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REIMAGINING GOD AND MISSION September 26, 2005. Introduction: Imagination, God and Mission.

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Presentation on theme: "REIMAGINING GOD AND MISSION September 26, 2005. Introduction: Imagination, God and Mission."— Presentation transcript:


2 Introduction: Imagination, God and Mission

3 St. Joan, scene 1 Meeting with Robert de Baudricourt Soldiers, horses and armor to rescue Orleans

4 “I hear voices. They tell me what to do.” “They come from God.”

5 “They come from your imagination.” “Of course. That is how the messages of God come to us.”

6 Joan’s conviction…this evening’s reflections It is through the imagination that we are best able to get in touch with ineffable nature and saving action of God By exercising the imagination…Spirit continues to lead us into all truth (Jn 14:25)

7 Feminist theology … Traditional imagery about God Particularly exclusively male imagery Idolatry! To counteract this: healing of imagination Imagination is important! McFague: God language only image language Shea: don’t see images but through images Helps us organize and give focus to deepest reality

8 Needed: “therapy of imagination” Move from exclusively male, dominating images To images of God as community of ec- centric, overflowing love Do this by exercising, playing, reimagining God

9 A second conviction The way we imagine God Implications for way we understand and commit ourselves to mission Mission, after all, is God’s mission!

10 Joan was right! It is through the imagination… Only through the imagination That God sends messages—revelation Reimagining God a key task in theology Especially today!

11 God  Mission Elizabeth Johnson: speaking of God is “crucial theological question. What is at stake is the truth about God, inseparable from the situation of human beings, the identity and mission of the faith community.”

12 The symbol of God functions! God as self-sufficient, all-powerful male monarch  mission as extension of God’s glory God as passionate lover  mission as acting out that love God as communion overflowing with care for all creatures  mission as care for creation

13 I’d like to image, imagine, re-imagine 3 images of God… …then see how they help to imagine or re-imagine Mission

14 This evening… Share with you results of my own thought experiment My own “therapy of the imagination”


16 Joie d’vivre Paula Turnbull, SNJM

17 Paraphrase of LaCugna A self-contained God, a closed divine society, would hardly be a fitting archetype of the divine dance Rather, the triune God of Christians is an image of total openness, invitation, givenness

18 The triune God, a community-in- mission… …can powerfully be imagined as Dance… …and mission as those women and men who have been swept up by the music and have joined in as partners in the divine dance

19 St. John Damascene—8 th century Perichoresis Each person distinct, yet blends into each other to form dynamic unity of communion

20 In Latin Theology Circuminsessio Mutual indwelling Circumincessio Dynamic coming and going

21 Especially because of latter Legitimate to interpret perichoresis (circular movement) by perichoreuo (to dance around) Kind of a pun

22 Elizabeth Johnson—Country dance, but… “Dancers whirl and intertwine in unusual patterns; at times all hell breaks loose; resolution is achieved unexpectedly. Music, light and shadow, color, and wonderfully supple motion coalesce in dancing that is not smoothly predictable and repetitive, …and yet it is just as highly disciplined.”

23 Traditional theology Order or taxis of triune dance = Procession of eternal Word from bosom of Holy Mystery Procession of Spirit either thru Word or from Mystery and Word together

24 But as the dance irrupts into history… We speak of the Word sent from depths of deepest Mystery Incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth Sending Spirit to complete and continue his work

25 My own proposal … Pattern of dance in history begins with Spirit being sent “inside out” into the world God’s mysterious presence from first nanosecond of creation Giving life, stirring up prophecy, healing, calling Israel deeper into covenant

26 John Paul II… Spirit sows “seeds of word” in the world Preparing people of all places and times for Holy Mystery’s concrete presence in Jesus of Nazareth

27 Jesus gives the mysterious presence of the Spirit a human face God’s dance in the world continues in a human body

28 Elizabeth Johnson… “Jesus is the genuine Spirit- phenomenon, conceived, inspired, sent, hovered over, guided, and risen from the dead by her power.” “Through his human history the Spirit who pervades the universe becomes concretely present in a small bit of it.”

29 He is the Lord of the Dance They buried my body And they thought I’d gone But I am the dance and I still go on They cut me down And I leapt up high I am the life that’ll never, never die I live in you If you live in me— I am the Lord of the Dance, said he

30 Jesus lives in those who recognize his Lordship by the power of the Spirit! Faith in Jesus—not just intellectual…affective Ultimately, faith means following, being a disciple, dancing his dance “I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he!”

31 God’s dance in our world—invitation to do what Jesus did… Proclaim and Witness… Commit ourselves to healing and reconciliation To lock horns with the powers and structures of evil To inclusion of all people … to invite others to join the dance To recognize God’s Spirit beyond….

32 One image—a “conga line”…

33 This is mission! Not a duty or burden But being caught up in God’s vision Trinitarian faith – practice: peacemaking, pluralizing, persuading Mwolweka—not understanding but imitating Imitating the divine dance!


