Local Missions Week 2

Readings for this week August 1 – 5
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

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Day 1  – The Power of Words

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 10: 14-17

You have no doubt heard the expression, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” Commonly attributed to St Francis of Assisi, there is actually no written record of this saying originating with him. In the popular mind Francis is associated with a life of simplicity and self imposed poverty, kindness to animals, and love of creation. But alongside all this Francis was known as a preacher, taking every opportunity, travelling the countryside preaching to high and low born alike. With creativity, merriment and strong censure he proclaimed the gospel to all who would listen.

Of course, those who like to quote this saying are trying to stress that our life style needs to live up to our words and that people watch as well, if not better, than they listen. But perhaps there is a subtle hope that we might get away without having to explain what we believe at all, and that somehow our friends and neighbours will somehow “catch” the gospel just by observation. In a postmodern world there can be a suspicion that words are empty of meaning. The gospel is, however, a message; it is the good news of Jesus. “The Good News can no more be communicated by deeds than can the nightly news.”

Now Paul certainly expected people to live what they believed, but he continued the line of prophets, and Jesus himself, who powerfully spoke the truth in their day. “ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

Questions to Consider
Do we struggle for the right words to share our faith? Can we tell the story well?

Prayer
Lord God, help me to grasp well the story of your plan for this world and your love for each and every person. Help me develop confidence to speak for you knowing that your Holy Spirit will enable me as I trust in you, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2  – Trust the Story

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Genesis 1

As we seek to engage with people in our local community we need to be ready and confident in telling the story of God and his people. The Bible is often seen as a book full of dos and don’ts, but it is a truer reflection to present the Bible as a grand story; the narrative that stretches from the God who began it all to the God who will complete what he started…(and everything in between!)

An intriguing perspective on telling the story comes from Rob Bell. “Where and how you begin and where and how you end the story, shape and determine what story you’re telling.” So let’s have a look at some of the elements in telling the gospel story well.

Genesis 1 tells us that God existed before anything else came into existence. In loving and free exuberance he created a world where physicality and spirit came together and God and human beings enjoyed each other’s company. There was no thought of needing to escape to another/better/more spiritual place. God’s creation was characterised by “Shalom” – a Hebrew word often translated as peace, but meaning a whole lot more. Shalom speaks of fullness, completeness harmony and flourishing. Before anything went wrong, there was a “good” world where relationships were fulfilling and work was satisfying. Physical existence was not a barrier to knowing God; in fact barriers of any kind do not appear to have been part of the picture. This is the beginning of the story.

Questions to Consider
How do you think God feels about his world? Some clues are in Job 38-41

What appeals to you about the concept of Shalom? What would you have most enjoyed in this original creation?

Why do people sometimes feel a physical world/existence is something to be escaped or superseded? What are the negative effects of this thinking?

Prayer
Loving God, Creator of beauty and purpose, teach me to see your world through your eyes, your original blessing on all you have made. May my heart long to know your ‘Shalom’ in myself, my home and my neighbourhood, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3  – That’s a Wrap

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Revelation 21:1-5

At the other end of our story is the beautiful vision given to the Apostle John of God coming to dwell with his people. It is a cosmic picture with the recreation of heaven and earth, but also a very tender and personal picture as the sorrows of this world pass away and God wipes away each and every tear.

There’s two very important aspects to this last chapter of the great story of God:

1. It isn’t just about me! Yes, an individual relationship with God, and being reconciled and adopted into his family is vital. Because of this we can view the end of time and the final coming of God’s kingdom as a kind of homecoming. But beyond this wonderful reality is the fact that God is in the business of reconciling his whole creation. God wants his world back. It has been “in bondage” as Paul puts it in Romans 8, waiting and longing for renewal. There is not one corner of creation that is overlooked in God’s reclaiming and restoring process

2. Just as in the beginning of the story, physicality and spirit come together. There is no need to seek an escape to a better realm, for God comes to dwell with us in a renewed creation. There will be the destruction and removal of all that is outside God’s plan and will, but the good creation he always intended will be fully restored. “Earth and heaven are made to overlap with one another, not fitfully, mysteriously and partially as they do at the moment, but completely, gloriously and utterly” NT Wright Simply Christian.

