How do you speak about God? What does that mean? What does it look like? How can we and how can we fail to speak about God?
How do you speak about God? That’s been the central question of the course that I’ve just finished. It was held at St George’s House, Windsor, which was an experience in itself, having to pass armed police to get in and out, as the House is within the grounds of Windsor Castle! To help us hear the challenge of ‘How to speak about God?’, we reflected on Bible passages, books and films, and heard from speakers, including theologians, a senior GP, a police inspector, and experts in a variety of fields. It was excellent and very challenging.
On the final day, we were encouraged to reflect on what we had learned in our small groups. Part of our reflection was this cycle:
Missio Dei. This is the understanding that “it is not the church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a Church”; that is, that we are called to take part in God’s mission to bring the whole of creation into his kingdom. It’s a reminder that ‘it is God who makes things grow’ (1 Corinthians 3:6-7), but that we are “co-workers in God’s service” (1 Corinthians 3:8). I’ve preached more about God’s mission in this way before.
Ubuntu. This is a Swahili word which has been used by Archbishop Tutu amongst others. The theologian who talked to us about this described it as “I am because we are”. It’s a concept found in the Bible and in lots of other cultures, but is essentially a challenge to the Enlightenment individualistic understanding of “I think therefore I am”. It was a powerful reminder to us that we are all made in the in the image of God, and that we are called to be part of a community, working together to be part of God’s mission. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12).
Confidence. Flowing from this is a sense that we have ‘confidence through Christ before God’ (2 Corinthians 3:4), that “our competence comes from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). One of the things that I was struck by was that many of the speakers assumed that vicars would be community leaders, taking part in things outside the church. I think having the confidence that people still expect this may well help us (me!) to have the confidence to get involved in those sort of activities and meetings.
Risk. Arising out of our confidence is our opportunity and permission to take risks in taking part in God’s Mission, in working together as the body of Christ. This of course, is modelled in God’s ultimate risk in sending us Jesus, which leads us back to the Missio Dei. Or, to put it another way, we need to take a Leap of Faith…
How do we speak about God? We were challenged to think about how we speak about God in relation to health, the internet, the church, crime and so on. This post isn’t mean to be the answer to those questions but was rather part of how we thought we needed to get at the answer. The challenge is then to speak and act in these situations in the ways that God calls us to: with grace, wisdom and confidence.