Faith, Hope, Love – March 2012

For Bishop Christopher’s “Call to Mission”,  March 2012

During Lent Bishop Christopher has invited the whole Diocese to begin reflections on our ‘Call to Mission’.  In the three launch events in each of the Episcopal Areas, which took place around Candlemas, it was made clear that this is not a structural intiative or programme, rather it is primarily about our vocation to discipleship and mission.

A basic Christian understanding is that our lives are not simply defined by our choices and decisions, but are about opening our lives to the leading and guiding of God, seeking to be shaped by God’s love in Christ.  There may have been particular times in our lives when we had a strong sense of God’s call to whatever walk of life we may be in now, but it is important to remember that God’s call is continuous.  A key question is what is God calling me to now.

During Lent Bishop Christopher’s Call to Mission is inviting us all to reflect on that question – using the themes of Faith, Hope and Love.  The Launch events at Candlemas allowed us to explore this by drawing on the story of Mary and Joseph bringing the infant Jesus to be presented in the Temple as required by the Law of Moses.  There are three aspects of this which might help us during Lent  in our prayer and reflection on our own vocation.

Firstly, the elderly Simeon, who lived we must remember in an occupied country, waiting in faith and ‘looking for the consolation of Israel’ (a standard rabbinic description of the messianic age drawn from Second Isaiah).  This might encourage us to reflect on how we wait in faith in our time – one in which there are so many challenges to Christian faith.  We often trust in our own activism rather than God, but as Bishop John Taylor has said, ‘Whenever mission is seen as an essentially human activity, sooner or later its mainspring snaps’.

Secondly, the image of Simeon holding the infant Christ in his arms and realising that here was God’s salvation – not the way of human power and status, rather the way of self-giving, sacrificial love.  God’s way of love is the foundation of our Christian hope.  This picture might encourage us to think about where our hope truly lies.

Thirdly, the role of Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to be presented  – echoing the story of the dedication of the life of Samuel for a life of service to God.  This challenges us to consider our own dedication to lives of love and service to God, and how that is lived out in our various contexts.

All these images are good foundations for prayer during Lent as we consider our own vocations and the part we play in God’s mission.  But the most important thing to remember about mission is that the intitiative belongs to God.  To quote Bishop John Taylor again, ‘Mission means . . . humbly watching in any situation in which we find ourselves in order to learn what God is trying to do there, and then doing it with him’.