Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sent to be guests - A Missiology of Guesting 3

3. Sent to Be Guests

In his book ”Transforming Mission” (1992) David Bosch has identified six historical paradigms of mission and in each period ”there was a tendency to take one specific biblical verse as the missionary text” (Bosch 1992:339). E.g, in the patristic understanding (the Eastern Church) it was John 3,16, in the medieval Roman Catholic missionary period it was Luke 14,23 and in the Protestant Reformation focused on Rom 1,16f. Mission in the wake of Enlightenment – i.e., in the modern missionary period – the text that was most often referred to is the so-called ”Great Commission” of Matt 28,18-20.

”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.

This text has no doubt inspired and mobilised many for genuine mission, but interpreted in the light of the dominant thinking in the Enlightenment period and the colonial situation this missionary this text was often understood in a way that confirmed a Western/Christian feeling of superiority. It was tempting to focus on the aspect of authority and obedience and on a one-way communication (”teaching them to obey”).

In the last part of the book ”Toward a Relevant Missiology”, Bosch discusses ”Elements of an Emerging Ecumenical Missionary Paradigm” and here he highlights many aspects that have to be taken into consideration when developing not the postmodern ecumenical missionary paradigm, but – i think – the variety of mission paradigms we need for today.

In a post-Christendom and increasing multi-religious society – such as the Danish society and most other Western societies – the Church is loosing power and Christianity is becoming one among many religious options. The Church is not longer at the centre of society and its attraction is diminishing. Fewer and fewer people respond when the church bells call people to church on Sundays. The context in which we live sometimes blind us to certain texts in the bible and help us to see the relevance of others. Maybe it is the increasing marginalisation of church and Christianity that has helped some to see the exemplary relevance of stories in Old as well as New Testament about God who approaches our world as a guest – and to see texts such as Luke 9,1-9 (parr. Matt 10,5-15, Mark 67-13) and 10,1-16 as challenging missionary texts for today.

As it was shown in the previous chapter, in his sending by his father to the world he saw himself as a guest of those to whom he was sent to minister. Thereby he set an example for his disciples who had followed him and participated in his “guesting”. When Jesus sent out the 12 and the 72 they were sent with his authority to preach the kingdom and to heal the sick. What is often overlooked, however, is the way he sends them. They are not sent out as a well-equipped army, but they are sent out empty handed. “Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic” (Luke 9,2). The explanation is that they are sent as – guests, which means that they would be depending not on their own resources but on their hosts to whom they were sent to minister. And they were supposed to behave like good guests: When they entered a house they should convey “Peace to this house“. And they should “Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages”. The disciples of Jesus were to carry out their missionary ministry of preaching the kingdom of god and of healing the sick as the guests of those they were ministering to.

There are examples of a continuation of the ministry of guesting among the disciples after the ascension of Jesus. In Acts of the Apostles we read about Peter who is the guest of Simon the tanner in Joppa, when  (Acts 9:43 & 10:6), when the Roman centurion Cornelius invites him to stay in his house in Caesarea. The surprising aspect of Peter’s accept of the hospitality of Cornelius is that he is Roman soldier, who is not a Jew. What convinced Peter to do so was the vision God gave him while he was still a guest in the house of Simon the tanner, a vision that helped him re realize that he “should not call any man unclean or impure” (Acts 10,28). His acceptance of the hospitality of this gentile bridges the gap between Jews and gentiles and becomes the vehicle for the evangelisation of gentiles: as the guest in Cornelius’ house he shares the gospel with Cornelius and the others in the house and the Holy Spirit falls upon them and they are baptised.[1]

In many missiological books and articles the missiological significance of hospitality has been explored and analysed. What is needed, however, is to reflect more deeply about the missiological significance of guesting.

[1] Andrew Arterbury, ”Entertaining Angels: Hospitality in Luke and Acts” (Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, 2007)

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