THIS ARTICLE IS TAKEN FROM
THE CONVERGENCE QUEBEC BLOG.
This article, part two of a three-part series on the importance of being “present” in Christian life and ministry, originally appeared (in French) in the blog of Convergence Québec, a partner ministry of Mission Québec. Follow the link below to read the first part: The Wonder of the Incarnation.
“As the Father sent me, so send I you.”1
I am convinced that if we truly want follow the biblical model and live “on mission”, we will have to pay close attention to the place where we live. If we are sent, we are sent to somewhere in particular, right?
I first started thinking theologically about my physical location by reading a tiny book that I bought for $1. The book, EverPresent, by Jeremy Writebol, is essentially an introduction to the theology of place for the average reader. It follows the theme of “place” through the biblical story and the Gospel, showing how this perspective helps us to better follow Jesus today. One of the things the book addresses is the problem of Platonism in our vision of the Christian life. This belief is at the root of our evangelical tendency to devalue the material world, leading to such clumsy thoughts as:
“It’s always better to pray for your friends than spend time with them.”
“Christians don’t have to concern themselves with the environment. It’s all going to go up in smoke, anyway!”
“I feel guilty just enjoying the moment when there is so much to do to prepare for eternity.”
We must admit that our theology of place influences our actions in this world. It is sometimes difficult to reconcile the goodness of God with his judgment of sin. The creation is good but broken: but how can something broken be good? Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that it is not by devaluing the material world (or the present moment) that we will necessarily appreciate the spiritual or eternal world more. Although we are not of this world, we are here, whether we like it or not!
It is interesting to note that it is not by devaluing the material world (or the present moment) that we will necessarily appreciate the spiritual or eternal world more. Although we are not of this world, we are here, whether we like it or not!
In Christ, there is no distinction between the sacred and the secular. All life is lived in the presence of God. By his Spirit, the Holy of Holies of old now clings to us wherever we go. Moreover, Jesus sends us as he himself was sent. How? By moving us into the neighbourhood, as it were.
A few years ago, as I was preparing to go on a missions trip, I found myself somewhat uncomfortable because our mission field was also a very popular tourist destination. But before we set out on the trip, one of the leaders mentioned something that deeply changed my view of the mission. He urged us:
“When you have finished your activities for the day, don’t go home right away. Don’t be ashamed to visit the city with the people you meet! We don’t want to just proclaim the Good News there, we also want to learn to love people and honour them by loving their city. Jesus is already there and one day the whole city will know that.”
In order to love, you have to take the time to notice and to know people well. You can’t really know someone without giving attention to where they come from. And you can’t be “missional” without paying attention to the place where you are, giving attention to both its beauty and its need. Place must count for us because Place is the theatre of the divine work. Yes, we live in a broken world, a world in pain. But these are only “birth pains”, as Paul would put it. One day, even that which is earthly will be part of “the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-21).
1. John 20:21
Élizabeth Lecavalier serves on the Power to Change team. Over the last several years, she has worked with scores of students and young adults in CEGEP’s and universities in Quebec. She describes her unusual and often misunderstood calling as, “chaplain: a spiritual life-guide in a non-religious institution.” You can read her articles on www.convergencequebec.com.