Why I left Luther, Kumamoto etc.

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In some ways I have been eager to write about this and those nearest me have probably heard about it from word of mouth. Why? Well, its a bit dramatic and cathartic to talk about the stressors in my life, and in a certain sense stressors ultimately drove me to this point.

On the other hand, I want to be careful to be as honorable as possible while also being honest about what has been my experience as an ELCA missionary in Japan. I want to honor the eighth commandment as best as I understand how it might restrain a full telling, in order to protect the reputation of certain persons. So rather than give a narrative I will give some themes and give vague accounts of what occurred and how it spurred me to come to the place where the only choice I felt I could do and keep either my integrity or sanity was to leave the work at the school and congregations I had been called to accompany.

False Teaching

This was the biggest reason I left. In every corner I turned I found unbiblical teaching present. Although I believe in the the Moravian sense of In the essentials unity, in the nonessentials diversity, in all things charity, I consistent came across things that I discerned violated fundamentals of the faith or by the open preaching and teaching thereof erode the faith of the faithful. There were various issues of praxis that arose that as far as visibly possible remained unrepentant including remarrying while a relationship with the former spouse still exists, drunkenness, contempt and hatred towards a brother (of whom I was the recipient), disregard for avoiding idolatry or its appearance in the name of experiencing the culture, philosophical materialism, belief that polyamory is acceptable for Christians married or unmarried, the praise and advocating of abortion, assumed universalism, the open confession and practice of fornication (hooking up) from one involved in local leadership, the teaching that Christians are not called to holiness or to live a holy life, whereby the doctrines of grace become a license to sin (basically a form of antinomianism), and finally the disparaging of the sacred scriptures which were given for our salvation and the open teaching that they are not worthy of trust, and the private counsel from a said leader that he does not believe in most of the Bible, not even all of the Gospels, just the Jesus that he apparently picks and chooses out of the Bible.

It might seem crazy to some that I even remained as long as I did given such a long list of things but the only thing I can say is that I felt there was also a corner or base from which I might stand together in witness to the truth and join in the work of discipleship that had regard for the whole counsel of God. But at the end it seemed like I had no partner in this and I was totally alone and given that the final revelation put me in direct and consistent work with one who taught against the scriptures quite openly, despite my external call to continue in the ministry the internal call resonant with scriptural teaching (see 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Ephesians 5:3-6, Titus 3:10) drove me to resign in order that I could leave what has become a spiritually toxic place for me, and sadly I felt, most who would come under the tutelage of those about me.

Interpersonal Conflict

Some of this did not come from those in the number of those called saints but most of it did. I had come out of a church context where I was in some ways kicked out because of coming out as queer (and celibate) and I had not quite come over that when I was finding a gaggle of people opposing me. The first opposed me because I had a Pentecostal experience which they found threatening, another because I was pro-life, and then for little reason, I became the target of bullying at first by a teacher at my school and also outright contempt and hatred from one of my colleagues. This was very hard. Some have given me counsel that worldly Christians are often easy conduits for demons to attack you through and that couldn’t better describe and summarize what I was experiencing on a daily basis for two solid years straight, and I mean that just about literally. I had to work with some individuals on a virtual daily basis who hated me for no reason other then I didn’t fit their jibe.

Overwork

This is the nature of many jobs in Japan, and these are often referred to as black companies. Most teachers in most modern nations I know often work an absurd amount of hours and this is often why its called a calling. Although I felt personally called to accompany the church in Japan I did not realize how much more or less I was simply an English teacher at a high school. And although this is very good work, and maybe even more rewarding if you are called to it, it was a challenge to try and ignite passion for it especially given the above two issues I was constantly facing. Why am I doing this? If its for God, or the church, or the mission, okay but then what is actually being built here? And am I doing this for people who don’t care enough about me or the well being of the team members to make the systemic changes needed to align the work with a Christian ethos? Maybe that power isn’t in their hand but it was too much to take the work load, even as rewarding as some of it was, with the toxic environment that had remained. Some of the experiences I had at the school were honestly traumatizing and it was not possible to get rid of the association of that pain with what had become for me the lonely land cold halls of Luther.

“I’m now much less of an asset to the company than I could be. I keep my head down and for self-preservation just do my work with little conversation with anyone. Yet the irony is this: in my self-preservation, I’m actually destroying myself. In bottling up my unexpressed feelings, I’m making myself sick emotionally and physically.”

