Upon reflection, the global mission conference that I attended this past weekend in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta created for me a new way to experience the concept of mission in the world. Or, perhaps I should say, the conference gave me new lenses through which to see precisely what we mean when we say – “go” – Go into the World as disciples of Jesus - Go and proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.
How did I not see this before, I said to myself as I sat in the Atlanta airport, waiting for a flight that we all prayed would be on time? How did I miss something so very obvious?
How did I miss grasping the reality that ultimately mission in the world – domestic or global – is not about individual trips abroad, or various ministry efforts here at home. Mission in the world is not about going forth out of the pews and through the church doors with the goal of, “doing good,” and then returning to the church parish hall with its various meetings and coffee hours to proudly report on our efforts.
How did I miss the fact that mission in the world has little to do with our identity as members of this or that congregation, carrying out tasks associated with this or that outreach initiative?
How did I not previously grasp the obvious – that mission in the world is a going out into the world with no agenda except that of looking and listening. Looking and listening for those in darkness. Looking and listening and then discovering - discovering and being with the wounded. Mission in the world is the work of discovering, being with and bandaging the wounded. Mission in the world is traveling our life’s journey with the specific goal of seeking and serving Christ in all persons.
This new way of understanding mission points to the obvious - our church is not a building. Rather, our church is the world. And, our congregational life is not a permanent home; rather, it is simply our spiritual oasis, a stopping place to rest and refresh.
The four walls that we enter each week are no more than a place to gather and to renew ourselves through prayer and the breaking of bread. Our congregational life is an oasis, a sanctuary in which we meet Christ each week. A place where we can feast on the bread of life that will sustain us as we leave and go on our way. It is a place where we continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship and the breaking of the bread.
Looking, listening, discovering, being with and bandaging – all ways in which we as followers and disciples of Jesus are far more likely to meet our incredibly challenging charge of striving for justice and peace among all people, and respecting the human dignity of every human being.
“…he said to them, “Go into the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Luke 10:15)