A community of missionary disciples
Jesus walks towards difficulty and suffering and takes the way of the cross. He sets his face towards Jerusalem out of love for the world (Luke 9.51; John 11.14-15). Jesus calls his disciples to follow in this way of the cross (Mark 8.34, Matthew 16.24).
The Church is a community of missionary disciples, gathered and sent to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5.13-16). We are called to make a difference through courageous lives of love.
To be a courageous Church means:
- To deepen our vision of what it means to be human, of a just and peaceful world: to dare to practise hope;
- To seek to live our lives to the glory of God;
- To make a difference in our local communities through seeking justice and working for peace;
- To seek reconciliation in the Church and in the world;
- To be bold and consistent in our evangelism and witness to our Christian faith;
- To bear the cost of our discipleship through the whole course of our lives;
- To imagine and bring to birth new Christian communities in many different places;
- To work in creative partnership with other Churches, faith communities and organisations;
- To teach the Christian faith clearly and with confidence to children, young people and adults;
- To invest the resources we have been given boldly for the sake of the kingdom of God not hoard them in fear;
- To reshape our buildings continually for the sake of God’s mission in the present and future;
- To seek to reverse the decline of the Church in this generation.
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”
Reflection: "Do not be afraid"
The Rt Revd Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading
Jesus sent his disciples off across the lake while he stayed behind to dismiss the crowd and spend the rest of the day in prayer. By evening, the weather had already turned, and the disciples’ boat, far out on the sea, was heading into the wind, and already being battered by huge waves. They had obediently done what he had told them, set off into a calm sea to cross the five miles to Genesaret. And now they felt very alone.
After hours of wrestling with the boat, and mounting anxiety about whether they would ever see the shore again, a strange, ghostly sight in the dim light of very early morning. A figure seems to glide towards them. They are by now cowering in the doomed boat, the sails torn, the mast down, their faces transfixed by fear. What new terror is this? “Take heart. Do not be afraid, it is I”; they’ve heard that voice before. Peter has a rush of courage: “If it’s really you, tell me to come to you over the water.” One word: “Come.” We know the rest of the story. It was inevitable really, two steps and then he made the nearly fatal mistake of letting his brain catch up with his feet. But his first response was wholehearted, full of courage.
Sieger Köder captures the moment that Peter slips under the water and he paints the clasped hands almost like a rope. But look carefully at the construction of this rope, it is made of three right hands. Who else is this lifeline being thrown to?
I wonder if you can see yourself in that little group in the boat, feel the mad thumping of the water on the keel (or is it your heart?), see Jesus come into focus in the gloom, and hear him call you? “Come.” To what is he drawing, inviting you, and how long will you think about it before you step out into an unfamiliar and unpredictable new reality? The danger lies in the not knowing where it will lead and how it will end: a journey of faith begins with that first step into the unknown. It’s sometimes best done in a rush of pure, wholehearted trust. Mary shows us the way, with her ‘yes’.
How can we be a courageous Church?
A Church which responds to the voice of Christ, calling us as his Body here on earth? This little boat is full of fearful, storm-blown, doubting, frail humans, and we are being asked not to cling to its security. It’s no good staying in the boat, being ‘brave’ from within the safe enclave of Sunday morning routines and the security of like-minded Bible study groups and ‘churchy’ activities. That is not answering the call to be courageous.
To be courageous is to challenge the anxiety and complacency which so often beset us, to listen to God and to the world and to build the Kingdom. God tells us countless times in the Bible not to be afraid… and yet we hold back, fearful of change and what it will mean for all that we hold dear. “Do not be afraid, it is I.” When we are sure of who we are and whose we are, our hearts will be strong and unafraid, and we will step out of the boat in trust, knowing that his hand is strong to save. Listen, listen, what is that voice saying?
‘Take heart. Do not be afraid, it is I.’
Do not retreat into your private world,
That place of safety, sheltered from the storm,
Where you may tend your garden, seek your soul,
And rest with loved ones where the fire burns warm.
To tend a garden is a precious thing,
But dearer still the one where all may roam,
The weeds of poison, poverty and war,
Demand your care, who call the earth your home.
To seek your soul it is a precious thing,
But you will never find it on your own,
Only among the clamour, threat and pain
Of other people’s need will love be known.
To rest with loved ones is a precious thing,
But peace of mind exacts a higher cost,
Your children will not rest and play in quiet,
While they still hear the crying of the lost.
Do not retreat into your private world,
There are more ways than firesides to keep warm;
There is no shelter from the rage of life,
So meet its eye, and dance within the storm.
Kathy Galloway, Iona Community, 1989
This reflection was based on the painting Petrus schrie: Herr, rette mich by Sieger Köder. The image can't be reproduced here for Copyright reasons.
This film accompanies the Beatitudes Study Guide published by the Diocese of Oxford. See the resources listed on the Small Groups section for further information.