Advent 4: Liberation!

The Advent of our God
Our prayers must now employ,
And we must meet him on his road
With hymns of holy joy.

The everlasting Son
Incarnate soon shall be :
He will a servant’s form put on,
To make his people free.

Rev. John Chandler, The Hymns of the Primitive Church (London: John W. Parker, 1837), Number 36, pp. 39-40.

In this mini Advent series we’ve reflected on three themes of advent encapsulated in this hymn: Advent as ENCOUNTER, Advent as SERVICE  and in this final post I want to consider Advent as LIBERATION.

The theme of liberation or becoming free runs through the scriptures like a river course and is inextricably linked with what the Old Testament prophets identified as the justice and righteousness of God which manifests Shalom (wholeness, flourishing and peace) and what the New Testament writers identified as the saving and wholeness-making love of God which manifests liberation, restoration and peace- equivalent to the Old Testament concept of Shalom

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The prophet Isaiah says this of the re-ordering, restoring and liberating hope which was to come in the person of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 11):

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—

the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and of might,

the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord

and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,

or decide by what he hears with his ears;

but with righteousness he will judge the needy,

with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;

with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

Righteousness will be his belt

and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

The wolf will live with the lamb,

the leopard will lie down with the goat,

the calf and the lion and the yearling together;

and a little child will lead them.

The cow will feed with the bear,

their young will lie down together,

and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

The infant will play near the cobra’s den,

and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.

They will neither harm nor destroy

on all my holy mountain,

for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea.

Mary’s Magnificat prayer-song as she anticipates the birth of Jesus echoes this liberating theme (Luke 1:44-56) and in the eye-witness account of Luke, Jesus Christ himself describes his purpose in his reading of the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue (Luke 4:18-19):

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

So, this ancient hymn of the primitive Church enjoins us during this season of Advent and beyond to continue to encounter, serve and live in the fullness of liberation which brings hope to our worlds. This year saw the publication of a new edition of the Bible which aims to highlight the river of liberation which courses through biblical scripture, to which we were privileged to make a contribution-it is called God’s Justice Bible and is well worth looking at if you have not already got or seen a copy.

It is thrilling to be part of a world wide family which is called to love beyond borders and to seek a kingdom or a way of life which is radically inclusive and governed by a God whose loving justice restores and brings wholeness to those who seek… I’ll leave you with another old song which I remember singing with gusto as a child which is based on Jesus’ invitation to all of us who want to follow him (Matthew 6) .

Warmest greetings to you this Christmas from Andy and I at the jusTice initiative!

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Refuge and watering holes from Aleppo to Wales

Before the war, I didn’t pay attention to how much water I used. But now, water is like gold for me. It’s practically holy. (29-year-old Ali)

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Water sourced from underground wells in Aleppo (Photo: Aref Haj Youssef/Reuters)

Aleppo is heartbreakingly broken. Disembowelled by conflict and war, her treasures dismembered and her citizens fleeing since 2012, seeking refuge and hospitality in a world increasingly shaped by fear.

These images depict the devastation and ruin of Aleppo in Syria, an historic and globally significant city.

During a recent visit to the Pergamon museum on Berlin’s ‘Museum Island’ I saw, for the first time, a very personal slither of history which impacted me more than the museum’s centrepiece-the Ishtar Gate or Gate of Babylon.

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The Aleppo Room, Pergamon Museum

The Aleppo room belonged to a prosperous merchant and Christian citizen of the Syrian town of Aleppo named Isa ibn Butrus (Jesus son of Peter). He commissioned the painted panels  for the entrance room in his house at the beginning of the 17th century. These paintings make up the oldest collection from a Syrian dwelling house from the Ottoman period and have preserved the work of craftsmen from the best workshops of the time.

As a Christian, Isa ibn Butrus’ desire was to communicate inclusive hospitality to the many travelling merchants he would have no doubt hosted in this entrance room. The room was painted in a variety of themes which included Christian themes from the Old and New Testaments such as the depiction of ‘Mary with Child’ which sit alongside courtly scenes like those portrayed in Persian book illustration.

The selection of encircling Psalms, Arabic proverbs and Persian principles further add to the impression of a peaceful community of different religious beliefs living together.

