Monday, October 1, 2018

Month of Mission 2018

UPCSA Month of Mission 2018

Wherever I am...



Welcome to our month of Mission devotions. Today's email is long because it has the introduction and the first devotion.
I hope you will be blessed by the journey.

Theo Groeneveld
(serving as convener of the Mission and Discipleship Committee)

"Wherever I am:
Recognising God's heart for the world and my part in His plan."

When we use the word "Mission", many Christians think about people called to study a foreign language and culture and to travel to the other side of the world where they will be missionaries. In this framework, mission is seen as the work that Jesus placed in church's hands and that He is waiting for us to complete the task…

But what if Mission looks different? What if the earliest articulation of Mission can be found in Genesis 3: "Adam where are you?" or in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."? What if God has always been on a Mission to restore humankind and the world broken by their sin?

What if, instead of "taking God" to people in foreign lands, we are going to foreign lands (or across the street) to join in what God is already doing in a community? And what if Mission is not about us "delivering" God to a community, but joining a community and discovering what God is already doing there?

These are thoughts that were significantly articulated by David Bosch in his book "Transforming Mission." This year, for our Month of Mission in October, we're going to be exploring the idea that our God is on Mission to the World and that we are the junior partners co-operating with what He is already doing.

By this understanding, Mission isn't about going but about being. And so the theme of our month's devotions is "Wherever I am: Recognising God's heart for the world and my part in His plan."

Overview of the Month

Week 1: (1st to 7th): Seeing God's Heart for the World.
Week 2
: (8th to 14th): Recognising that all people need God's love.
Week 3
: (15th to 21st): Seeing what God is already doing.
Week 4
: (22nd to 28th): Dimensions of Mission. (Recognising Spiritual, Social, Moral and other aspects)
Week 5
: (29th to 31st): How can I be more in-tune?

                           Devotion for 1 October
                             God's heart for the world

The main point of Jonah is not the big fish, but Jonah's hard heart and exclusive theology contrasted to God's heart for the world.
The book of Jonah, recounting a story of an unknown prophet of yesteryear, was written in a time where the Israelites had become exclusive and nationalistic. Foreigners were unclean and unacceptable.
Jonah's hard heart is on display throughout the book:
  • When God sends him to Nineveh, Jonah heads in the opposite direction: to a place called Tarshish ("Where God is not").
  • When the storm comes and the sailors are praying, Jonah is sleeping below decks in depressive denial.
  • When he reveals himself as a "prophet of the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land" the sailors believe, but Jonah fatalistically asks to be thrown into the sea.
  • His prayer in the belly of the fish appears very pious, but the rest of his actions imply that this was not a prayer from the heart. The fish vomits him up on the land as though it can't stand the hypocrisy anymore!
  • I imagine a gastric-juice-bleached Jonah preaching in Nineveh, finally in his element: pronouncing doom and destruction on the city. But the city does something that Jerusalem never did - it repents and God shows mercy.
  • Jonah waits in the desert for the promised destruction. Jonah pouts in the desert: more upset about his reputation than about God's mercy for the Ninevites who have repented.
  • When God grows a vine overnight in the desert to give him shade and then takes it away, Jonah loses it: "I am angry enough to die!"
What comes next is a breath-taking picture of God's heart:
  • He's been patient with Jonah, treating the pouting prophet with tenderness and going to great lengths to soften his hard heart.
  • He is concerned for the people of Nineveh who don't know their right from their left. We hear the same thing at the cross: "Father forgive them - they don't know what they are doing."
  • God cares even about the animals: the rest of creation impacted by human brokenness.
The bottom line of the book is that God cares: He cares for Jonah, for heathen sailors, for the people of Nineveh and for their animals. He has a heart for the world and He will always surprise us with the depths of His mercy and love.
The book ends abruptly. We get a breath-taking picture of God's heart and we are left with Jonah's heart-state undecided.
We don't know if Jonah "got it"...

... I wonder if we do...
Read verse 11 softly and slowly. This is the still small voice that we will hear for this whole month of mission...

But the LORD said, "You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?"       (Jonah4:10-11 )
Theo Groeneveld is a husband, dad, and sometimes-cyclist. He has served at Emmanuel Presby, Faerie Glen, Pretoria for 21 years.

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