From the Rector…
It is day three for our Navajoland pilgrims/missioners. On Sunday morning we blessed and commissioned them to go out as ambassadors and witnesses to the Risen Christ and then we pledged out prayers for them and their work. Their days of travel have been intentionally planned to help them gain perspective on the Native American experience as they follow the Trail of Tears and make stops along the way at historical places. Upon their arrival tomorrow in Utah, they will meet up with a former parishioner turned priest, Joe Hubbard. He, Drew and Audrey have been working together to plan and arrange the trip since last fall. Our group will spend four days in Navajoland continuing to learn about the culture, begin to establish and nurture relationships, and participate in service projects in the area. In essence, they will be focused on Outreach aka Mission as we like to call it in “church-speak”.
Mission is more than taking what you have and giving it to someone else. Giving is part of every mission opportunity but it is not the only part. Becoming aware of need and responding to that need are important in following Jesus’ call to us. But when all we do is give without commitment to relationships then it is easy to find ourselves slipping into the us/them mentality of colonialism. That thinking goes a little like this, “since we have, we should give and expect nothing in return.” Though there is a lot of truth in that, when we think that our giving is all we have to do, then we’ve missed the point of why Jesus wants us to tend the sick, feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned, etc.
In Matthew 26:11, Jesus tells the disciples that they will always have the poor with them. He is telling them that there will not ever be a time in which poverty does not exist. He doesn’t tell them this because he is disheartened by it. Instead, I think he tells them this because trying to eradicate poverty might be a distraction—a great endeavor no doubt, but if poverty is the focus what happens to the people? That is not simply a question related to government agencies like welfare. It is a question the church must wrestle with as well.
Mission and Ministry must always be people focused. Relationships before anything else. I think that is what Jesus was trying to say to his disciples. The poor will always be with you, so make friends with them. Figure out what their life is truly like—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Seek commonality with those who are different. In this way you discover your own compassion. Jesus wants to give us living water because that is what truly quenches thirst. As his disciples, the primary part of our call in Mission is to help others draw that living water.
There is another aspect to Mission—receiving. We don’t give to receive but relationships cannot be one-sided. If we are to give in a relationship, then we must also be willing to receive. I’m not talking about thanks and praise. I am talking about empowering others by lessening our power in any given situation and allowing the other person to have more. The Rev. Sam Wells, the Vicar of St. Martin’s in the Fields in London, talks about how as a young priest he would go on pastoral care calls to an elderly man who had become bed bound. It was a long way from the church and Sam did not have a car or a bike. He had noticed a bicycle in the hall of the elderly man’s home and one day asked if he might be able to use it or buy it. The man’s eyes lit up and he gave it to Sam telling him that, now, in some small way, he was finally able to give something to Sam to make his life better just as Sam had been doing for the elderly man. A healthy missional relationship always empowers both parties.
That is the challenge for our Navajoland mission team. They will work to serve the community and also allow that community to serve them as they enter into this new relationship with one another. Their work of mission will be service oriented but not one-sided—that is a healthy mission. Pray for them and pray for our indigenous brothers and sisters that they might come alongside one another, partnering with God and each other to do the work of building up the kingdom.
Light and Life,