4. Conclusion: Reflection, Motivation, and Consummation
At this point we have completed our (brief?) overview of God’s missional story and the way in which Christians are to participate within that story. Like any telling of a story, this telling contains particular nuances, shortcomings, and biases. Indeed, a particular shortcoming of this rendition is the almost total neglect of the significance of the sacraments for living within this story and for engaging in mission. Furthermore, a greater engagement with a broader range of scholars, and with more of the specific biblical texts would greatly aid this model. However, as with all models, this model chooses to selectively highlight particular parts of the biblical narrative, which means that it also neglects others. Thus, if this prolegomena is to become a more complete missiology these issues must be addressed.
However, as suggested in the introduction, these shortcomings are not completely negative in nature but rather are an inevitable consequence of any spirituality of mission. As suggested by M. D. Chenu, all theological systems, are simply expressions of spiritualities, and this model is no exception. We are in agreement with the sentiments of Gustavo Gutierrez when adds to Chenu’s thinking and says: “our methodology is our spirituality.” Therefore, we must recognize that, despite our desire to sketch the big picture of the Story of God-with-us, this paper reflects a certain context and certain experiences. The prolegomena to a narrative spirituality of mission that is developed here is but a contextual expression of a spirituality that has developed from my personal rootedness within the inner-city. This missiology has been definitively marked by my relationships with homeless youth, prostitutes, criminals, drug addicts, and many others who are abandoned simultaneously by their families, society, and the Church. All spiritualities are contextual; indeed, even our affirmation of Jesus’ resurrection –- the event that is the true foundation of all Christian missiologies -– is always a contextual affirmation. As von Balthasar says, “The Church has never spoken of the Resurrection of Jesus in distant or uncommitted terms but gripped and confessing.” Having been forced to recognize the reality of godforsakenness in the experiences of those on the margins -– and in my own experiences alongside of them –- I find any missiology that does not deal explicitly with that theme to be insufficient as a missiology that addresses those on the margins. Thus, just as this spirituality is contextual, it is also experiential. However, it is equally a contemplative spirituality –- one that has spent some time praying about and contemplating these things. Active experiences within a local context do not take away from the contemplative elements of this spirituality, for contemplation can only take place within the context of ongoing discipleship.
However, I do not expect my proposal to be treated as anything more than an “interesting idea” by those who have only known Christian attempts to replicate heaven, and who know little about the hells in which so many people live today. To borrow the words of Jacques Ellul, “if you are not flayed alive by God’s abandonment, if you are not torn apart in the very depth of your being by the delay of his return,” if that is not the reader’s experience, then I suspect that this prolegomena will have little impact upon the reader’s actual approach to living as a part of God’s mission. However, the Spirit can move through many mediums and it is my hope that the reader will be encouraged to move from the place of reading to the place of intimacy with those who are still in exile today. Unless the reader goes on to become the Father through a Spirit-empowered cruciformity, this paper will have failed in its intent. Thus, I reveal my motivation for writing this paper –- and this leads naturally to the question of that which motivates the Christians mission within the Church and the world. Before we can conclude this paper way must address that question more explicitly.
Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mysterium Paschale, and Prayer.
Jacques Ellul, Hope in Time of Abandonment.
Gustavo Gutierrez, We Drink from Our Own Wells.