― Gary Chapman, Rising Above a Toxic Workplace: Taking Care of Yourself in an Unhealthy Environment

Chapman writes very well about how I was feeling more and more everyday including the fight or flight responses. So, that is why I left working with the Lutheran stuff in Kumamoto and boy am I glad to be done even thought its still very sad and I am still grieving. I gave a hallmarky thank you in my last newsletter so next month I might write a more substantial one about the good that did happen and I also want to write about where I have moved to and what is next.

I am so thankful the Lord has the last Word.

Leaving Luther.

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You hear the wind’s sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

With regret, but also with resolution and conviction I have decided to end missionary service with the ELCA and my work at Luther High School.

My heart is broken. My mind is there, assaulted though it be. And so I look for new ground, for safer pasture, for still waters and I trust my Lord to lead me there. He is the good shepherd. I don’t know yet where I am going, although I will probably remain in  Japan. I have missionary friends who have a community starting in Oita that seems like a likely place to go. I don’t know yet if it will be a way-station on my way home to America or if I will put my hand to the plow there in some fashion. 

I don’t want to go into many of the specific reasons of why I chose to leave but I do want to say thank you. I am thankful for my dear friend who often comes to my side, I am thankful to my students who’s smiles show forth a warm vitality, preparing to emerge on the stage of adulthood, I am thankful for Pastor Hitoshi’s gentle attempts to encourage, to counsel, I am thankful for my colleagues who have given so much to teach, to admonish, to be with, I am thankful to the church for this opportunity, even though it never quite materialized like I might had hoped, I am thankful to the Japanese teachers who have made space for us to join them in task of teaching English, I am thankful for my friends here with whom we could share our life and love, sometimes over the smoke of a a barbecue, in the healing hot springs, or out under the wonder of stars. 

Accompaniment has come to mean so much. 

Thank you Jesus. And thank all of you who have prayed for and supported me in so many ways!

The Blood of Christ and Unrealized Potential

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Chapel Message

Given on the twelfth of January, 2021 A.D.

They triumphed over him

    by the blood of the Lamb

    and by the word of their testimony;

they did not love their lives so much

    as to shrink from death.

Revelation 12:11, NIV

When I was in high school a teacher once told me, if it doesn’t matter in 1,000 years, it probably isn’t very important. Most of us will not be here in 100 years, let alone 1,000 years. So, what were they talking about? They were implicating that we should have an eternal perspective. A perspective that does not just consider our life in our bodies but our eternal lives. This doesn’t mean our life now doesn’t matter. It means it matters much more than we might realize.

In the 1999 movie, the Matrix, the protagonist Neo is offered an opportunity to take the red pill and wake up from a false virtual reality or the blue pill and forget he ever had the conversation he was having about the world outside of the matrix. If you have never seen the movie, I highly recommend it. This movie gives a commentary on the false reality we live in this world if we are not awakened to what’s really going on. This false reality is called the matrix. Look at anyone addicted to video games, panchinko, or their smart phones and you know that this “false reality” is not just science fiction, it’s the world we live in today.

In the Bible, this is called the world. But when the New Testament talks about the world, most of the time it does not mean the created earth. God’s created earth is good. What the New Testament authors are talking about is the world as a system organized in its rebellion against God. It includes politics, and economics, religion, philosophy—all of the things we might come across in the world.

In the Christian tradition, the world, in this sense, is one of the traditional enemies of the soul. So, when John says in today’s passage that we can “overcome by the blood of the lamb,” part of what he means is that we can overcome the world. How? By the blood of the lamb!

The blood of the lamb? Why blood? Well, the Bible says that life is in the blood and in this case, the lamb is a reference to Jesus Christ. You may have heard that Jesus came to die for us. But why did he die for us? In dying for us, he gave us his blood. And if the life is in the blood, it means he came to give us his life. It is by the power of his life that we can overcome the world, just like he did. It didn’t seem like he was overcoming the world when he died on a cross, but when he rose again from the dead on the third day his victory was clear.

The blood of Christ is our red pill. It helps us escape from the matrix of this world. It gives us power to see the messages of this world for what they truly are—empty lies.

Buy this, and you will be happy.

Get this and you will be happy.

Live for today, today is all you have.

The world we live in today doesn’t see us as human beings so much as consumers who can be manipulated to get our money. The Gospel of Jesus Christ says something else. It says that Christ’s blood was the price paid to buy you out of the world system and put in God’s Kingdom. This blood speaks from the ground: you are valuable! You are loved! You are a child of God! You are not alone! Come home! It gives you power of Christ’s indestructible life, so you can overcome the trouble you will have in this world.

