What an amazing adventure you are on! What an important witness you are for the church and for the world! What marvelous things God will do for, with, and through you because you said yes to the call to serve God as a missionary!
I think of our new friend and fellow missionary Greg who travels to Tanzania this week to begin his service as a science teacher. Greg’s going to Tanzania is a great story because over a decade ago he was there as a 12 year old boy with his parents who were serving as appointed missionaries of the Episcopal Church. Now, Greg is returning as a young adult to teach children who were about his age when he was in Tanzania. What marvelous things God continues to do through the faithfulness of Greg’s family who said yes to God’s call to serve in Tanzania many years ago and what marvelous things God will do through Greg’s ministry in Tanzania in the future.
For the course I am teaching in Grahamstown, South Africa I am re-reading Moltmann’s Theology of Hope. I am struck on this reading (no doubt because of my new call) by how important mission is in Moltmann’s theology. Over and over again, Moltmann says that it is only in mission that we understand truly what God has done in the history of Israel and in the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, only in mission do we truly understand the nature of human beings, and only in mission do we truly understand the nature and destiny of the universe. Only in mission is the Church truly the Church of the God who raised Jesus Christ.
Of course, Moltmann says all this in the rather dense style of a German theologian. But his point can be made by basically saying that the God we meet in the history of Israel and supremely in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the God who makes and keeps promises. To understand the truth of a promise, we have to look towards the future that is revealed in that promise. Christian theology, therefore, is from beginning to end a matter of hope. As Moltmann says in one place, “Christian tradition is proclamation of the gospel … It is made possible and necessary by the raising of the crucified Christ, inasmuch as the hope of the universal future of salvation for the world is therein guaranteed. It is thus identical with … mission.”
The Church that hopes in the promises of God revealed in Jesus is the Church in mission to the future reconciliation of all people to God and to one another in Christ. This, of course, is the work of the whole people of God, not just the appointed missionaries of the Church. But missionaries, I think, can serve as icons for what a faithful Church ought to be.
So thank you to all my fellow missionaries who have answered God’s call to serve in this particular and peculiar way. You remind us all of what it means to be a faithful Church.
I can’t wait to hear what marvelous things God will do in your ministries!