35 Something about strangers! Connection with God’s ineffability? Reminder that fear of the Other is ultimately a wrong instinct? In any case, God of Christians intimately tied up with strangers God appears as stranger Through hospitality to strangers people meet God

36 Already alluded to Rublev… Maybe not revelation of Trinity, but certainly of God Common motif on OT Jacob wrestling with stranger Melchizedek Ruth Ninevites Cyrus Kindness to strangers

37 God most manifest, of course… Sent from his “home country”… “pitched his tent among us” In general “world did not know him” “marginal Jew,” an outsider from “heathen Galilee”

38 Ministry filled with strangers, outsiders… Spoke of love of enemies—I.e. those not natural neighbors Praised faith of foreigners, and even learned from them Told stories of how foreigners were closer to God, more than professionally religious Associates with sinners, women

39 Sometimes, stranger to those who knew him well When he appeared on the Sea of Galilee Mistaken as the gardener by Mary M. By the disciples on road to Emmaus When he appeared to disciples at end of John’s gospel

40 Blindness of disciples before, after! Even after Spirit was bestowed Acts—gradual realization of Jesus’ meaning through encounters with strangers… Samaritans, Ethiopian Eunuch, Cornelius, Antioch Antioch—birthday of the church, move from being Jewish sect

41 Tradition: we meet God / Jesus in the stranger Jesus in gospels—Mt. 25 Martin of Tours and beggar Francis of Assisi and leper Venit hospes, venit Christus

42 Works of Art!

43 Theology of migration: Cristos migrantes!

44 Implications for Mission: many Faith in such a God = being committed to being open and being transformed by the Other— different nationality, culture, social location Not enough to be committed locally—universally as well Dialogue with strangers=dialogue with other religions Opposition to all xenophobia and racism

45 Two more implications, however First, commitment to children, women and men among the world’s poorest and most discriminated against—migrants 1 out of 120! A particular urgency in Christian mission today Not just mission to but mission among—learning, being challenged by, receiving their gifts

46 Second—related but more general Missionaries need to appropriate their own status as strangers “To embrace the status and role of the stranger is to embrace ambiguity, uncertainty, surrender and vulnverablity. Jesus did it, and so must we. Yet in this very kenosis … mission becomes possible, God becomes all in all, the empty vessel becomes filled, the receiver becomes a giver, and the outsider is encountered and embraced.”

47 Strangers keep us on our toes! They can be real sacraments of a dimension beyond our comfort zones… Beyond our imaginations Offer rich opportunities to empty self in service They can be like God, who calls us to mission


49 Barbara Reid on Like 18:1-8 “unjust judge?” “widow and judge”? “persistent widow”?

50 1 st step: only vv. 2-5 = original Vv. 1 and 6-8 = interpretations by Lk V. 1—need for prayer 6-8—reflect concerns about delay of parousia Reid: not really about prayer at all!

51 Two reasons: First: Judge is not a good image of God 2x—doesn’t fear God and women and men Just opposite of biblical picture in 2Chr. Second: abhorrent image of God Not worthy of worship

52 A negative example? If even an unjust judge would give in… How much more easily would God answer our prayers! Interpretation of Joseph Fitzmyer

53 Reid—an easier interpretation: The widow is an image of God persistently opposing injustice!

54 Makes sense for 2 reasons: This is third of 3 parables in the gospel where main character is a woman Other two are images of God…so… Second, more profoundly—images God as vulnerable, but ultimately powerful

55 This is in anticipation of full revelation of God in Jesus on the cross “His seeming helplessness in the face of his executioners is transformed into the very defeat of the powers of sin and death.”

56 Imaging God as the persistent widow— Moves us away from images of a God who rules by divine decree and raw—if benevolent—power Who might be moved by our prayers Puts us in touch with a God fully revealed in weakness and powerlessness of the cross (our only hope!) “weak is the new strong!”

57 Brings to mind… Seemingly powerless women like Ruth Or mothers and wives of Plaza de Mayo The Holy Spirit, gentle breath of God, stirs women and men to resistance

58 Points to God as one who suffers “I could neither have worshipped nor respected a God who had not himself cried out, ‘My God….” “The first heart to break when my son drove off that bridge was God’s”

59 God’s gentle but persistent resistance to evil What Christians share as they share in God’s mission God bent on justice, but achieving it justly Not just the goal, but the way goal is achieved is at center of mission Since mission is the presence of God as such

60 Justice constitutive of mission But never the work of violence True of other components of mission as well Always in dialogue and vulnerability “church proposes…” Crucified minds!

61 Conclusion God’s mission—ultimately ours We are to live this mission… With God’s vigor and creativity With God’s capacity for surprise With God’s gentleness and peristence against evil and injustice

62 David Bosch “Only if we turn out backs on false power and false security can there be authentic Christian mission.”

63 This grace of mission Is ultimately beyond any capacity of ours to imagine Or re-imagine!

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