So, where are you living? Are you stuck in the system of this world or are you in God’s Kingdom?


                  Will you take the red pill? The price for your freedom is has already been paid with the blood of Christ. If you will surrender your attempts to control your own life and confess that Jesus is the lord of your life, you can experience this freedom. He will give you power to overcome in this life with a peace that you cannot get from this world.

We live in darkness, but his light shines in the darkness. Do we realize it? What we chose to do today will echo in the halls of eternity, not only 100 years from now, but 1,000 years from now.
Let us pray.

Holiday Moments and Looking Ahead

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Holiday Moments and Looking Ahead

December was a month of grit as with renewed vigor I was trying to get as much work done before the winter holiday as possible.

We had a beautiful Christmas Eve service at the school and then later at Kuwamizu Lutheran Church. I was very blessed to be able to join the choir at the church and sing at the New Years Service. The evening was also spent with a special friend who joined me at worship. 

Christmas day was less eventful and I spent most of it just chilling at home. Later in the evening I met my friend again and we had dinner and watched the Christmas movie Elf. Later the following Saturday I came back to church to rehearse for a Christmas concert that took place after the youth service. The Pastor’s son shared a powerful testimony of a moment when God became real to him for the first time. We closed worship with a dinner with real Turkey and Christmas cake. Christmas cake is a Japanese Christmas tradition.

New Year’s day was also opened with worship at church although with the celebrations put off as a precaution against the spreading of COVID-19. As I look ahead to the new year I sense the Lord asking me to wait and watch. So I am moving slowly into this new year, with renewed vigor and focus but also with the desire to be wise in how I spend my time, my energy and so forth as I look for God to lead forth from a place of quite and careful watching and waiting.

Missio Dei and Missionary Identity

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Part 3: Not Drunk as You Suppose: Knowing God and making God Known

This is my final writing in this short series on the Missio Dei.

When Samuel was growing up in the house of Eli it says “he had not yet known the Lord.” How could this be? He grew up assisting Eli in serving the Lord, how could he not know the Lord. The next part of the text indicates what is meant, The word fo the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

To know, in Hebrew, is generally experiential knowledge and intimate in nature. It comes out of encounter. Samuel had not yet known the Lord. How many of the children in our congregations, and many adults as well, have grown up in the congregation but they have not known the Lord?

Pentecost was supposed to reverse all of this. Far be it from us if Pentecost has merely become a liturgical commemoration rather than every day Christianity. Hannah was accused of being drunk when in her desperation she sought the Lord for a child. Samuel latter records of David (chapter 6) dancing before the Lord with all of his might. This happens at the threshing floor of Nakon. The threshing floor is where Gideon was equipped with God to save Israel. It is where his doubt and faith were tested.

The threshing floor is where the messanic figure sepeates the wheat from the chaff. John the Baptist announces this when he says about Jesus that His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12, NIV). Satan is allowed to test Peter like this, but Jesus says that he will be preserved.

Wheat and chaff. The righteous and the wicked. Wheat and the harvest. The fields are white for harvest but the laborers are few. Pentecost is a harvest festival. Missions is often talked of in terms of harvest. And when the crowd fo the 120 were gathered on that day, like their foremother in the faith, Hannah, they were accused of being drunk but they were not drunk as you suppose. Do not be drunk with much wine rather be filled with the Spirit.

And so, with all of these biblical illusions I am trying to point to the simple reality that we cannot well be in mission if we are not filled, dripping wet with the Spirit. We are not a people grasping for straws about where to go and what to do because we know the Lord, his Word comes to us and we seek to keep it from falling to the ground.

Before we are sent we are to receive the gift the Father promised. The promise is that we can all enter into the prophetic community, its not just for the few. The challenge is do we know God like this and are we willing to get over the discomfort of letting the Spirit have her way deconstructing our ways, separating the wheat from the chaff, the righteousness in us from our inner wickedness, our fleshy and demonic wisdom of the world with the wisdom of peace and so forth? Can we say, Lord have your way?

And so before I think I am a missionary I am first a son, and not only a son but a friend, and a friend because I know about the business of the Father, Jesus whispers it to me by the Spirit, not me so much, as us, the Father is leading us, the Son is revealing to us the Father’s plans and this whisper comes to us by the Spirit. We are first sons and daughters, then friend, and then prophets. God is Spirit and he is looking for the worshippers that will worship Him in spirit and in truth.