[Source: http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;de;Mus01;39;en&cp%5D

Around the time that Isa ibn Butrus was hosting traders and brokers in the busy Silk Road trading city of Aleppo, another man, John Matthews ventured forth from Wales to make his fortune trading with Mercers in Aleppo- who knows whether their paths actually crossed?

Aleppo merchant inn, Wales
The Aleppo Merchant Inn, Carno, Powys

We do know, however, that John Matthews did not take to farming on his return to Carno in the late 1620’s and that he turned the farmhouse into a Public House. The Inn  he named ‘The Aleppo Merchant’  became an exotic watering hole for the surrounding farms and villages, licenced by the King to sell ‘spirituous liquors’.

So, history weaves on, shifting fortunes, forging alliances and connections in unexpected corners of the globe, displacing people from one side of the world to the other.

The current war which has engulfed Aleppo is complex and catastrophic. In the lull of the current ceasefire, 60 year old Abu Nidal describes the ongoing struggles to access clean water:

Everything is available to us except water

Watering holes, places where we can drink and be refreshed in community, are vital to life; be they merchant’s hospitality suites, rural inns or bore holes in the ground of a war-torn city. Today, entrepreneurial young men who remain are named the ‘Princes of Aleppo’ as they drive water-filled containers around the city helping others access the water they need to survive.

Other young men have already left in search of a safer place to live and build a future. ‘AlBsmehAl3Rbieh’, is a group of six rappers from Aleppo that formed in 2010, as Syria headed towards the civil war that has ravaged the country. The rappers all met while they were studying and made a song about the Syrian refugees’ journey to Europe. The video footage they shot with their phones as they travelled. I have not been able to source a translation of the lyrics (any offers?) but this is how they describe the content of the song on the youtube comments section:

…the major messages of the song talks about the way of the syrian megeration and how the guy in first section cant travel beacuse he cant collecting moeny and the sexond one is calling his friends to come back and the third section how he needs to work in turkey to collect money to travel to europ the furth talks about the journey crossing the see from turkey to germany crossing ” greece – macedonia – hungary – then germany … 🙂

The Christian understanding and practise of justice as ‘love and care of neighbour’ includes hospitality towards those who do not normally form a part of our close community, ie the stranger who may be studying, working or travelling. Christian hospitality is especially important and emphasised in the case of caring for those who are vulnerable and uprooted, fleeing violence or the effects of natural disasters etc.

Many of us do not associate justice with hospitality, but if we consider a facet of justice as sharing out the ‘goods of life’, then hospitality clearly has an important role in sharing material and relational ‘goods’ with those who find themselves vulnerable and stripped of both.

Not many of us are directly involved in forming refugee policy but almost every one of us will encounter, in the natural course of life, people who have been displaced from their usual ‘watering holes’. We can choose to reach out and connect and support, building acceptance and friendship. We will be changed in the process-for the better.

Resources:

Churches Together have a webpage with useful updates and resources at https://ctbi.org.uk/how-the-churches-are-responding-to-the-refugee-crisis/

Christian Aid:  http://www.christianaid.org.uk/emergencies/current/refugee-crisis-appeal.html

What are the things that matter..?

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Intuitively and instinctively we can sense that Martin Luther King Jr. is right.

But it might actually turn out to be the prior challenge with which we are really wrestling; what are the things that matter? Do we know? Have we forgotten? How can we re-member them?

These questions lie at the heart of our quest for community and justice…

If we die a little each time we fail to speak out about the things that matter…perhaps we could also say that we come alive a little each time we uncover a little more understanding of the things which truly matter…?

