Contextual meeting points providing a mission model
In today’s context where we are in the age of Face Book (FB), Twitter, Weblog etc, we have many forums as our meeting points without travelling or rather travelling into each other’s space. It is indeed amazing to see how we can get connected with our friends
The way we get connected online is amazing but it also excludes a majority of people who cannot have this facility and affordability to use internet everyday or even once in a way. Exclusion is at its peak. Even for those who meet online, there are hindrances such as getting connected online or getting the range to use the mobile to be connected… However, in relation to God, we can all irrespective of the place we are in, however remote and rural a place on earth, even if we do not have any of these technologies, instantly anyone who want to and wishes to can get connected with God. Any number of persons at any time – round the clock, all through the year, how amazing it is!!!
We get connected with God and speak to God and listen to God. Today, as we ponder on the Easter story once again, we are going to look at the “Meeting point and Mission model: Where do we find the risen Lord Jesus?”
I am so grateful to God who enabled me to complete my eight year term with the Council for World Mission (CWM) as the Executive Secretary for Mission Education. One thing that I miss so much after leaving CWM which taught me to love people beyond cultures, regions, religions and languages is meeting and being with people. Therefore FB has indeed provided a fine forum for me to get connected with people across the world of course, I realise that it does exclude many who do not have an access to internet and that is indeed hurting.
I had a memorable 50th birthday recently when my FB friends made it so special with their good wishes and greetings. Since my husband does not believe in celebrating anything, I decided to make this day different by spending a little more time on FB meeting my friends there. Each one brought such rich memories of how they have contributed to my personal, spiritual and mission formation. Not all are Christians, yet everyone has contributed so profusely, more than I could express and witness to. I owe a great deal to them and many others for what I am now at fifty! I am very grateful to all of them as I remember the UBUNTU concept from the African context which means, “I am what I am because of what you are (the community rather communities in which we live) to me.” They believe that it takes a community to rear a child.
As I reflected more on this FB forum of meeting point, what the basic requirements to build a community of friends, I could trace a few similarities from one of my perspectives on FB. FB is just a tool to link us at a superficial level with a web of friends. Like any other tool, be it a blade or a knife or medicines etc, we have clearly defined ways of using them for our benefit as well as the humanity’s and the benefit of the world. Our perspectives are important and based on them tools can be used constructively or destructively.
Meeting Point and Mission Model
Why is a meeting point necessary? Be it an airport, train station or Bus station or any other public place, very often we find a specific place with a sign board ‘Meeting Point’ or its equivalents in English or the local languages. It is very easy for a person to meet another person specially an unknown person at a meeting point. It clearly guides the person arriving and the person going to pick up or meet with the ones arriving. Even to meet known people or friends in a strange place, meeting points make it so easy and simple. So, where do we find Jesus our friend, the risen Christ today? If we find him and follow him, we will be following the best Mission model as he is our only Mission model. God sent him and he sent the disciples and continues to send us. The Holy Spirit sent to us continues to work in us and send us out again and again in mission, but where do we begin all this?
Even if we keep somewhat a superficial relationship with friends on FB, it helps us to get connected share our thoughts, moods, our inspirations and connect with specific people such as good old friends, childhood friends and neighbours, schoolmates. College-mates, teachers or colleagues. What is important and essential is the manner in which we come to this meeting place – the humility with which one comes. Meeting points are therefore only initiators or keeps us connected at a surface level so that we can trace each other and provide necessary support through other means when necessary. It is also a forum where you share with many others your inspiring thoughts, reflections and views.
These meeting points help us to connect with our friends crossing and transcending all the barriers of age, gender, our titles, our positions, roles, our socio-economic contexts, cultures, languages, traditions etc. I would like to mention here about a good old friend of mine from the time we studied together at the United Theological College, Bangalore. He is now a Bishop in the Orthodox Church in US . Statistically, he has been noted as the Bishop with maximum friends on FB!!!! He has about 3,300 friends from all circles, all ages and from all professional, cultural and religious backgrounds. As I look at him on FB being connected so well, I see that he has taken many risks that many other Bishops or people of his rank would much hesitate to – to leave behind his title, rank, position etc and come as an equal to relate with ordinary people, youth, children and be ready to communicate with them and let them communicate in the way they are used to. It is very nice to see youngsters dialoguing with him on various issues be it even mundane issues as what to eat or avoid! So unless we leave behind many of the baggage that we carry around with us constantly, we cannot come to this meeting point to have a wider fellowship and friendship. This is the same I feel with our relationship with the risen Lord Jesus, we are challenged to leave behind many of baggage that we constantly carry with us to remind us of our positions, roles and powers. What risen Jesus requires is for us to meet him at Galilee, why?