“The Secret of Being Content”

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    Contentment has seemed a bit evasive as of late. A depleted and broken heart seems to cloud my eyes and gaining this secret of contentment that the Apostle Paul talks about seems like a vain fantasy at times. But God has a way of preserving us in his grace that is both mysterious and unyielding. Sometimes I experience that grace as a promise, faith clings to it, and somehow it sustains me like a life jacket. But sometimes I am able to get into the promise and through it into God’s very nature where his sure presence is able to produce life, joy, and transformation like only the Spirit of God can do. 

At work, I wish some relationships were better than they are. I wish I was better than I am. Amidst disappointment and relational famine I am reminded that God is enough…

Missio Dei and Missionary Identity

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Part Two: servant / friend

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

John 15:12-17, NIV

It’s noteworthy that this dialogue with the disciples takes place just after Jesus’ declaration, “I am the Vine.” Friendship in the Kingdom is rooted in Christ’s life, presence, and love— particularly this kind of love that lays down its life for his friends. Friendship is cruciform and is spelled “love each other.” Many deaths will precede many conversions in lives lived in love for the brothers and sisters in the family of God.

But are we friends? The Quakers fancied to call themselves simply, a society of friends. No doubt their inspiration probably came from this text, but the Word friend comes to call us back to the the central mystery of our faith that before the foundations of the world, the Lamb of God was slain. Why? Because we are His friends. And if we are so loved then we are to love one another in this way.

Missions fails if under the duty of task or the scheming of ambitious projects we fail to love one another. I often heard in school that lack of unity in the missionary team was the biggest cause of missionary attrition. I am not surprised but this should not be. This should be a scandal to us to say the least.

Jesus moves on from the topic of friendship to how the world will hate us, as it hated him. We hear this echoed in James where the brother of the Lord writes that “friendship with the world is hatred towards God.” Of course, here James does not mean all of the life in the world but the world as a system bound in satanic rebellion against the law of love, the world that seeks its own glory, where selfish ambition attained is the measure of success regardless of how many heads and hearts are stepped on to get there. So when the Church gets drawn towards worldly power in inordinate ways, it forsakes its first love. It may even betray him with a kiss of religious piety, while inwardly affections are set on worldly power and position at the cost of betraying the Lord. In such instances, a different gospel is shared and a different Christ than the one preached by the apostles takes stage at the pulpits of congregations.

Another word for these are anti-gospels and antichrists. Some common ones these days might include the prosperity gospel, messages of cheap grace, or hyper grace. Such anti-gospels cannot produce fruit that lasts. They have only a form of religion but deny its power, namely by emptying the cross of its power. Such messages and churches do not produce friends, of God or of one another.

So how do we make space for friendship to take priority over agenda, task, vision, and managerial missions? I do not seek to give a full answer to this but only offer some hints on the way.

  • We must first abide in the friendship of our first love. The personal, individual practice of abiding in Jesus is crucial for all Christians but most certainly also for missionaries.
  • We need to abide in Jesus together, it is not enough to have private devotion but the missionary band or team needs corporate times to abide together in the Lord’s presence. Though signified through the Divine Service and certainly participated in holy communion, we must live the truth of this in our collective ora et laboria. New expressions of corporate, listening prayer are needed to hear afresh from the Lord who is the Spirit so we can gain a sense of the master’s business together.
  • Task and vision must emerge from friendship with God and one another. We know His Word and we know one another. In the context of accompanying global companion churches, this is certainly the case but also in the missionary community. In the continual reformation of the Church this may remain a perennial need, much as renewal is, for the temptation towards worldliness remains throughout this passing age. The order of priority must exist in the hearts of those in the field but also in the structures of the sending agency.
  • We must have a biblical understanding of love that is at times tough, and often sacrificial. It does not judge others according to self-righteous standards but neither does it overlook the lethal presence of indwelling sin much less unrepentant sin. Oversight structures in the flavor of spiritual fathers and mothers are needed at every fractal of Church life, including mission teams. Present means physically and locally present despite the illusion virtual communication gives that this can be presented in a disincarnated way.

The Church of Christ, in every age
Beset by change, but Spirit led,
Must claim and test its heritage
And keep on rising form the dead.

F. Pratt Green LBW, 433

“They laugh at 9-5 little prisons.*”

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  I wish I was laughing but these last couple of months have been pretty rough for me. At first, it was the perfect transition back into work. I didn’t have to go back right away like I thought I would. Once I did it was a short week, and then we had two weeks of half days (for teaching but full hours in the office) and then it was summer vacation. So I really have no excuses, right? So what’s going wrong?