Questions to Consider
Despite it being hard to imagine, what aspects of a restored creation excite you most? What might you be looking forward to?

Can we connect with people’s aspirations for wanting change in this world?

How does the Revelation picture help us value the present physical world?

How might this future hope be important in telling others about our faith?

Prayer
Almighty God, thank you for giving us a sneak peak at the climax of history and your glorious plans for the world you love. Let the reality of this hope fuel my faith, my care of this world, and increase the enthusiasm with which I share your story with those who do not know you yet, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Disruption of Shalom

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Genesis 3:8-23

What about the ‘middle’ of the story? The intimacy of relationships enjoyed at the beginning became estrangement when human beings chose to go their own way, unwilling to live under God’s rule. The ‘shalom’, the complete and fulfilling order of life was disrupted, thrown into disarray. The tragic consequences affected relationship with God, with each other, with the physical world, and with each person’s own sense of worth and identity.

But even within this passage there are hints of God’s process of restoration. There is a curse on the serpent, and v15 hints at the coming of Jesus who will crush the work of the evil one. In a loving accommodation for the shame brought about through disobedience, God provides garments for Adam and Eve. Access to the tree of life is barred, preventing a worse fate. (Note the restored access to this tree in Revelation 22). All of this is part of the story and cannot be ignored or glossed over. However we do a disservice to the enormity of the damage done if we limit our discussions of ‘sin’ to ‘just the wrong things we do’. The whole of the world was affected, along with every sense of relationship.

In our society it is common for school children to have no knowledge of Noah’s Ark or David and Goliath. Perhaps starting a conversation about being a ‘sinner’ gains little traction because there is no context within which to understand the term. Inviting people to hear the story of God and find their place in that story may be a more complete and fruitful conversation. It doesn’t dismiss the gravity of sin but places it within a framework that gives sense and purpose and hope.

In presenting the story of a good and whole creation which has obviously been disrupted and distorted, it is easy for people to relate to a sense of loss and own their own awareness of alienation, and even their own part in the breakdown of what was once “good”.

Prayer
Father God, help me stay true to your story, not minimizing separation from you, but also faithfully sharing the hope we have in your faithfulness. May the reality of your victory over evil and your triumph in restoring all things shape my living, my speech, my relationships and my story, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5  – Who You Are

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Colossians 1:15-23

The enormity of what we call “the fall”, the disruption of the good God created, calls for a rescue of equally cosmic proportions. “If redemption does not go as far as the consequences of sin, it is a misnomer, and fails to be redemption…The salvation of any number of individuals…is not the redemption of what fell but the gathering up of a few splinters,…[and in such a case] Satan’s mischief [would go] further than Christ’s restoration” JA Seiss, The Drama of Scripture.

This is truly a big story. It isn’t a story about getting people out of here. It is a story about participating with the Creator to restore Shalom. And where you start and end the story makes a difference.

If you begin the story in Genesis 3, you start with what people aren’t.

If you begin the story in Genesis 1, you start with what people are.

This story is “the insistence that through the resurrection of Jesus a whole new world is bursting forth right in the middle of this one and everyone  everywhere can be part of it….[this story] brings hope routed not in escape but engagement, not in evacuation but reclamation, not leaving but in staying and overcoming. [This story] isn’t ever surprised when grace, beauty, meaning, order, compassion, truth and love show up in all sorts of unexpected people and places because it always has been God’s world, it is God’s world, and it always will be God’s world” R Bell. Now there’s a conversation to have over the back fence.

Questions to Consider
Have I seen the gospel as being just about me?

Does this view of the story increase awareness of the work of Jesus on the cross?

Is telling people what they are (made in God’s image and called ‘very good’) as important, if not more important, than telling them they are sinners?

Prayer
Loving Father, as I grapple with sharing your truth with others, help me expand my own understanding of your love and mercy to your fallen world. Holy Spirit, please give me words that will connect and resonate with people as I step out and speak about my faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)