This morning i was preaching at a local methodist church on the Subject of Colossians. Stretching the imagination a bit, but in my preparation I began to wonder what it might have been like for Paul and the apostles to receive the communication in the first place from that small church in Colossae. Now, its not as though Paul was sitting in the equivalent of ‘Paul tower; international ministries’ in Jerusalem to receive the letter, there is a likelihood that if there was a letter it arrived to Paul, and he responded to it from Prison in Ephesus.
Nevertheless, the local church at the time was keen to receive counsel. And Paul could respond to the letter that may have arrived, or at least the messages that were being transmitted to him.
It would be easy in a way to ask the question- what letter might the church have for the world right now – it one way it gets a chance to speak into the situation of the world every week, every day, in so many opportunities. This assumes that the church knows the answer to the questions it presumes the world is asking. But what if the direction of the letter is reversed and so:
What kind of letter is the world writing to the church right now?
As the church in Mission, which is what we’re supposed to be, should we not be trying to hear what this letter might contain? I realise that there is a presumption that the world might be asking the church anything at all, and in a way the situations of the world, in it might require different actions and responses, but so often the questions of the world the church wants to answer are the ones it presumes are being asked.
What if the world was saying to the church to understand it more, or to respect it more, or to listen more in the first place. What if the world, and communities within, want the church to help them and build them up and develop goodness in them, gifts and resources. What if the world was asking the church to judge it less and love them more. What if the world was asking the church whether it can be trusted. Whether it hopes , dreams and fights for it.
Or whether it is even noticing it.
Or hearing it.
The Old testament prophets had messages for the people of God from the perspective of the world, and from the people of God to the world itself – and so – what are the messages or sentiments that would be contained if the world directly messaged the church?
This is not about relevancy or listening the world over listening to God, its about listening to the voice of God through the people already in the world.
Ignore the world of and in our communities at our peril, but find ways to listen, and equally ways of practice that are appropriate in respond.
What does the world need right now and how is it telling the church that this is what it requires in Mission?
Paul to Colossians was a letter in response, a letter that urged faithfulness in a confusing world of many beliefs. What might be the churches new response to the situations in the world and the people in it today? What is the world communicating to the church? (if it is communicating at all)