Importance about Galilee as the meeting point
Jesus even during his ministry on earth had a definite goal that “All be one”. All his teachings beginning with the inauguration of God’s reign and extending it on earth, loving God and neighbour, bridging the gap between the humanity and God, promoted this spirit of oneness. This oneness could be attained only by moving up the standard/quality of life for people at the fringes or margins of the society. The reality of this oneness could become true only by including the excluded. Therefore, the Mission mandate that he proclaimed in the beginning according to Luke 4:4ff made it very clear who will be the prime beneficiaries of his mission. A great deal of Jesus’ work was very obviously in Galilee which is a place by the sea where majority were from the poorer sections of the society. Jesus loved to serve in this region. This was Jesus’ preferential option for his mission and ministry to fulfil the mission mandate/manifest that he had proclaimed. He knew where mission and ministry had to begin to bear the genuine mark of reconciliation, bridging all inequalities and gaps that existed in all relationships – be it between Humans and God, between human beings or between the Humans and the created world. The meeting point for this transforming mission had to be Galilee that had the poorest, underprivileged and marginalised sections of the society in his time in the context that he lived. Just as we today in our project work believe that resources should be spent on the “Right target, right tasks and right time” to make the most of it, Jesus knew that the human resources that he had shaped, formed and initiated needs a place like Galilee to come out with a successful mission.
How does the risen Jesus reveal himself and point to a new Mission model?
Risen Jesus reveals himself to world in many ways. He actively participates in people’s lives revealing himself. He puts people “Back on the track” to continue in his mission. Let us see how Jesus reveals himself as he arose from the dead and also today in our lives as he beckons us to a transforming mission.
Risen Jesus Conquers
Risen Jesus conquers death and all evil forces bringing liberation and life to the entire creation, not just the human beings. He promises us the eternal life. The living presence of the risen Jesus among and within us enables us to move forward in life with hope, without fear and doubt. Risen Jesus challenges us with a call to enhance life in all its fullness – so it is not just eternal life – life after death but life before death is also equally important. That is why he calls us to Galilee to meet this risen Jesus to follow him and continue in his mission. He is our Mission Model.
Risen Jesus Confronts
Risen Jesus confronts all oppressive structures and exploitative systems to break the shackles of bondage whatever it may be. He challenges us with a call to break all the forces that deprive, deny and destroy life through unjust means that keep people, the natural world or even keep Jesus himself imprisoned. These happen with our limited and limiting faith that puts a fence or barrier around Jesus through our church traditions that are oppressive be it to women, youth, children, or specific groups of people in our midst which need to be conquered.
Risen Jesus Comforts
Risen Jesus comforts those who are worried about the hurdles that block them from meeting him. The women who were there at the foot of the cross until the last and come to the tomb first are so worried as to who will roll the stone for them? They still did not give up their journey to meet the dead Jesus. They found the stone rolled away for them and also receive the good news that Jesus is risen from the dead. However big the problems may be that prevent us from meeting Jesus, he is ready to remove those barriers even before we reach there. Jesus is ready to meet with his disciples even with closed doors.
Risen Jesus campaigns for new models
It is such a visible change that the risen Jesus makes in his mission and ministry. The risen Jesus brings about a radical paradigm shift in the model of his ministry. As we all know the sends a woman (Mary Magdalene) as the Apostle to the Apostles!!! If anyone has to find the risen Jesus, then they need to meet him in Galilee and that is the mandate that still stand valid – unless we are prepared to meet him in the Galilees of our contexts, we will never see the risen Jesus. When we meet him and follow him, we will never be scared to bring in a paradigm shift in our structures too. If we want to bear witness to this risen Christ we are called to make these drastic changes too.
Jesus meets people in their own contexts and opens their eyes, ears and changes their mindset once in for all. The risen Lord chooses to incorporate women in mission and ministry, he travels with those who journey away and helps then to “get back on the track”.
Risen Jesus meets his disciples who decide to go back into fishing at the shore. He meets them with love, kindness, mercy and due care and concern to feed them and nourish them. Jesus does not disqualify them but rather enables them to go through a refresher’s course with him and this helps them to “Get back on the track”.