 

On fairness, symmetry and beauty: a curation of beautiful thoughts on justice

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A flower at our allotment

When we speak of beauty, attention sometimes falls on the beautiful object, at others times on the perceiver’s cognitive act of beholding the beautiful thing, and at still other times on the creative act that is prompted by ones being in the presence of what is beautiful. The invitation to ethical fairness can be found at each of these three sites…

…present to the mind of the writers of scores of other ancient treatises on cubes, spheres- is a conviction that equality is the heart of beauty, that equality is pleasure-bearing, and that (most important in the shift we are seeking to understand from beauty to justice) equality is the morally highest and best feature of the world. In other words, equality is set forth as the thing of all things to be aspired to…

…The equality of beauty enters the world before justice and stays longer because it does not depend on human beings to bring it about: though human beings have created much of the beauty in the world, they are only collaborators in a much vaster project…

When aesthetic fairness and ethical fairness are both present to perception, their shared commitment to equality can be seen as merely an analogy, for it may be truly be said that when both terms of an analogy are present, the analogy is inert. It asks nothing more of us than that we occasionally notice it. But when one term ceases to be visible (either because it is not present, or because it is present but dispersed beyond our sensory field), then the analogy cases to be inert: the term that is present becomes pressing, active, insistent, calling out for, directing our attention toward, what is absent…

…At the moment we see something beautiful, we undergo a radical decentering. Beauty, according to (Simone) Weil, requires us “to give up our imaginary position as the center…A transformation then takes place at the very roots of our sensibility, in our immediate reception of sense impressions and psychological impressions” (Simone Weil, Waiting for God, 159)

…at moments when we believe we are conducting ourselves with equality, we are usually instead conducting ourselves as the central figure in our own private story; and when we feel ourselves to be merely adjacent, or lateral (or even subordinate), we are probably more closely approaching a state of equality. In any event, it is precisely the ethical alchemy of beauty that what might in another context seem like a demotion is no longer recognizable as such: this is one of the cluster of feelings that have disappeared…

…A beautiful thing is not the only thing in the world that can make us feel adjacent; nor is it the only thing in the world that brings a state of acute pleasure. But it appears to be one of the few phenomena in the world that brings about both simultaneously; it permits us to be adjacent while also permitting us to experience extreme pleasure…a gift in its own right, and a gift as a prelude to or precondition of enjoying fair relations with others. It is clear that an ethical fairness which requires “a symmetry of everyone’s relation” will be greatly assisted by an aesthetic fairness that creates in all participants a state of delight in their own lateralness…

…This lateral position continues in the third state of beauty, not now the suspended state of beholding but the active state of creating-the site of stewardship in which one acts to protect or perpetuate a fragment of beauty already in the world or instead to supplement it by bringing into being a new object….The way beauty at this third site presses us toward justice might seem hard to uncover since we know so little about “creation”; but it is not difficult to make a start since justice itself is dependent on human hands to bring it into being and has no existence independent of acts of creation…The two distinguishable forms of creating beauty-perpetuating beauty that already exists; originating beauty that does not yet exist-have equivalents within the realm of justice….”to support” just arrangements where they already exist and to help bring them into being where they are “not yet established”

This curation of quotes were taken from Elaine Scarry’s book On Beauty and being Just, (2006) and can be found on pages, 97, 98, 108, 109, 111, 114 & 115.

You may like to listen to Elaine Scarry’s Harvard lecture Beauty as a call to Justice

Book Review: Just Mercy. A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson

Guest blog: with thanks to Marijke Hoek, Co-editor Carnival Kingdom and Micah’s Challenge

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When the apostle Paul addresses the variety of gifts within the Christian community, he specifies that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7, italics for emphasis mine). The gift of providing a high quality legal defence for the poorest is most beautifully described in Bryan Stevenson’s recent book Just Mercy. A Story of Justice and Redemption.1

Drawing from thirty years of legal experience defending the most marginalised people in the USA, the author demonstrates the contemporary application of the biblical mandate to speak up, judge fairly and defend the rights of the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:9). As a young lawyer deeply troubled and concerned about the deep fractures and flaws caused by injustice, racial prejudice and inequality, Stevenson was compelled by an urgent sense of vocation to help people plant their feet on higher ground and stabilize their lives. Twenty five years ago he founded the Equality Justice Initiative (EJI) – a pro bono legal practice dedicated to providing high quality legal representation for those who cannot afford it. His commitment to people who are wrongly sentenced, in a criminal-justice system that still supports capital punishment, powerfully demonstrates how advocacy is literally a matter of life and death. Clearly, the legal complexity of Bryan Stevenson’s work requires tenacious commitment, but what emerges most powerfully from this book, is how his work ethic is characterised by a compassionate, respectful and pastoral posture towards each client.

