Thursday, August 12, 2004

Drinking Impure Water

The weather has turned rainy and gloomy, which is a very good thing because it keeps us from looking out the classroom windows, wishing we were out there instead of indoors.
The last two days have been intensive instruction and small group discussions about missionary things.

On Wednesday morning, we took up the issue of power, its uses, misuses, and abuses. In the afternoon, we did a quick-study of the Methodist Social Principles.

Dr. Michael Rivas, a Deputy General Secretary of the GBGM, spent this morning with us, speaking on “missiology,” which is just a fancy word for the study of missions from a theological perspective. He brought up a whole bunch of interesting ideas and perspectives, which will take me some time to digest completely.

He used a wonderful metaphor for the relation of mission to culture. Let me quote him: “One of my seminary professors used to say that the gospel is like water. In its chemically pure form, it has no color, taste or smell. But we only find that kind of water in the lab. Real water always takes on some of the color, taste and smell of its particular location. And so it is with our mission.”

We all like to speak of discovering, or exploring, the “pure gospel,” or the “pure church,” as if we could actually find such a creature. The point is, we will never find a “pure gospel” in our world, just as we could never find “pure water” in any earthly well. Even if you create “pure water” in a laboratory, it wouldn’t be very useful, because it would be tasteless and bland. Instead, we have to be content with water that has the whiff of worldliness.

Jesus was a worldly person, a concrete human being. He showed us to live the pure love and forgiveness of God in our everyday lives. It means forgiving those who sin against us, and turning the other cheek, and welcoming children to God’s lap, and eating with tax collectors …

The Water of Life took on a taste, a tint, and a flavor. And as missionaries, we also will find ourselves taking the same old H20 and making lemonade … or fruit juice … or iced tea.

One other thing Dr. Rivas said struck me. He reminded us that we serve a Missionary God. Meaning that God is first and foremost a missionary. He sends and seeks. That’s just the way he is. He sent Abraham, Moses, and the prophets. He sent Miriam, Esther, and the midwives of Egypt. He sent Jesus. He sent the Holy Spirit, the apostles, and the church.

He’s sending me … and he’s trying to send you, too.

Good night, Rachel, Chloe, and Mallory.