Soulmanly wrote and published this blog today, and it captures some ideas that have been very important to me this year:
“On Christmas Eve I went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral….It had dawned on me before, but it really sank in: the Christmas story. The idea that…Love…would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty…I was sitting there, and…tears came down my face, and I saw the …utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this…love needs to find form…Love has to become an action…There must be an incarnation. Love must be made flesh.”—Bono
“The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”—John 1:14 (The Message)
Most churches raise large amounts of money for mission projects in their own community and all over God’s world. Money is an essential ingredient of those projects. The folks who’ve raised the money feel a genuine sense of accomplishment, both from their shared work and also from the difference their gifts make in someone else’s life.
Sending a check is a good start. But too many people and churches fail to move beyond that ‘good start”. Fundraisers evolve into annual events. Over the years “missions” becomes synonymous with “charity”. Those annual fundraisers fail to create a connection between the givers and the recipients of their generosity. They (we) gladly support a good cause at arm’s length, without getting dirty or disrupting our comfortable lives.
It does take money to feed the hungry, to house the homeless, to provide clean water, to treat and ultimately eliminate diseases like AIDS and malaria, to build schools, hospitals, churches, and other institutions, to provide disaster relief and rebuilding, etc. Money is necessary, but never sufficient, for accomplishing the mission of God. Mission isn’t our “charity”, our “good works”. Authentic mission is our participation in God’s mission of healing and reconciling all people and all creation in Christ. David Bosch says that “Mission…is the alerting of people to the universal reign of God through Christ.” That’s where Jesus began: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent
That’s why I urge folks to get involved serving somewhere. It changes us as much or more than those we serve—because we have some skin in the game. Folks who’ve experienced Incarnational Mission know mission isn’t merely sending checks to “worthy causes”. Mission is personal—as personal as God wrapping Love in human flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. If it isn’t personal, it might be a good deed. It might be charity. But it’s not mission. Authentic mission happens wherever followers of Jesus act out Bono’s Christmas Eve insight: “…love needs to find form…Love has to become an action…There must be an incarnation. Love must be made flesh.”