We had a good question recently, and a very valid one… it went something like, you guys there do you know yet what you are doing?
A valid question cos we all need to know what we are supposed to be doing. After all the 2 big questions on the day of Pentecost were: ‘what does this mean?’, and ‘what are we to do?‘. It was the gift of the people of Isaachar, for they understood the times and what Israel was to do.
But the two questions are so related, and they are also sequential. If we cannot answer ‘what does this mean?’, ‘what time is it / what season are we in?’, we cannot and should not be trying to answer ‘what are we to do?’.
So what season is it? Of course my response is simply mine – your response might be radically different. My response too has to be in this setting here. Your response is in your setting.
There are many ‘post’ words that could be used: post-christendom, post-colonialism, post-capitalism, post-sovereignty of the nation-state… Of course each term would need unpacking, and each one would only be true in part. For me the current scene is one of major crisis. For the past 4 years my single biggest focus has been that of economics, that shakings of enormous proportions are here and coming. [DDET Recent comments on Ireland, Portugal and Spain]“Europe is sinking – inevitably we are at the beginning of a sequential period. The cost of borrowing for the weakest links will start going up, uncertainty will remain,” said Pau Morilla-Giner, a portfolio manager at London & Capital.
Echoing Ireland’s Brian Cowen, Portugal’s socialist prime minister, José Sócrates, claimed that his country did not need any help, and finance minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos insisted the budget would slash the deficit, already predicted to fall two points this year to 7.3%, and then to 4.6% in 2011. But critics said the government’s track record was not promising: the core state sector deficit rose 2% in the first nine months of the year.
“I think it means Portugal is next,” agreed Filipe Garcia of Portugal’s Informação de Mercados Financeiros. “I don’t know if it will happen before the end of the year or after, but it’s almost inevitable now.”
A possible spread to Spain, the eurozone’s fourth largest economy, would shake the euro’s foundations in a way that problems in the relatively small economies of Greece, Ireland and Portugal have not. While Spain has already taken measures to cut its deficit and has a relatively low overall debt, it is dogged by 20% unemployment and lacklustre growth prospects.[/DDET]
At times of crisis we can either run back to what we know, or even go stronger into what we knew before (hence watch for the many advances in right wing, even neo-Fascist, expressions in Europe), or we try and respond not knowing where that will lead us.
So first the time (in this setting). A fast realisation and manifestation that what has been helpful thus far (church as we have had it) is running out of steam. Its viability for the future is hugely in question. A major re-examination of church must be done, not about its structure – the restoration of the five-fold ministry etc. – but along the lines of its purpose, and that the NT presents us with a trajectory not a set of rail tracks. The Upper Room in Jerusalem sends forth a trajectory to the New Creation. The conflict in Jerusalem sends us on a course to confront Rome, and the powers that are the trajectory from Rome.
So timing wise. The church in Europe does not need to be revived. There must be something much bigger and more foundational. Something that goes beyond the salvation of ‘souls’ to the transformation of a society that has both benefited from the Enlightenment, but been imprisoned by it too. There has to be the rebirth of a people willing to live in a different setting. One of potential hostility but one full of hope. We have entered a phase when the setting for the people of God is not one that demands respect because of the past history but because of their open vision for the future of the world. The artists are being called. This is when the stage is not being set for the philosophers who fight for the mind, but for the artists who are the liberators of the imagination. [This is why I think in 91 I saw a vision of artists on the streets and in the arenas of our European cities.]
There has to be a resulting discipling of people in their life-settings, with the discipleship re-awakening them to their participation in this world both as aliens and as manifestions of another set of values. This is one of the reasons why a new economic and politic has to come to view.
I consider the time at which we live to be a major turning point in history. Yes, a time when a one-world government and an / many antiChrists could arise. But because I do not see Scripture as making those predictions I would rather see the possibilities of a people rising up with a totally different spirit, and empowered by the Spirit. Where good news comes to the marginalised (almost like justice rising up) and other-dimension realities break in, with signs of freedom for those who are oppressed of the devil.
So do we know what we are doing yet? Not in a great measure. But one thing is the need to keep unlearning. Old habits die hard. Changing from driving on the left to the right. In the past one knew automatically from which direction the traffic came from. Now it is not so automatic. But we can learn. Even an oldie immersed in the ways of church can learn.
God said to me one day when I was very frustrated with learning Spanish. The speed you are learning the language is the speed at which you are learning. Today I spoke well in Spanish in class. Tomorrow? Who knows. Seems some days what I need to learn I am doing quite well with – other days not so well.
So in the meantime, we can walk the streets, call out to God, dream about what is to come, share our faith.
Today I was encouraged so deeply.
We pray for the thousands who are already in European situations. Thrust there for all sorts of reasons. Many disconnected, some clearer than others. Most questioning ‘what are we supposed to do?’, some getting sight on ‘what time is it?’. We pray for those and the tens of thousands who will be sent by the Lord of the Harvest (not the Lord of the desperate, saying what can we do!!) also.
So today. An email saying we are sensing that maybe in 10 months time we have to relocate. Do you know anything about the place. Where? In a city where we have gone in the past few months to pray. Bring it on Lord.
And I think he knows what he is doing. That is probably enough for me today. So back to the rhythm of rest and pray.