“The Church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.” So wrote the Swiss theologian, Emil Brunner, several generations ago. And it was clearly under the burning fire of the Holy Spirit that the apostles moved out to engage the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. For what God had done in Jesus Christ for the world must be made known to the world. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?” wrote St. Paul. “And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ”˜How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!’ ”¦ faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10: 14-17) So these early Christians sent out and so they went out. Pressing on, as one missionary statesman has written, “”¦ going from city to city as heralds of the King, not staying to argue with gainsayers”¦.” We spend too much time arguing with those within the church who do not believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ needs to be proclaimed to all people while we remain in guilty silence about the Gospel in the presence of its many cultured despisers. It was not so for the early disciples. Inflamed as they were with a saving message and filled with an unspeakable joy they brushed off the dust of those who had rejected their message and moved on looking for the next opportunity. The Holy Spirit never allowed them to let the need to consolidate what they had gained to replace the need to advance. In fact advancement became the method of consolidation. I am gripped by these words from Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, writing about the church’s need to press forward “”¦ both to the ends of the earth and the ends of the world, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God.” Of the Church’s need to press on in the strength of the Holy Spirit, living by grace, turning outward to engage the world, resisting the constant temptation to play it safe, he writes:
“When she (the church) becomes settled, when she becomes so much at home in this world that she is no longer content to be forever striking her tents and moving forward, above all when she forgets that she lives simply by God’s mercy and begins to think that she has some claim on God’s grace which the rest of the world has not, when in other words she thinks of her election in terms of spiritual privilege rather than missionary responsibility, then she comes under His merciful judgment (of God) as Israel did.” (p. 132)
Pressing forward in mission and rejoicing in hope: that is the glorious calling which we need to rediscover at the heart of our common life. One profound characteristic of the exploding growth of Anglicans in many parts of the Global South is their joy””joy in the midst of deprivation; joy in midst of persecution; joy in the midst of temporal uncertainty; joy that is rooted in the new life in Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. I yearn to see such unspeakable, irrepressible, iridescent joy within the life of our congregations, and frankly in my own life as well.
Read it all.