“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”
At Street Psalms we talk about the message, method and manners of mission. Our message is the transforming love of God. Our method is incarnational, or as we often say, “from below.” And our manners have to do with a particular way of loving the world. Mission without manners is not just impolite – it sows seeds of violence.
This week’s lectionary text is the classic missionary text, especially for protestant mission. Many call it the “Great Commission,” as though Jesus himself coined the term. He didn’t. It was made popular by William Carey in the early 1800s. Carey was the founder of the Baptist Missionary Society and the father of modern protestant missions.
But let’s face it, our manner of mission has not always been so life-giving. History is littered with examples of missionaries who felt empowered by God to “make” disciples by any means necessary. Perhaps this is why Jesus warned us about our manners. “You cross sea and land to make a convert only to make them twice the sons and daughters of hell” (Matthew 23:15). Clearly the Great Commission has been the occasion for much good.Many of the Western world’s great social concerns such as schools and hospitals originated through mission. A shining example of a well-mannered missionary is Bartolomé de las Casas, who was one of the first missionaries to the “New World.” He spent nearly 50 years of his life fighting slavery and the violent colonial abuse of indigenous peoples. Our Street Psalms network is filled with modern day Bartolomés.
Street Psalms practices four manners of mission that imitate the manners of Jesus. “The Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does in like manner” (John 5:19). These manners are our version of “please and thank you.” True to form, we are learning our manners most powerfully from the vulnerable themselves – they who are the face and grace of Jesus, returning us to ourselves, clothed and in our right mind.
Generosity: “Enough for all!”
A largeness of vision derived from God’s abundance – a willingness to risk big, fail often, forgive much, share much, and act freely in ways that transform our lives and the city.
Hospitality: “Room for all.”
A largeness of heart that sets welcoming and open tables for all and gives preferred seating to those at the margins – a willingness to welcome, invite, gather, network and serve others in ways that nurture ever-widening community.
Simplicity: “Limits for all.”
A largeness of soul that trusts, honors and discerns the limits and healthy boundaries of our gifts, call, roles, and responsibilities. We are free to say yes AND no to opportunities. This discipline is born out of deep trust in the boundless love of God and the Spirit’s unwavering commitment to bring all things to completion.
Vulnerability: “Risk in all”
A largeness of strength and courage that risks on the power of vulnerability. Martin Buber said, “All real life is meeting.” Such “meeting” is born of vulnerability that feels a lot like weakness. And yet vulnerability calls forth life, or as Brené Brown said, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”