Stevenson advocates, in particular, for a more merciful and restorative approach towards incarcerated children. In view of the harsh sentencing of youngsters and those facing long sentences for non-homicide crimes – in some cases, in the form of solitary confinement over decades – EJI not only advocates successfully for individual cases but also argues with good effect in the Supreme Court for systemic change. The court ruled in 2012 that the mandatory death-in-prison sentences that some states continued to impose on children were impermissible.

So, the ‘redemption’ referred to in the title refers not only to individuals but also to systems and indeed society at large. Stevenson’s audacious pursuit of justice not only aims to secure changes in the judicial process but also has the effect of reorienting individuals and indeed, whole marginalised communities, towards hope. His work reminds me of Jesus’ saying ‘Therefore, every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.’ The treasures which Bryan Stevenson ‘brings out’  are a clearer, higher sense of justice and a deeper understanding of how people, profoundly shaped by the suffering caused by historical slavery, racist lynching, and the civil rights struggle, are in need of reconciliation. The deep wounds that remain call out for a spirited wisdom that is considerate, full of mercy, impartial and sincere; this wisdom makes way for shalom – individual, relational and communal well-being that constitutes this higher ground for human flourishing (James 3:17).

Stevenson’s roots in his faith are implied on every page of this book. Reflecting on his vocation in an earlier interview, he says

For me, faith had to be connected to works. Faith is connected to struggle; that is, while we are in this condition we are called to build the kingdom of God. We can’t celebrate it and talk about it and then protect our own comfort environment. I definitely wanted to be involved in something that felt redemptive. 2

Explaining his life-time commitment to the legal profession, he quotes Matthew 25:34-40, in which it is predicted that in Heaven, Jesus will say to the righteous:

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ The righteous, perplexed, will ask Jesus when they had fed Him, clothed Him, or visited Him in prison. And Jesus will reply: ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

Reading Just Mercy makes me ever more mindful of human vulnerability in a harsh world. It makes me deeply grateful for this practice of lawyers who advocate on behalf of ‘the least of these’ and in doing so live out their commitment to the vulnerable in exemplary ways. I am grateful for Bryan Stevenson, whose life is such an eloquent testimony of hope and compassionate presence in dark times. His writings and vocation are a challenge to everyone to use the gifts so liberally given to us for the common good.

May we be found similarly faithful.

1. Stevenson, B. (2015) Just Mercy. A Story of Justice and Redemption, London: Scribe publications

2. http://blogs.law.nyu.edu/magazine/2007/bryan-stevenson’s-death-defying-acts/

For those interested Fighting injustice in America’s jails is a BBC World Service interview with Bryan Stevenson about his work in February 2015. Bryan Stevenson video is also worth watching!

Universal instinct for justice?

Universal instinct for justice?

Apparently we share across all cultures five innate perceptions that form the foundations of all our moral cultures.1 These are as follows:

  • First, our sense of care and nurture engenders kindness and the development of empathy and other protective and preserving qualities.
  • Second, our sense of fairness or reciprocity generates justice and equality and sharing within the community.
  • Third, our sense of in-group loyalty stimulates the development of group values and identity and discourages betrayal or disloyalty.
  • Fourth, our sense of respect for authority encourages the formation of leadership virtues and a respect for traditions that preserve stability and order.
  • Finally, our sense of what is pure and sacred promotes altruism, self-discipline and even sacrifice for the greater good.

Of course, there are differences of emphasis in how these instincts shape morality. Some cultures will value care and fairness more highly. Others may prioritise loyalty, hierarchy and order, which they see as the best way to promote care and fairness in the longer term.

Theologically, we can understand these innate instincts for ‘doing the right thing’ as being linked to the assertion in the Creation story that we are made in God’s image. It should not come as a surprise that we share, across widely divergent cultures, these innate values. While these values will be deployed in different ways in different contexts, how we relate to God will have an impact on how they develop and shape our moral cultures – for better or worse.