     In my last newsletter I wrote about letting stuff go, and getting my heart unbound from all of the virtual, emotional, and relational baggage I have accumulated over the years. And that work has been going on, its just more exhausting and slow then I would realize. And to make matters a little more precarious is a job that weighs heavy on me. Work at the school is actually 8-5 but I have been trying to stay a little later yet not too late to try and balance the dual flames of stress from overwork and burn out.

     In the meantime, my only way of survival has been to rely on and work with the Lord in the station of being an English school teacher. He reminds me that it is unto him that I live and work and that I need not do any more then he is asking me. Sometimes I fear that my human masters think its not enough, or I fear it really will not be enough with all the deadlines coming up. And so I am still struggling forward and I am wondering if this line form Pete Grieg’s poem might offer a little bit a cheerful strategy. Work does feel like a prison sometimes, actually much of life has with quarantines, stay at home orders, and job that seems to continually put more on me then I think I can handle and I fall into all of the have to’s, must do’s, and should haves that make the litany of the performance trap.  
A get out of jail free card?
Well, yes and no. Friday comes before Sunday. Submission comes before reward. Surly God will redeem me from “the fowler’s snare, (Psalm 124: 7) and he redeems our lives from the pit (103:4) but that does not mean the deliverance will come in the way that we expect. Jesus pleaded with the Father to not undergo the trial of the the cross but underwent he did. I think of Joseph who had several experience with pits and prisons but who said “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20, NIV). 

     Now I am no Jospeh and certainly am far, far, far from the likes of our Lord Jesus Christ but I also know that it is from the likes of Jospeh that I am to learn (see Hebrews 11 leading into 12:1) and Christ’s example and pattern that I am to consider and fix my eyes on (see the rest of Hebrews 12). There is some secret of contentment that Paul learned directly from the resurrected  Christ that I too want to know. There is probably no scripture that causes my heart to burn as much as this passage: 
What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11, NIV) 
  Even as I continue this process of letting all of the stuff go, I do so to gain a high gain a higher and more worthy pleasure of knowing Christ. This is the key, or the way, to experiencing the quality of abundant and eternal life Jesus promises. In other words, its not just letting go but a letting go to take hold. And that which I take hold has a sweet secret called resurrection power whereby I can laugh at 9-5 little prisons and even the prison of death because his victory over the pit of sheol is the origin of the great freedom song for every     
     When I think think of accompaniment in relation to this “prison of work,” reality it makes me realize a deeper gravity of what is going on in the weight of it all. May my accompanying of overworked schoolteacher be somehow redemptive. May it make Christ’s co-suffering somehow more clearly aware and may it the hope of his resurrection power in the due corse of time induce me into the secret of contentment but beyond me overflow to the dear teachers and students that surround me. 
 
     The truth is, I have already been set free from all of this. I am the Lord’s free man and so may I not put myself under a burden of performance, blame or guilt. May I sing freedom songs and laugh at the absurdity that anything like this job can make me a slave again to fear. 

* “The Vision Poem,” Pete Greig

A Prologue to the Missio Dei and Missionary Identity

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Part Zero: What exactly is Missio Dei

So a dear sister who has shared in God’s work for much longer than me in the city of Kumamoto followed me up with some good questions that got me thinking–I need to back it up.

As a missions major I forget some things that are foundational to my background are not basic to all Christians and I hope to write with accessibility to the average believer, Lutheran or otherwise.

So, what does missio Dei mean? Literally, it is Latin for the mission of God, but it also represents a shift of the conversation in missiology (the theology of mission/s) and theology overall in the early to mid-twentieth century.

Much of systematic theology is dependent on categories that came from earlier centuries and missiology was predominantly a subset of ecclesiology; i.e. the theology of the Church. This organization was based of the idea that God has given the Church a mission, it is the Church and her mission.

In contrast, in the twentieth century there developed the realization, out of biblical theology that God himself has a mission, and is involved in a mission that is larger and more encompassing than the Church. This mission is expressed in God sending his Son into the world (remember mission comes from Latin, to send) and the Son sending, with the Father, the Holy Spirit into the world. The Trinity as a whole births the Church by the sending of this Spirit and this sending dimension is so foundational to the Church’s identity and character, that we should actually see the Church as a subset to God’s mission rather than mission as a subset of the Church.

I think this is predominantly a healthy shift primarily because I see it supported by the biblical data. Yet, there are a few challenges it poses that I want to prod at. This conversation is not just about the order and relation of the Church and mission/s but also the nature and character of mission itself.

