffers, who empathises, we also need to have a God who can do something about it. What we need is a God who is doing something about all the Auschwitzes and and the lynchings and all the land wars so on. Those who suffer also know that just because someone else (even if that someone is God) is suffering doesn’t necessarily help. We will not be saved by empathy alone.

When we hear that story of the man at Auschwitz asking the question from the crowd, if you’re like me, you can immediately imagine yourself in the shoes of that man in the crowd.

When God suffers (on the cross) God puts us in another set of shoes. He sucks us out of the shoes of the man in the crowd and he puts us in the shoes of the prison guard. Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be the prison guard, or even the officer in that camp?

We can barely imagine it. We like to think we would be the courageous ones who would stand up to the forces of evil that was swirling around among our families and friends and society. We like to think we would be different. But statistically the odds are really against it. Most people just don’t have that kind of courage. Most people are too busy doing their job. Jesus closest friends didn’t have that kind of courage either.

Everybody ultimately colluded in the crucifixion of Jesus. He was alone.

What that means is that we have to put ourselves in the shoes of the prison guards, just a little. For God does not just suffer in our world, God suffers the world. [Slide 2]

Let’s put that in a big context. God has spent millions, even billions of years creating this enormously complex world through evolutionary process.  Establishing creatures with enormous and beautiful brains, creatures hard wired with the infrastructure for love, and community. And yet in its fragility (and I would argue this fragility is an unavoidable cost of the beauty of creation itself) in its fragility God now has a community which rather than delighting in love, it is trapped in patterns of violence and scapegoating. This God does not merely suffer in the world. God suffers the world. And we are part of that world. And by doing that God turns the spotlight on the world. God opens our world up to be seen as if from outside, as if for the first time. The world of violence has been exposed. Ultimately it’s going to die of exposure. God is not merely empathising. God is doing something about this world.

God hangs with the poor… and turns the spotlight on the rich, the powerful and the system itself. Paul says that God has chosen the weak of this world… why? To shame the strong. God wants to do some shaming. Mary sings of a God who ‘has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.

Every world has its victims. The Romans found their conquered peoples to enslave, and then they found Christians to feed to lions. The Christians found their Jews and their Muslims and their witches and their gays. The Americans found their Blacks. The Nazi’s found their Jews. The British found their Maori and their Aboriginal. The Maori had their own slaves. The poor will always be with us … this side of final redemption.

But God has a way of shining a light in darkness that refuses to admit it is darkness. God has a light which breaks open the darkness so its never the same again… the darkness that wants to think it isn’t darkness now has a light shone on it.

Imagine that Auschwitz is the modern world in miniature. Today the people on gallows and crosses live in the third world or social housing complexes. They are the ones being excluded.

Surely it’s not that bad I hear you say. We don’t live in a twilight where all cats are grey. I can’t really be comparing our world to Auschwitz. Sure. It’s not the same. You’re right. Things are more subtle these days. We keep the poor out of sight. We separate ourselves from them in the way the market separates the producers from consumers. We are a much more sophisticated form of Auschwitz nowadays. We crucify more slowly these day. There are real differences.

But those who have seen the light of God in the crucified Jesus, also know that God is shining the same light into the system we live in. The same kind of system needs to be exposed. God is gathering a bunch of misfits. To find their place with other misfits, those being crucified slowly. God is gathering them to shine a light in the darkness. Those who have seen this light… and it has shone right into the depths (and maybe it takes a life time to shine into the depths of our existence) and they are becoming a people who no longer need scapegoats. But instead are prepared to abandon their security to find their life with the poor, with the excluded ones. … following Jesus to a contemporary kind of cross.

Missional church, God’s work, is to recreate the world. But not from the top down… from the bottom up. It’s throughout the gospels and the NT. For our sake he became POOR (nowhere to lay his head). He preached as gospel for the POOR( “good news” for the poor) about a kingdom inhabited by the POOR (“blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom”). He lived with the excluded and marginalised. He trained his disciples to be defined by their relation to the POOR (sheep or goat?)

So… we have located ‘missional church’. God’s work in the world. God’s spanner in the machinery of violence.

Where is God… among the poor and excluded? What is God doing there? Gathering missional church, drawing them towards the fringes, to be misfits among misfits.

What does the light say? The light that shines from the cross through the resurrection says that God is different (that’s what the word holy means, different). God has a different way of being together. A light that begins to shine when people begin to realise that they are as much a part of the problem, not just the innocent victims. It begins to shine when people realise that they fit in too well in the darkness. And need to become misfits for the sake of God’s life, God’s kingdom among those who don’t fit.

“For it is God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

“Arise, shine for your light has come.”


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Diane Gilliam-Weeks permalink
    July 8, 2018 4:47 am

    Wow …gathering them to shine a light in the darkness…
    Please may I publish this in the Summer Refresh! Theme cosmos. So much of my own thinking especially the cosmic overview.

    • July 8, 2018 6:08 am

      Sure. Go ahead Diane.

      • Diane Gilliam-Weeks permalink
        July 9, 2018 1:43 am

        Yippee! Would you please give me a couple of sentences for our contributors page. your details will have changed hugely!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: