Tongues of fire
The air conditioning in the room was blasting, but it wasn’t the cold that raised goosebumps on my arms and neck. I’ve long considered Jesus’ declaration from Isaiah 61 beautiful, inspiring, and daunting. But I’d never really claimed it for myself before, as Louise Sinclair-Peters invited us to do tonight.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me
...me; not some character or hypothetical abstraction, but me...
because he has anointed me
...there it is again, me...
to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Of course, the original words come from the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, but Jesus’ appropriation of those words turns it into a model for us as we attempt to follow in Christ’s footsteps. He expects this behaviour from me. Lord have mercy.
Then I watched as the evening’s emcee lit a candle, then the candles of the evening’s storytellers, and they spread throughout the room, lighting the tapers of those gathered at a Langley church for the opening session of Gathering 2010. The spreading glow was inspiring – and a sobering illustration of how far we may be from realizing Jesus’ words.
We’d just heard Bruce Enns describe the rich two-way blessings of Forest Grove Community Church’s partnership with Colombian missionaries Einer and Girlesa Zuluaga in Panama; we’d watched videos from Nigel B. and Rachel Twigg-Boyce, both seeking to pray and show hospitality to marginalized people in Canadian urban neighbourhoods; and heard about Leo Chia’s faithful persistence in reaching out to and discipling Mandarin-speakers in the Vancouver area. We were primed to spread the light of Christ.
Yet we sat there waiting while the band provided an appropriately reverent and stimulating soundtrack. As we passed the flame to unlit wicks, most of us chose one an arm’s length away.
We stand on the shoulders of giants, Walter Unger had told us earlier in the evening, and David Wiebe impressed on us the centrality of mission to our MB “DNA.” But for the flame to spread like wildfire, to reach all the corners, we’ll need to get out of our seats.
On second thought, maybe I am feeling a bit chilled.