So with this brief background of what the missio Dei is, I would like to continue that conversation in future posts. My last post, prods at the way that God as missionary can be mistranslated into God as worker and taskmaster and the Church is made as a means to an end. I challenge this with the truth that Jesus reveals God primarily as Father, and I add here that the NT revelation that God is love forces us to understand the missionary nature of God as an expression of his love, that God is missional because we are God’s beloved and he will move, literally, through hell and high water to restore relationship to us.

Therefore part of our function as missionaries is to be in relationships of accompaniment, prayerfully pursuing, perhaps even partnering with the Spirit in imbibing our contexts with this love by making what is invisible and spiritual known in the visible and material plane by our words and deeds. It is in this sense that the Church is God’s sacrament of salvation and the function of missionaries is a vanguard of this aspect of the Church’s energy.

Missio Dei and Missionary Identity

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Part One: laborer / child

“It is not so much that God has a mission for His church in the world, but that God has a church for His mission in the world.”

Christopher J.H. Wright, The Mission of God (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 62.

Over the long stay-at-home time many of us were in over the last spring, I audited a class on the book of Acts and the establishment and expansion of the first century church with an online cohort of students in the United States. While mentioning the topic of the missio Dei I got some pushback from the facilitator that I was not expecting but I have not been able to stop thinking about since then.

Although I don’t remember his exact words, it was something to the effect of if God is primarily a missionary and the church is just a subset of that missionary enterprise what does that make us?

The implication here is that it makes us a means to an end. It makes us workers, laborers, missionaries. So if missio Dei becomes a way to, by summary of salvation history, reduce both the expression of the Trinity and the Church to mission we loose a lot of important things we need to be careful about. The question my teacher asked me, what does that make us? becomes to me, what does that make me? And so the language of identity comes into play.

As someone who has felt called into missions since I was a child, missionary identity has become a big part of my sense of purpose and identity. But in my teacher’s question the weight of this identifier was challenged. I knew that the implication was that God is not a missionary, primarily, just like God is not a judge, primarily but we know the God revealed through Jesus Christ as loving Father. As such we are His beloved children and to each other a beloved spiritual family of the forgiven.

As much as I may think of the importance of the mission if I, or my team, or my congregation loose this familial imprint rooted in our baptismal identity then it actually disrupts and distorts the mission itself. It does so firstly, because by failing to relate as family in love we fail to live a life worthy of the calling we have received, we become a living contradiction of the Gospel we are supposed to proclaim. And so in this sense it diminishes our Christian witness.

But before I get ahead of myself an start looking at my collective context I want to examine my own heat. Have I made the work of mission more important than loving my team members as sisters and brothers? Have I failed to be family first? Do I see myself primarily as here to work or here to be a son, a brother, who accompanies and gets to work when called?

Its beyond the scope of my writing here to deconstruct the theology of missio Dei or even answer the question as to whether it is problematic or has ways to self-correct these implications. But I know I need to change some of my thinking. Even as I write from quarantine at my hotel North of Tokyo where work is limited but there is still a lot of work to be done perhaps the most important work I have been able to give myself to is the work of repentance.

I mean, I shouldn’t feel burnt out after being home for almost a month and now finishing almost two weeks of quarantine at a hotel? But then why am I so tired? Because there is always work, always work, always more work. And if God is primarily a worker then I am always an unworthy servant.

No.

In Japan, where work and the company has become idol number one there desperately needs to be a people who live the Gospel as Kingdom family first. It is out of abiding in the Vine together that we bear fruit, it is out of our mutual prayer, discernment, conversation, laughter, play, and even co-working the things placed upon us that we can only begin to discern what the Father’s business is. But in such a context as this I wonder if it is not the freedom to rest, the freedom to play, the freedom to let go and just be,,, be with the other that we can offer the ministry of presence, the ministry that is accompaniment.

And so I offer this prayer:


Gracious God, merciful Father, forgive me for the ways I have judged myself inadequate, a failure, unproductive, and lazy. Help me to see how you see me that I may be rooted and established in love, bearing fruit from that eternal stream rather than trying to work it up in my own steam and power. I waste away, meaninglessly when I do so, and I am so much more likely to fall into judging others to defend myself. Forgive me for judging others around me with the constant examination of who is doing more work. Release us all from the endless and meaningless busyness that surrounds us in our world. Help us cary in each hour of the day the one thing that is needful, to be at your feet receiving. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.