Prophetic mandate

The biblical prophets’ main function was to preserve how the people related to God. Their task was to keep the people of God, especially their leaders, accountable and faithful to his Covenant with them and to the laws that shaped their ‘innate perceptions’. They reminded the people that true worship meant living in a way that maintained what we might now call social, political and economic justice. God’s blessing – and specifically the promise of shalom (peace) – was linked to the faithfulness of the people to live justly, act mercifully and walk humbly with him (Micah 6:8). In particular, they were to demonstrate concern and care for the vulnerable and even the outsider (consider how this impacted perceptions of in-group loyalty!). When the people worshipped other gods, injustice inevitably ensued.

This backdrop gives context to Jesus’ sharp disappointment with some of the leaders of his day; they were neither living justly before God and the people, nor acting mercifully. By accommodating to the imperial culture of Rome, they had lost their prophetic vision and were being corrupted and co-opted by the imperial power-game (Matthew 23). During Roman occupation there were many social, political and (no doubt) environmental injustices and degradations to contend with. The people were struggling to see how to live authentically while hemmed in by the different worldview and requirements of Rome’s imperial cult.

Similarly, in mission the Church will encounter powers that are contrary to the life-giving, restorative Spirit of God. Structural, political and economic powers keep many people trapped in abject poverty and violence, while individual vice leads to greedy excess, degrading both the environment and human dignity. The examples of the prophets and Jesus remind us that the journey of restoration requires both vision to imagine how we can live more justly, reflecting the biblical principles of justice, and action to implement that vision. We need to develop a prophetic imagination that shapes each culture’s innate instincts for good.

Justice rooted in shalom

The biblical vision of peace (Old Testament shalom, New Testament eirene) includes an ongoing commitment to social, political and environmental justice. It develops and shapes the ‘innate perceptions’ above in specific ways. Professor Chris Marshall describes shalom as a state where there is:

…positive presence of harmony and wholeness, of health and prosperity, of integration and balance. It is the state of soundness or flourishing in all dimensions of existence – in our relationship with God, our relationships with each other, our relationship with nature, and our relationship with ourselves.2

Restoration lies at the heart of the gospel. Shalom describes the ‘delightful and convivial energy of a community at one and at peace with itself in purposeful service to God and the greater good of the rest of creation.’3 The prophet Isaiah depicts this joy-filled state as living in the ‘tranquil country, dwelling in shalom, in houses full of ease’ (Isaiah 32:18). He also highlights the dual function of justice in establishing peace (58:6–7). The first function is active opposition to injustice, ‘loosing the chains of injustice’. The second is offering care for people who are oppressed and afflicted, to maintain their dignity.

However, shalom is more than the result of ‘doing the right thing’. Caring for the vulnerable, advocacy, and social, political and environmental activism are important, but so is the celebration of life and beauty in all its dimensions of cultural diversity and human creativity. A community that protects and promotes what is good, creative and beautiful will also be enabling the joy associated with shalom.

Developing a critical consciousness

The apostle Paul refers to the importance of the renewal of our minds (Romans 12). He knew that the process of transformation was a combination of God’s grace and our will to change mind-sets that might block that grace. As Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire observes, ‘as we think, so we act’.

Freire describes three states of human consciousness. The naïve consciousness tends to oversimplify problems. Those with this attitude may become fatalistic and avoid as futile any deeper analysis of the causes of injustice and attempts to take action. We might underestimate our ability to play a part and instead wax nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ or even adopt a ‘happy-go-lucky’ attitude, even using superficial or faulty understanding of scripture or theology to validate our disengagement.

The superstitious consciousness tends towards cynicism. Those of us ‘in the know’ may regard ourselves as being somewhat more aware of the issues that underlie the injustices than those who are naïve, but this cynical awareness usually stops short of meaningful discussion and transformative engagement with the issues.

The critical consciousness, on the other hand, replaces fatalism and cynicism with realistic analysis and engagement. This leads to social transformation, creating a community that correctly and fairly interprets and analyses issues and problems, accepts responsibilities, acts rather than procrastinates, and processes through dialogue not argument.4

As the apostle Paul affirms, when our minds are renewed and restored we will see more clearly God’s will to bring about transformation and hope. Thus a critical consciousness will help us to examine our contexts in open and respectful dialogue with others and tackle effectively the injustice and suffering that we encounter. This requires an attitude of humility and solidarity – a humble recognition of the good in the cultures around us, and a willingness to move forward together.

