So here I am in the Fleet once again. Your ace reporter is on the scene bringing you the latest from this popular pub in the Guildhall Square.
Actually it seems more popular today (Thursday 12th February 2009) than it did yesterday. Way back then, the afternoon was quieter. Yesterday, I just sat and looked and worked on some stuff for Sunday. Most of the groups around the pub were sat together a bit defensively. What I mean by that is that there was no way to join them without invading their personal/group space. To an extent of course I will inevitably invade a group’s space whenever I invite myself into their conversation (shades of Jesus with Zacchaeus?). But I am nervous enough of approaching people without the need to push my way into a group whose circle is closed. I’m not prepared to do that.
It’s that thing about being a guest again.
Jesus was not always a polite guest (I’m looking as someone used to English manners, not first century Jewish ones). He could be quite direct with his hosts (Lk 7.44-47) but not because he had no regard for etiquette. He just gave a much higher priority to real love and compassion than any social pretense.
This whole issue of being a guest is becoming more and more prominent in my own thinking. I think it might be the defining characteristic of pioneer ministry if not mission in general. We spoke about it at the St Luke’s home group this week. I was recalling the story of the 12 and the 72 being sent out. Barbara (my wife) pointed out that it’s central to Jesus’s ministry as he is so often the guest of others. I’ve said that on this blog before but the thing that Barbara reminded me about was that Jesus was a guest when he was born as Luke relates it. According to that story, he was born in a borrowed room that wasn’t his family’s normal home; probably not a stable, but the ground floor room in a house where the household animals are sheltered overnight. That the family, including a heavily pregnant young girl, had to stay in that part of the house suggests to me that they weren’t honoured guests. They were unwelcome.
This might require a massive reorientation in our thinking. We have tended to approach mission in attractional ways. [No scoop there, ace!] We have focused on our buildings. It’s been about filling a space where we are the host but, though ‘foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man doesn’t have a place to call his own’ (Lk 9.58). The Incarnation is about the One through whom all things were created, being a (mostly unwelcome) guest in Creation.
Maybe being involved in God’s mission, following Jesus to where he is today, by his Spirit, means being an unwelcome guest in other people’s spaces. All of which does nothing to ease my nerves or reluctance to speak to people!
But here goes…