Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Brief excerpt from a recent essay I wrote - Mission

Perhaps mission can be understood in light of the Nazarene Manifesto, a belief that the Church is called to continue the mission that Jesus himself declared he was on, to release the oppressed and declare the year of Jubilee.[1]  It is a mission that God has been on throughout the narrative of scripture, seen powerfully through the story of the Israelites in slavery in Egypt when God hears the Israelites crying out, ‘During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.  So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.’[2] The Hebrew word for cry used here is sa’aq which is an expression of pain or being wounded, a cry for help and a question asking if anybody saw, will anyone come to my help?  It is the cry that God responds to and sends Moses.  It is a cry that the Church has been called to answer to help deliver people out of pain and wounding.[3]  So mission is a calling to go to the land of oppression, to go to ‘Egypt’ to the ‘Israelites’ and seek to bring these people out of the land of slavery towards a better land.  In today’s culture our ‘burning bush’, the means through which we hear the cry of the oppressed, are vast, with endless communication possibilities. While it is important to see and hear these messages with caution,[4]we can nevertheless have vast possibilities of seeing the oppressed, finding out where they are and then going to them.  ‘Egypt’ may be our own community or on the other side of the world, but wherever it is, the Church is called to go and address the oppression that exists there. 


[1] Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.  He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."  Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."  Luke 4:14-21

[2] Exodus 2:23-25 NIV

[3] Walter Brueggemann says that the Exodus cry is the ‘primal scream that permits the beginning of history.’  He says that sa’aq is ‘a cry of misery and wretchedness’ and ‘a militant sense of being wronged with the powerful expectation that it will be heard and answered.’  Brueggemann, W., The Prophetic Imagination p 11-12

[4] "What is truth?" Pilate asked,’ (John 18:38) which is a very pertinent question with today’s media.  

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