Towards a prophetic imagination

Our context is where we observe and interpret the contours of injustice and justice. It is as critical for us as it was for the prophets before us that we observe our context carefully and make time to interpret what we find. It’s also vital that we imagine what it might look like if the world’s communities were shaped and governed by the principles of biblical justice. How might we describe these diverse and joyous communities of shalom? As God restores our vision – our prophetic imagination – so we can more fully participate with others in his restorative mission.

References

1 Haidt, J and Joseph, C. ‘The moral mind.’ In: Carruthers, P, Laurence, S and Stich, S  (eds). The Innate Mind (Vol 3). Oxford: OUP (2006).

2 Marshall, C. The Little Book of Biblical Justice. New York: Good Books (2005), p12.

3 Kingston-Smith, C. ‘ Imagine a Carnival, prophetic image-in-a(c)tion for just communities.’ In: Hoek, M et al (eds). Carnival Kingdom, Biblical Justice for Global Communities. Gloucester: Wide Margins (2013).

4 Freire, P. Education for Critical Consciousness. New York: Continuum (1998), p18.

[This text was originally written here for Latinfile, Latin Link‘s Mission Journal]

key issues for equipping the church for mission today – a short reflection (part 3)

In orderPicture2 to keep this short, I don’t propose to critique the contemporary meaning of some of the key words in this title; equipping, church, mission. Of course, the concepts of church and mission are in flux – dealing with that will not be my priority here. Rather, I simply wish to reflect briefly on a few key thoughts that seek to challenge the core of what being a disciple of Jesus means for us living in Britain today, so that the community of believers may be better equipped to engage in meaningful and authentic mission practice.

I very briefly raise three key dimensions as to how the church might be better equipped to engage effectively in reaching 21st Century Britain. These three dimensions touch on; where we are (the contextual dimension, part 1); who we are (the empathic dimension, part 2) and; where we are going (the hope dimension, part 3). These dimensions are to be understood within an overarching framework which is the biblical vision of shalom – or in other words, being sign-bearers of God’s reign ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.

Over the last 2 days I posted up part 1 reflecting on the first element, contextual awareness, and part 2 reflecting on the second element, becoming an empathic people, who are moved with compassion to love the unloved

Below is the third element, dealing with where we are going:

The journey of life leads to certain death, and yet the resurrection narrative gives us hope to share with our ‘broken Britain’. Whilst many of our leaders are trying to steer us to ‘business as usual’, we have a significant opportunity as a missional community to model another way. Our eschatology may require re-interpretation. Our future home is a new heavens and a new earth – this world of need and brokenness, destruction and decay, of which contemporary Britain serves as a microcosmic example, is going to be refined and made good. We have a hope that is promised in Scripture, glimpsed in the books of Isaiah and Revelation, and we have been entrusted to be co-participants with God in the working out of that. And yet our hope is not just in the ‘yet to come’, but also in the ‘now’ – this is the reality of God’s kingdom which has been ushered in, and is active today. Working for the common good of His creation is demonstrated through provocatively and pro-actively calling into being this new reality; that is a very hopeful place in which to be.

This is the third dimension for equipping the church for mission – walking the hope journey, founded on an integrated eschatological vision of the Kingdom of God.

The details of this, of course, have to be unpacked – that is for another time! For now these three dimensions of equipping the church for God’s mission, the missio dei, are framed within a vision of shalom – the biblical flourishing of all aspects of life. Our God is an imminent God, intimately in love with His creation, and desiring of our worship and connection, for His glory; that is the essence of being a missional community, and the three dimensions for equipping the church are part of the process of becoming that missional community. I finish with a quote from the book Carnival Kingdom:

‘…the Kingdom is described as an ‘upside down Kingdom’ – radically different to the status quo of earthly kingdoms where power and privilege coalesce in the hands of a few, often at tPicture1he expense of the majority. At the heart of the vision of the reign of God is the belief that this reign will result in shalom; the delightful and convivial energy of a community at one and at peace with itself, in purposeful service to God and the greater good of the rest of creation’

In summary, we have considered context, empathy and hope. If we have those dimensions in mind, and the issues raised within them, then our role in equipping the church for mission may be on the right path to help see ‘broken Britain’ become ‘flourishing Britain’.