2015. április 29., szerda

‘We endeavoured to go into Macedonia’

Overlooking St Barnabas', Pimlico (foto: balintbeckett)

This is almost a paradigm for mission what we read in Acts. ‘And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to preach the Gospel unto them.’ (Acts 16,9-10).
Our age is full of images. As if our culture lived in a constant ‘fantasy eruption’. We are trying to grasp a secure position in an unstable, fast changing world. We try to understand where we are, where we should arrive to, and what we should do. That is why the feverish images ‒ fragmented attempts to tell our story.

Among the fantasy images of the age, Paul’s historical vision re-emerges. We Christians should hold to this Biblical example. Literally, this is our founding vision. Without this, the teaching of Christ would have never arrived from Asia to Europe.

‘There stood a man of Macedonia’. I read it as a profound cultural symbol. Our culture can be seen, personified, in this ‘man of Macedonia’. This ‘man’ can have many names. There stands the postmodern person; the post-religious person; or our post-denominational culture. Name does not really matter. What matters is the new missiological situation. Are we brave enough to enter the unknown ‒ our culture under many names?

The passage of Acts (Ch 16,6-end) becomes a new paradigm precisely at this point. It is an archetypal image of what happens when the Christian kerygma (proclaiming our redemption by Christ) relies on God’s providence. ‘After we had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia’ (Acts 16,10).

What happens when there is a full dependence on God’s ‘unknown love’? Acts profoundly (unconditionally!) encourages us. See what happens: people in this strange new land welcome Paul’s arrival. Names are not simply historical here but profoundly symbolic. Lydia ‘heard us’. With many others, she was one of them ‘whose heart the Lord opened’ (Acts 16,14.) What is the symbolic element? However secular our culture is, or it might become, there always remains a ‘feminine’ responsiveness at the heart of it. However rigid our culture be on its ‘animus’ surface, its ‘anima’ is always desiring ‘to be judged to be faithful to the Lord’ (Acts 16,15).

Man and women from this culture will always welcome this encounter. This desire ‘to be touched by’ and our new state of ‘being sent’ into this ‘happening history’ or history in the make (M. Buber) transcends inherited forms of prayer and ecclesial forms. Let us be brave! Let salvation history happen. Let God be God among us. Let us see God in the ‘Macedonian man’. Let us come to God by understanding the desire of the ‘Macedonian’.
The ‘endeavour to go into Macedonia’ was confirmed by powerful signs. The imprisoned Paul and Silas escape from their imprisonment. ‘And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s hand were loosed.’ (Acts 16,25-26) A very rich (symbolic) image indeed. The diverse, often destructive, forces of our culture can coalesce in the service of renewal.

The conversion of the prison guard is a bonus. It tells the unlistened to question of the true self of our culture. ‘What must I do to be saved’? (Acts 16,30)