If the evangelist is wise, they will take time to listen before they talk (Newbigin)
Several related thoughts have started to circle around my head over the last few weeks. You will all know by now my obsession for Vanhoozer/Balthasars work on Theodrama, and in preparation of my MA church & mission module last week I began to read up on what it might mean for church & mission to be in existence in a theodramatic view of the world. In short its the thought that if the whole world is God’s stage for redemption, then what is the church in the world in relation to this, and what might mission be for the christian in Gods already in the world stage?
So, If God is already in the world, and God is already performing on the stage with the actors – what might be the cues, the symbols, the signs and the opportunities to encourage others into the performance that God is already using as prompts?
As part of the MA module last week, our lecturer encouraged us to watch two episodes of How the Celts saved Britain – the link is here – its on iplayer and are 2 episodes about an hour long. Within it tells the story of St Patrick, who on returning back to Ireland, attempted to convert it to Christianity. He established a range of monastries that not only encouraged people to the faith, but also gave them literacy, technology, skills and civilisation. In addition to this, he was able to ascertain that the pagan rituals and religiosity of the natives in Ireland gave him a way in to converse faith that attributes similar signs but to a new faith that offered promise, hope, and material improvement- such as education. Significantly Patrick could use what was already there, moments that God was already acting, already preparing people.
In working with young people in community settings, ie on detached, in the community centres in meeting young people in their spaces, we get to hear moments where their world is already inhabited by God speaking to them, such as the girls who discussed ghosts and faith, the young person who could understand about caring, the connections that they crave with parents, spiritual symbols in the world, such as how they are fascinated by rainbows and the moon.
If the world truly is Gods stage, then the signs and symbols of him being at work will be there, waiting to be listened to, and if the work of the church as mission might be to listen and be amongst God already at work, where these connections are already occuring. There becomes a “fluidity” between he actions of the church and the total human community (Healy 2000 p64). And as such its not about taking something to people, telling people, or inviting people – its listening to the prompts, and connections where God is already at work.
We’re not so much going on a bear hunt – as the childrens book suggests, but going on a God hunt to find God playing hide and seek waiting to be found.