Risen Jesus comprehends and merges with contexts
We see the risen Jesus appearing in different contexts and it is very amazing that the risen Jesus becomes so very flexible and transcends the given local identity that he had as the historical Jesus with limited identities. Risen Jesus appears as a Gardener to Mary in the garden, as a traveller to the Emmaus disciples going to Emmaus, as a fisherman to disciples who went back to fishing – Peter considers him as an expert fisherman initially. So, it is not very easy to identify risen Jesus as one could do with the historical Jesus. Even people who lived in close association with him could not identify him at a glance but through his voice, or his actions. That is where risen Jesus becomes visible. Mary Magdalene recognises him with his voice, Emmaus disciples through his act of breaking the bread, and Peter when he catches a huge load of fish instantly recognises him and jumps into the sea again in order to appear well dressed before his master! Risen Jesus surpasses his identities as an historical Jesus – a male, Jew, carpenter’s son, a teacher etc. This risen Jesus meets us in different ways in our lives today. Are we ready to recognise him?
The risen Christ is waiting for us to meet with him in the different and specific areas in our own regions that are equivalent to Galilee. Today’s financial stress and financial crisis are creating more places like Galilee where Jesus is actively present. Are we ready to meet him at this specific meeting point in our own contexts? It requires us very often to shake off the many titles, being conscious of our positions, roles etc but keeping in mind the responsibility that he has given us and showed us – to be with Galileans and work to bring about transformation. This risen Jesus who transcends his historical identities is also capable of revealing himself in and through other faiths, religions and cultures. Are we able to see this Jesus. We may not be able to grasp his identity through his appearance but definitely through his voice, actions, and attitudes.
Risen Jesus Compels us to spring in action
Risen Jesus convinces us of his loving presence, convicts us of our detour in and through our attitudes and actions and compels us to spring in action. Jesus does it by just disappearing as soon as people recognise him as if his mission ends there. Yes his mission ends when he puts us on that track!!! As soon as Mary recognised him, he assigns her mission and disappears. There she goes and tells the disciples that Jesus is risen and they need to meet him at Galilee where he will be. They need to now make a conscious journey to Galilee and the disciples know that context well. As for the Emmaus disciples, again Jesus disappears as soon as they recognise him and they return to Jerusalem to proclaim that Jesus is arisen indeed!!!
Risen Christ Commands and calls
Risen Jesus commands us to love one another genuinely and experience the peace which he leaves behind for each and every one of us. We can experience this peace only when we can love others unconditionally. We are called to meet the risen Jesus in Galilee. We are called to recognise the risen Jesus through his voice, attitudes and actions that are seen everywhere – outside our homes, families, churches, communities and societies.
Even as we wonder where God is or risen Jesus is in the recent Tsunami in Japan, we can boldly say that God is in the midst of this tragedy. Risen Jesus is there already as it poses a Galilean context. How can we hear Jesus’ call from this Galilee? How can we hear Jesus’ call from different contexts that we cannot just imagine? How does Jesus reveal himself today through other faiths, denominations, religions etc. Can we hear his call and respond to build communities of peace and wholeness?
Insights from Meeting point and Mission Model through Risen Jesus
The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus keeps resonating ‘fullness of life for all”. This fullness of life and eternal life point us to a forward life. I often fancy looking at this word ‘Forward’ in its short form – FWD. It is very interesting to see what this has to offer to a mission model.
As we look at the world around us – be it the Tsunami or the financial crunch or the world insecurity on account of the arms race and wars, it stirs up a lot of heat and dust through Fear – fear of the natural calamities like fire, floods, Tsunami etc. The financial crunch that explodes with soaring number of unemployed intensifies worries about the future, worries about tomorrow and worries about our own existence. Finally the element of doubt that gets magnified in suspecting ‘the other’, not trusting and becoming paranoid ends up in nations cutting down their budgets on very important portfolios such as Children’s Education, University education, helping older citizens etc. On the other hand, nations are busy building their own military and defence systems, spending on nuclear weapons and so on. The obsession with security has unfortunately led us into further insecurity. The element of doubt drives humankind to become more divisive, violent and vulnerable. It is in such a context that FB as a metaphor for a Mission Model helps us to forward.
Today, the risen Jesus once again comes into our midst and says, “Peace be with you” and says “Do not Fear, Worry or Doubt – FWD“. This alone will help us move forward in our life. When doubt sets in, it manipulates people, contexts and communities. We need to “Get back on the track” by overcoming fear. Worry and doubt constantly with the power and strength of our RISEN JESUS in order to move forward (FWD) towards fullness of life before death and life eternal after our physical death.
The article was published in the April 2011 issue of CSI Life Magazine